Eastern Europe and Russsia – People We Met

When we travel, it’s not only the places and things that we see that make an impact on us. It’s the people and the characters that we encounter that often make our trips interesting. Here are some of the hundreds of people that we saw during our five weeks away in Eastern Europe and Russia that made an impression on us.

Conrad Hotel, Dubai. These were the receptionists at this hotel. I have never experienced service such as we had at the Conrad Dubai. Everyone at the hotel was friendly, smiled and greeted us warmly. Even the maintenance staff. The restaurant staff were exceptional – all we had to do was to look at something and a staff member nearby would ask if they could help in some way. These smart looking women behind the reception desk were well complimented by a great team throughout the hotel.
Burj Khalifa Mall, Dubai. This group of people were walking around the Burj Khalifa Tower one morning. It was already nearly 40 degrees. We had fun trying to guess what the local women may have been wearing underneath their outer garments. (Jill thought of silk kickers). Occasionally, we got a glimpse of a very nice shoe or a flashy piece of jewellery, so we assume that many women may have been very fashionably dressed. The fashions in the stores would be consistent with that!
Warsaw. How on earth would a didgeridoo player have got to Warsaw? This man was performing in the main square on the afternoon that we arrived. He was quite good too. I never thought that I would see a touch of Australia in an old world city like Warsaw.
Auschwitz. This woman was our guide at this infamous concentration camp. She impressed me with her tender description of the horrors of this place. Throughout my visit, she described events in a soft voice that showed a great deal of compassion for the victims. She told many personal stories of the people which added a special touch and made my visit much more meaningful. I wish that i could remember her name.

Auschwitz/Birkenau Death Camp. This group of school children from some unknown location were  holding a memorial service at the site where Jewish Prisoners were once led into the gas chambers after arriving here by train. What could have been more appropriate at this terrible place? I noticed them as we passed and wished that I had the time to join them. I probably wouldn’t have understood their language, anyway.

Krakow. ‘Susie’ was our driver and guide as we rode on her tour in an electric cart around the city of Krakow. It was her second day on the job after finishing school for the year and waiting to start at university. She was a good sensible driver (as we quickly discovered in a narrow street when faced with an on-coming fire truck with siren on and lights flashing). Shr had a charming personality and we were delighted to have been her first ever customers.
Russia. This is Lena, who was one of the Program Directors on our river boat cruise form Moscow to St Petersburg. She is married with a six year old son. I think that many Russian women are very attractive and Lena was a fine example of Russian beauty. Besides that, she had an excellent knowledge which she shared with us very openly and quite frankly.
Moscow.  One night we went to see a ‘circus’ which was really an acrobatic show with a water theme, along with jugglers and a couple of clowns. These girls did a spectacular job of keeping the kids entertained during the interval. They made lots of fun and engaged the children in activities that filled in the time and kept them amused.
Moscow. One day, we went to see the Russian Cosmonaut Museum in Moscow. This member of staff was showing a school group around the museum and explaining to them, this statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. I just wished that I had a teacher like her when I went to school!
Moscow. We sat in a lecture hall and had an address by this man, Alexander Laveykin through an interpreter. He flew as Flight Engineer on a Russian Mission to the Mir Space Station in 1987, spending 174 days in space and was awarded the title of ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’. I got to ask him a question and had my only ever interaction with anyone who has been to space.

Niva Riva, Moscow. As a compulsory part of a safety briefing on the river boat, we, along with our travelling companions John and Barbara, had to don these impressively fashionable life jackets and have our name marked off as having attended.

Uglitch. This A Cappella (Italian for “in the manner of the church” or “in the manner of the chapel”) group sang for us on our visit to the old church in the little town of Uglich. This town was once the domain of Ivan the terrible and I’m glad that we didn’t meet him there – just this very harmonious group of singers.
Niva & Volga Rivers. Captain Oleg was in charge of our boat during our trip from Moscow to St Petersberg. He has spent his whole life as a sailor on the Russian rivers. He told us that he has never got lost.
Volga River. Amongst all the restaurant staff on our river boat, Victoria had the most infectious smile of all. Here, she is dressed in Ukrainian costume for the themed dinner that we had one evening late in our trip.
Yaroslavl. We had coffee and cake in a little cafe near the market in the town of Yaroslavl. Good cake and a huge piece of cherry pie served by this lady that owned and ran the cafe. She did a great job of coping with our inability to speak Russian.
Khizi Island. The island was the home to a museum village that showed Russian country life at the turn of the 20th Century. I took this photo of a woman and her daughter as she spun wool by hand. The little girl was clearly bored with having to be on ‘display’ but at just this moment she looked interested enough in what her mother was doing for me to make a good image.  It’s a good example of how critical it is to ‘capture the moment’.
Khizi Island. The average life expectancy for Russian Men is only 65 years, so this man may not be as old as he looked. He was at the same village and was demonstrating the art of making children’s toys out of little bits of wood. I watched him work for a number of minutes and marvelled at how he had still managed to maintain all his fingers as he worked with a very sharp axe.
Mandrogi island. This woman was one of the pair of musicians aboard our boat. She was stunningly beautiful while her male partner was a big man, bald with a black goatee beard. Many people found their music unattractive and they were fired at the end of the cruise and replaced by a pianist. (I took this photo before they were fired!)
St Petersburg. While waiting in a very long queue to get into Catherine’s Palace, we were entertained by this brass ensemble who played songs to the crowd. Of course, they had a CD for sale (what band doesn’t these days?). Occasionally they would move to the left and the right with humorous ballet type steps as in Swan Lake as they played, then bow like ballerinas – all without missing a note.
St Petersburg. At Peterhoff, the palace built by St Peter the Great, this couple were dressed in period costume and walked around the garden posing for photos. I just lined up a quick photo when the man suggested that I should ask the price first. Too late, I had my photo and I was on my way!
St Petersburg. This man, dressed in period costume of a Russian Sailor in the early 1900’s was walking along the river bank near the cruiser ‘Aurora’. he could have been one of the men who fired the naval gun that signalled the start of the civil war in 1917 that ousted the Tsar and formed the way through which the communists were able to later take over the country.
St Petersburg. I tried on a number of occasions to capture some examples of attractive Russian Women. They were often dressed up as if they were on their way to a party, rather than just going down the street for the day. This girl made it a bit easier for me by posing for a friend along the waterfront in St Petersburg.
St Petersburg, Another example of a woman ‘dressed to the nines’ in a park in St Petersburg. I think that this couple were actually going to a wedding which was a good reason to get dressed up. However, we saw many women on the street, equally well dressed, just going about their daily business. perhaps they were looking to have have a future wedding of their own one day!
Vilnius. I didn’t actually meet this man in the red shoes and, in fact, I tried to avoid him. I couldn’t understand why a member do the Estonian Chapter of the Hells Angels would be visiting the main cathedral in Vilnius, Latvia. Perhaps his blonde girlfriend dragged him there. Perhaps only God knows. I thought that it was such an odd place for a Hell’s Angel to be. I tried to photograph him surreptitiously but the best that I could do was to pretend that i was taking a photo of this chapel to the side of the cathedral.
Riga. These men were playing music outside the ‘Three Brothers’ the oldest houses in Riga, and no, they didn’t have a CD for sale. I did give them a couple of Euros and they responded by playing a verse and a chorus of Waltzing Matilda as a thank you.
Riga. It was Mid Summer’s Day on the morning after we left Riga to strait out trip home. These gorgeous Latvian girls were making wreaths for women to wear on their head and celebrate. They had a flower stall just outside the Stockmann department store and were kind enough to let me take their photo.
Singapore. It was a Sunday on which we stopped over in Singapore on our way home. Singapore law now requires that domestic maids have one day off per week. Along the footpath near the Lucky Plaza, dozens of Indonesian or Philippine maids meet up with their friends for a picnic and a day off work. The nearby building and property owners won’t let them sit on the forecourt of their buildings so every available inch of pathway is used as a meeting place. The whole area is rife with the sound of the chatter and laughter.

4 comments

  1. Jim parsons · ·

    Thankyou Bruce for your wonderful description and glad you and Jill have returned safely.

  2. 'Trina Bruce · ·

    some beautiful faces. maybe our casual way of dressing hasn’t reached the Russians yet. The fact they don’t have to rug up in summer lets them “show off”

  3. Pamela Saunders · ·

    A beautiful collection Bruce. I love how you capture so much in your photographic casual portraiture -especially that of women.

  4. Ian Anderson · ·

    Sensational coverage of your travels and characters and loved every moment.
    Many thanks to you and Jill.