Tolstoy tale’s novel ending
It is too good an opportunity to miss, a visit to the country estate of Leo Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana, 240km south of Moscow.
It is here that he wrote Anna Karenina and War and Peace, where he lived a spartan life and where he is buried, marked only by flowers left by visitors. I have been an admirer of Tolstoy since I studied Russian at a Scottish high school in the 1960s, but it was never possible to travel to Yasnaya Polyana during my subsequent holidays in Russia. Now, visiting my son in Moscow, such a trip could be organised and a dream fulfilled.
We decide to travel by train to the small town of Tula, stay overnight and then take a local bus to the estate.
The long-distance train we catch from Moscow is oldfashioned and slow, stopping at many little towns along the way and affording us views of everyday provincial life far from the tourist beat.
Tula is a town known for its manufacture of samovars and gingerbread cookies. We make our way to the centre, where we find our surprisingly modern hotel next to the town square where celebrations are taking place to mark Tula’s 869th birthday. Old really means old in Russia. It is a short walk to its ancient kremlin and beautiful cathedral, resplendent with green roof and golden domes.
We decide to eat in the hotel restaurant, as it overlooks the square and we have heard there will be fireworks later in the evening.
We choose our dishes and are slightly bemused by the presence of a young woman, dressed cabaret-style, who sings for a handful of diners. We enjoy the fireworks and then head off to bed, to be fully prepared for our big day. Tula has turned out to be far more interesting than we had anticipated.
This is some compensation, as we never get to Yasnaya Polyana. During the night I am struck down by severe food poisoning and am extremely ill. Tolstoy’s estate is out of the question and I wonder how I can return to Moscow that evening.
I am bitterly disappointed that having travelled so far and waited for so many years I am not going to reach my longed-for destination. Such are the vagaries of overseas holidays and best-laid plans.
Safely back in Adelaide, I am still in search of Tolstoy. Send your 400-word contribution, with full postal address, to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Columnists will receive a selection from Australian stationer Notemaker that includes a MiGoals passport wallet ($29.95), Delfonics canvas pencil case (($16.95) and a clothbound Moleskine Voyageur notebook ($44.95). More: notemaker.com.au.