Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking for fresh fish in Murmansk

Our Trip to the Soviet Arctic

Murmansk Harbor, a vital ice-free port for Russia

                I had wanted to go to Murmansk  since I was a 14-year old, working on my Aunt’s Mink Ranch in Virginia.  Her son-in-law, Francis Grigsby ”Gig” Farinholt, had been a sailor aboard the cargo ships making the run past German U-Boats up to the North Sea and around into the Arctic to Murmansk during World War II.  The United States gave the Soviets many millions of dollars worth of military equipment, as well as food and supplies for their very survival. 
            At the start of World War II the Germans, allied with the Finns, had used Finnish bases to bomb Murmansk.
            Gig told me about the warm welcome the Soviets gave the convoy crews each time they landed in Murmansk.   They held big dinners, with plenty of black bread and sausage and, of course, gallons of vodka.
            Marty and I flew up there in June, 1983, just a couple of months before we were due to depart the USSR, and we went on the longest day of the year, which, in the Arctic, is pretty long.  There was no night time. 

Murmansk: “Alyosha” Memorial to Soviet Soldiers in Arctic War 1941

            An Intourist guide met us shortly after we had checked in to our hotel, and took us on a tour of the city.  Murmansk was a city built right about the time of the October Revolution, so it has none of the beautiful buildings and churches the Czars  built across Russia.  With a population of about 300,000, it is the largest city above the Arctic Circle.  We had often seen that in northern latitudes there was often a severe alcoholism problem.  Not just in the USSR, but in Scandinavian countries.  Marty asked the guide about this.  This young lady, whose father happened to be the mayor, told us that, no, they had no such problem in Murmansk.  As she was saying this, we happened to be stopped at a traffic light, and next to the car was a lamppost, with a really drunk Russian hanging on to it.  As if on cue, the poor guy then lost his grip and collapsed on the pavement, just as our guide was declaring no problem with alcohol.
            A little while later, we encountered a whole busload of Finns.  They had flown from Helsinki to Murmansk, to see the sights, and had just come from visiting the fishing fleet.  We met them at a “Beryozka” which was one of thousands of such state stores across the USSR, that sold goods for foreign currency only.  Here the specialty was little birchbark canoes and other craft items, and of course vodka.  That was what the Finns were looking for. From the looks of them, they had found vodka before, because they were already pretty drunk, but this gave them a chance to stock up on some more.

Shopping at the market

            We had lived in the USSR nearly two years, and had never had a nice meal of fresh fish.  Fish you could buy in the Moscow Rynok (Market) was always frozen, usually in large chunks of ice and fish together, so the fishmongers just hacked off a couple of kilos of salty ice and fish and sold you that.  Customer service was not a big thing in the USSR.
            At any rate, Marty suggested that, since we were here in the largest fishing port in the whole USSR, we ought to be able to find a nice fresh fish, so we went looking for a restaurant that would serve fresh fish. 
            We didn’t find such a restaurant, so we entered a nice-looking establishment that our Intourist guide had recommended, and were shown to our table and given large, heavy menus.  Many Soviet restaurants used these large menus with many pages, and then it became a ritual for the customer and the waitress to find out what, in all those pages, was actually available.  As you ordered a dish, the waitress would solemnly answer “Nyetu”, which means “that’s not available!”
            We started with a  little plate of caviar, with toast points, chopped onions, and glasses of vodka.  This is a popular, and delicious appetizer in Russia.  After that, we had Kotlyeti, or cutlets of veal.  Across the dance floor in this restaurant was a wedding party.  A long table of very plain, solid-looking Russians was celebrating a wedding.  We went over and congratulated the bride and groom, and told them that where we came from, it was good luck for the bride to put a penny in her shoe.  I didn’t have a penny, so I gave her a U.S. dime, and the whole party was delighted, because Russians really turn on for anything which might give them “good luck”. 
            We chatted briefly with some of the older members of the party, who recalled the days when the Americans brought all those shiploads of cargo to help the Russians survive the terrible war with Hitler’s Germany.  Soviet propaganda was quick to dismiss the American Lend-lease contribution of World War II, but every Russian who lived through those days remembers and always expressed gratitude to us for all Americans. 

The Personal Navigator offers these books, papers and other periodicals:

Shipmate, The Eyes and Ears of the Navy; Publication of the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, September 1945         1945 England, Harry W., Managing Editor        Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. Victory and Industrial Issue: End of World War II came as a surprise to editorial staff, so they rushed to include "The Sinking of the Rising Sun" by Lt. S.L. Freeland. "a concise and vivid report of how U.S. Navy made Japs wish they had never thought of Pearl Harbor." Story of new USNA Superintendent, first Naval Aviator to take post, Vice Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, '06, by Comdr. Louis J. Gulliver, '07. "Ships from the Texas Plains" story of ships built by newcomers to shipbuilding in Houston. These ships passed the "final examination" when they survived the horrible typhoon off Luzon in December 1944, that caused sinking of three other destroyers. "How the Seabees Transformed Tinian" as base for Superforts bombing Japan. "P.H. to Okinawa"-- "’The Big E’, carrier Enterprise, fought the whole bloody war, and came out asking for more”. "What's the Dope" news of alumni, first entry is from Col. Harry Hawthorne, Class of 1882.  Names of naval officers mentioned in this issue is an honor roll of naval heroes of World War II and afterward. 104 pp. 21.7 x 29.3 cm. Magazine, moderate wear, good. (6229) $35.00. World War II/Naval                                               

U.S. Rivers and Harbors: Letter from the President of the United States Transmitting to the House of Representatives a statement from the Secretary of War concerning appropriations for improvement of rivers and harbors, dated Jan. 12, 1877 Washington, DC: United States House of Representatives. Letter from President U.S. Grant of Jan. 12, 1877 transmits letter from Secretary of War J.D. Cameron of Jan. 11, 1877 with the whole package of indorsements and statements for the Chief of Engineers for the improvement of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas Rivers; the Ohio River; the Columbia River; the harbor at Racine, WI; Kennebunk River; the Channel between Staten Island and New Jersey; the improvement of Sabine Pass, Blue Buck Bar and Sabine Bay; the Harbor at Fall River, MA; for gauging the waters of the Lower Mississippi and its tributaries; work on the Galveston, TX ship channel; and much more.  56 pp. 15 x 23 cm. Paper booklet, some pages loose, fair. (7004) $17.00. Scientific/Engineering   


Wild Flowers: Plates 212 and 213

Wild Flowers; Three hundred and sixty-four full-color illustrations with complete descriptive text; popular edition in one volume, Second printing, September 1935 by Homer D. House. 1935 New York, NY: The MacMillan Co This edition is based on a work of similar title originally issued by the State of New York. This work is reproduced by permission of the Board of Regents of the State of New York. Marvelous introductory description, 24 pp. Descriptions and color plates include Families: Cat-tail, Water Plantain, Arum, Spiderwort, Bunchflower, Lily, Orchid, Buckwheat, Poppy, Fumewort, Mustard, Pitcher Plant, Virginia Stonecrop, Saxifrage, Rose, Apple, Pea, Geranium, Wood Sorrel, Jewelweed, Milkwort, Mallow, Violet, Loosestrife, Wintergreen, Heath, many more.. 362 pp. 23.5 x 29.7 cm. Light green buckram cloth on board, spine lightly sunfaded; gilt lettering. Half-title page shows diagonal crease, no dj, very good. (7987) $58.00. Scientific/Nature

Bartlett's Foreign Tours, for the Season of 1895 Chester, PA: Professor F.W. Bartlett Description of tours to Europe, the Mediterranean and The Holy Land. Includes three fold-out maps of Switzerland, the Mediterranean, and Europe. 44 pp. 11 x 17 cm. Paper booklet, cover lightly soiled. Fold-out maps good. Good. (3361) $25.00. Travel/Maps

Congo Crosses: A Study of Congo Womanhood by Kellersberger, Julia Lake 1936 Boston, MA: The Central Committee of the United Study of Foreign Missions. 222 pp. 12.7 x 18.6 cm. A missionary to the Congo, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. has prepared this fascinating book about Women in the Belgian Congo, with drawing and excellent photographs. Author says her own life was saved by the care of a faithful southern mammy, so she writes this book to white women on behalf of black women of Africa. Author uses imagery of the cross throughout book. She asks if "proverbial stupidity" of African women might be caused by the very heavy loads they carry on their heads. Fold-out color map of Africa. Paper wraps on book, slight wear to cover. Owner's inscription in pencil on half title page. Some pencil underlining in text. Thus, fair. (2705) $14.00. Travel/Religion.

Cuba: National Capital, Havana, Cuba (Capitolio Nacional, Habana, Cuba) picture book of the Capitol of Cuba pre-Castro  ca. 1935 Havana, Cuba:  Collection of photos of Havana's Capitol, with descriptions in Spanish and English. Capitolio Nacional de Cuba; Salon Para Recepciones Oficiales; Estatua de la Republica (modeled by Sr. Angelo Zanelli); El Brillante-- 24 carat diamond from Kimberly Mines; Despachoi Orivado Del Presidente de la Camera; Salon Martí; Despacho de la Presidencia del Senado; Cupula; Hemiciclo de la Camara de Representantes; Biblioteca Martí; Hemiciclo del Senado. 24 pp. 24 x 16 cm. Paper booklet, slight chip in edge of cover, very good. (7460)  $16.00. Travel

Hints on Etiquette and The Usages of Society with a Glance at Bad Habits by Agogos (Charles William Day), Illustrated by Brian Robb          Agogos (Charles William Day)  1946    London, England: Turnstile Press Limited. First published in 1836, this little book was first published by Turnstile Press in 1946; this reprint was in 1952. This book is not written for those who do but for those who do not know what is proper.  Examples of "Hints": Whilst walking with a friend, should you meet an acquaintance, never introduce them. Never make acquaintances in coffee houses. It is considered vulgar to take fish or soup twice. If either a lady or a gentleman be invited to take wine at table, they must never refuse; it is very gauche so to do. Do not practise the filthy custom of gargling your mouth at table. As snuff-taking is merely an idle, dirty habit, practised by stupid people in the unavailing endeavour to clear their stolid intellect... it may be left to each individual taste as to whether it be continued or not. 68 pp. 10 x 14.7 cm. Decorated cover with same design on dust jacket. Very good. (8171) $14.00. Educational

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