Fragments from my Wanderbook: Russian River Cruise

by Elaine Weisburg

While we drift past painted cottages, onion domes, birch groves,

Yale Professor Steinberg lectures on the Russian intellectual’s obsession with
One image sees them patient, suffering, compassionate, in touch with nature,
another image sees debauched savages.

Steinberg explains a deviation from the announced program,
“You haven’t seen the arranged-for correct
convent because someone stole the money
the travel agents sent. You should not have been
charged for seeing Dionysus in the compromise cathedral
and you should have been told why you should have seen it.
You have just had a real Russian experience.”

In Uglich at a bend in the Volga, a small languid city founded
in the tenth century, I stand spellbound at the spot
where henchmen of Boris Godunov murdered nine-year-old Dmitri,
the only heir of Ivan the Terrible. Two steps away a woman is
selling gorgeous rag dolls in ornate peasant dresses.

Among the notes from a lecture on Turgenev,
“We haven’t decided the existence of God
and you want to EAT? !! ”


Elaine was a design reporter and features editor at House & Garden and House Beautiful for more than three decades. She is also a memoirist but only dared to attempt poetry in Sarah White’s class.