Magazine article Russian Life

Cucumbers and Fighter Jets

Magazine article Russian Life

Cucumbers and Fighter Jets

Article excerpt

YOU NEVER KNOW what you are going to find when you wander Russian roads.

A few years ago, I was in Moscow and looking to fill an empty day with an interesting outing to somewhere outside the capital. On the recommendation of our history editor, Tamara Eidelman, I set out for Kolomna and Zaraysk.

It was a bright, sunny day and the drive was slow-going and uneventful. Then, about 125 kilometers southeast of Moscow, we drove through the quiet town (population 32,000) of Lukhovitsy.

Oops.

After World War II, Lukhovitsy had been transformed into a major center for Soviet aeronautical and defense production, home of the massive Moscow Aviation Factory, where, among other things, MiG jets were built.

Had I driven down these roads in the Soviet era, in all likelihood I would have been arrested as a spy. But, then again, back then it would have been near impossible to rent a South Korean compact and then hire a driver to take me to Kolomna by way of a secret military town.

Of course, Lukhovitsy is no longer a closed city. They do still build MiGs here, and there is a MiG-23 installed in the town as a monument. Yet, when we drove through the center of town, all we saw was a huge cucumber on a pedestal--a memorial to the famous Lukhovitsy cucumber. On the monument, if one were to stop (we did not), you could read: (loosely translated: "From Grateful Lukhovitsians to the Cucumber-Sustainer"). Apparently the quality of Lukhovitsian cucumbers is widely renowned throughout Moscow region and, indeed, all of Russia. Lukhovitsian cucumbers are cucumber-lovers' cucumbers. …

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