01 April 1980

Train tickets and Russian caviar

After class Andrew, Ann and I spend about five hours in various offices trying, unsuccessfully, to buy our train tickets to East Berlin. We even change some money legally, at the official exchange rate (I think it's the first time since we arrived in Poland, and it will probably be the last) but then some ticket issuing authority tells us we have the wrong receipt. They had never mentioned that there is more than one kind of receipt for foreign currency exchange. And they are serious, despite today's date it's no April Fool's joke. Or maybe they are not serious serious, they just want a bribe.

We'll see, but it seems this trip to East Germany is rapidly becoming more trouble than it's ever going to be worth.

At 7:00pm Marta comes to visit in my room. In her unceasing efforts to win my favors she has actually made a huge Polish flag for me. (I collect flags from the countries aI visit and I had mentioned I would have liked a Polish flag to take home.) Then we are joined by Borzena. After a while I leave Marta to her destiny and take Borzena out for dinner to Staropolska. Here I try black caviar for the first time in my life.

Borzena is a fine lady and even though we are just friends, and I have no plans to change that, I decide to invite her to visit me in Italy at the end of our course. She does not believe me. Also, she is not sure how to put this to her parents, so we agree that probably the best way is for her to be invited by Ann. (An invitation is indispensable to get a visa from any Western country and also makes it easier to get a passport in Poland.) Though Ann could invite her to the States while I could invite her to Italy, and the difference is not exactly irrelevant for planning purposes.

Caviar is readily available in Poland - for hard currency, that is. It is smuggled in from the USSR where it is produced by the Caspian sea. Because it is highly sought by Western tourists, diplomats, anyone relly, its exportation to the West is strictly regulated. It can be taken out of Poland only if one can demostrate that it has been bought legally, and no one can. During the course of my stay in Poland I'll have quite a few chances to buy it at various markets. Usually the price is USD 50 for a 2kg can that is worth several thousand dollars inthe West but has been paid peanuts in the USSR, where supply is not regulated by market prices but by access to the producers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Click here to leave your comment. All comments are welcome and will be published asap, but offensive language will be removed.