But He Went by the Name of Lenin

1999 > Russia

A visit to beginning of it all: Lenin’s home town

The Man behind the Plan

Lenin in his Red Period

The city in its Red Period

Hide from the storm in a cafe

A tramvai hotel!

At least the tramvai is close
In the late 1800’s, a young man came into the world by the
name of Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov in the town of Simbirsk. When he started to
write, he changed his surname to Lenin and
the rest it history. Well, almost. His hometown, to commemorate its famous
son, changed its name to Ulyanovsk and in the 1970’s built a huge museum
around his boyhood homes.

I’m living in Ulyanovsk this week while Lidia audits a local chocolate factory
(you know what I’ve been eating every day!), and I’m getting quite Lenin-happy.
So far, I’ve seen each of the four houses he lived in, and two more that
his family owned (they moved around town a lot). He came from an upper-middle
class family, and he was the third of six kids. From his beginnings, he seemed
to be normal, and I couldn’t find any funky event in Ulyanovsk that might
have twisted him into overthrowing the Tzar.

Oddly enough, outside of the museums, there isn’t much here in the way of
the usual Lenin monuments. He has his
own on the town square, but I didn’t see many buildings in his name. Its
is usual to find a dozen buildings, institutes, streets, or plazas named
for him in every city, but not Ulyanovsk. I guess, after having a section
of their old town center demolished for the museum complex, the locals are
kinda sick of all the hubbub. Personally, I can’t blame them!

The town itself is a great respite from the monotony of
Toglatti, having a distinct old section filled
with wooden homes from the 1800’s. The town used to stretch along the Volga,
before the huge dam was built at Toglatti that made the river into the Kuybyshev
Reservoir. Now there is a sand beach at the water’s edge down the hill from
our hotel, but it ain’t much.

Our hotel, on the other hand, is worthy of a few words. First, it is dirt-cheap!
Unlike the usual in Russia, there isn’t any stupid double pricing here, both
Lidia and I pay 150 rubles a night. With the current
exchange rate, that works out to about $6. Not bad for a double room on the
16th floor of the tallest building in Ulyanovsk!

Now, with a double room, we expected a double bed. Well, we got one all right!
Two single bed on either side of the room. The Soviets were not big on fun
times in hotel rooms, and wouldn’t even let unmarried couples sleep in the
same room! These days the rules are not as strict, Lidia and I am together,
but we still have to deal with the remnants of the system, like the two single
beds. Like in Kyiv in
Turkey, we pushed the two single beds together to
make a single double bed, with yours truly having to sleep in the crack.
What I do for love!

The furniture (and probably the linens!) date from the 1950’s, although Hotel
Venets was built in the ’70’s. I actually like the style though; it is all
wood and very sturdy. Minimalist in design, everything is very practical,
if a little boring. My only complaint would be the bed frames. With high
walls on three sides, two beds together form a mini-corral from which it
is mighty hard to get out of in the morning. Oh, and that the outlets are
all the two flat-prong American style, but the electricity is still Russian
220 volts, which makes both the two round-prong or an American 110 volt appliance
useless. Standard Soviet engineering!