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: travel@theaus­ 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:

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