I don't know about you, but I love sudden bursts of nostalgia at unexpected moments. Without our past, we're nothing. Everything about it shapes us into the person we are today, for both good and bad. It happened to me recently during the Mid-West journey, when I entered a shop that sold vintage games and toys from my childhood. For a brief second, I was transported back to age 10, when I used to sit with my younger sister and play with Transformers, Lite-Brite, Speak 'n' Spell, Mr. Potato Head and other treasures from the 1980's. Some of you probably don't even recognize these toys. :)
In the middle of rural Estonia last autumn, I stumbled upon a small village that houses old Soviet cars. A sort of refuge for abandoned cars in need of some care and company. While I'm fascinated with all things from the USSR, seeing these relics stirred no emotion within me but I could see it arising in my Russian travel companion. I don't know the feeling of boarding a bus in Soviet times, sitting on a hard chair, or being chased by a tiny police car. But today I'll show you some photos from this village, and perhaps for a brief moment your childhood memories will also be awakened...
1. I don't know the name of this place, but it sits in a residential neighborhood, with school children walking the paths on their way home. Entrance into the "museum" is free, but donations are welcomed. This reminds me of a matchbox car, so small!
2. When foreigners first visit America, many of them are amazed by our big, red, shiny firetrucks. I think it's a symbol of America, and I notice many people write about our firemen and fire stations in travel reports. To me, it's completely commonplace as our firetrucks and police cars have always been huge, ever since I was a child. I'm not sure what this is? A Soviet firetruck or ambulance? But I'm certain most of you will recognize it.
3. Larger police car? As you can see, it's difficult to write this report because I don't know the history of all these cars, or even their function. Only that they look very different from American police cars.
4. Is it a Lada? Not sure. :)
5. I think this is an old Volga? Go on, tell me what it is in the comments...looks like a luxury vehicle for Soviet times because it's much larger than the others in the car lot.
6. The inside of the same car, definitely no power steering! :) Cars to me are an essential part of life. I hate everything about public transport, and drive to work every day, even though a metro station is within walking distance from my apartment. Each time I visit Moscow, immediate anxiety sits in when I hear we're heading toward the metro station, because I've never seen anything so chaotic in my lifetime. Masses of humanity being herded along as cattle. It's my worst nightmare, so I'll sit in traffic, in my own private space, to avoid it. Even if it adds an extra half hour to get somewhere, as is often the case for my workday commute to Washington, DC.
7. Toy cars in the lot also! When my sister was young, she collected matchbox cars. Yes, some American girls prefer to play with cars instead of dolls. We're "manly," remember? :)
8. Common toy for young boys growing up in Soviet times? We have the same type of pedal cars in the U.S., but they aren't as well constructed.
9. Btw, if you have one of those old Moskvitch cars in your house, you can put it on eBay and earn thousands of dollars! It's true - there's a high demand for these classic Soviet toys in America. I found this ad today, and others where the cars were selling for close to $2,000 USD!
10. What follows are just a few photos. I don't know the names of these cars or the years of production. If you wish to share your knowledge, you can tell me in the comments so I know for future reference.
11. An entire section of the museum is dedicated to buses. How many of you rode in these as a child? I bet a lot!
12. I can only imagine how hard and cold these seats felt in the middle of Russian winter, and the intimate conversations shared between spouses, parents and children sitting on them during long rides. I've never once been on a Metro bus in the Washington, DC area. I think you either love public transport, or hate it. For me, it's absolutely the last resort. Not because I'm a snob, or because I think it's "lower class," but because I need a lot of personal space and don't want to be pressed against random strangers for extended periods of time. A sort of phobia, as I'm paranoid of claustrophobic situations.
14. Beauty in the middle of abandonment!
15. Sirens on the top of the car? I guess this is some type of public service car, but I'm not sure what for?
16. This Estonian village, as a whole, was very picturesque and cozy! And Estonians, I already wrote that they were friendly, open and happy to embrace foreign visitors. I like the country very much, and hope to return someday.
17. This apocalyptic scene reminds of the barren, tornado prone fields of rural Kansas, but in fact it's from the Baltic States. Somewhere in Estonia, but I can't recall exactly where. This is the problem when you try to write travel posts over a year after the journey. Yes, I'm a bad travel blogger, incapable of broadcasting live reports during the course of a trip.
18. As soon as I turned sixteen, the legal driving age in America, my dad put me in the driver's seat of his old Ford Tempo and taught me how to drive a stick-shift. My parent's house sits at the bottom of a big hill, and he held me captive in that car until I was able to safely turn right at the top of the hill onto the main thoroughfare. This took over an hour, and each time I wanted to quit he encouraged me onward. My father - the most patient man I've ever known! Since then, I've always driven manual transmissions, and am completely bored with an automatic. I taught many of my friends how to drive a stick-shift during my teenage years, lending them my car and circling abandoned school parking lots until they too mastered the task. My cars throughout youth included an old Honda Prelude, Honda Civic, and in highschool I drove a convertible 1980 Triumph Spitfire. :)) It was awesome, and still sits in my dad's garage, awaiting repairs. I guess someday I'll be able to take it for a spin again and relive my highschool days. It looks exactly like this:
19. What about my experience with Russian cars? Well, I've only been in one, an old Jigulee in Novgorod. I met a reader, four of us crammed into the small car, and headed down this snowy, rural village road in search of adventure...Maybe during my trip next month I'll get to experience a real Russian beast and go off-roading in a UAZ or Kamaz. Who wants to give me a ride? :))
20. The Soviet Union - for some it was the best of times, for others the worst. A crossroad in history. Regardless of how you feel about this era, this post is dedicated to those readers who occasionally wish to reminisce and be transported to another time....if only for a few brief moments.
How about you? What was your first car, or do you prefer public transport?
Have a nice weekend!
Other Posts from the Baltic States
Estonia and Life on the Border Ventspils, Latvia
Eastern Euro Hollywood