Driving Around Europe Without A Map, Part 6 … AN HONOR GUARD, A TOMMY GUN AND SOME PORN

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Hey guys, come quick! Check this out!

I looked around and saw Russian soldiers pouring out of the woods like salt out of a shaker! What in the hell? An intruder? A spy? An invasion?

Nope just some porn. A tiny pamphlet featuring a few photos of shapely, stark-naked blondes cavorting with a birthday-suited, muscular well-endowed male stud in a variety of intimate positions. It’s the kind of soft porn that today wouldn’t merit a second look, but back then, just a few short years after Playboy and “the Pill” permanently changed our way of looking at thingsit was pure dynamite, especially in the USSR  where such things were apparently and as forbidden as they’d been in Eden … which is why the customs official confiscated it.

I hadn’t thought about it or my box of books in my VW’s backseat until the officious and completely thorough apparatchik started rummaging through it (he had the undercarriage the car searched and even removed the dash to have a look behind it). I suspected he might have a problem with such books as The Making of Modern Russia, which from their point of view were subversive, but the good fellow passed over those as if they were Betty Crocker cookbooks.

But porn was a different matter! He looked at it, then looked up at me with a grin, wagging his finger and saying “tsk, tsk!” He handed it to a guard who stood standing behind us. That poor fellow’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he saw the treasure fate had tossed his way.

He yelled out and another soldier posted nearby who yelled out to another who did likewise and pretty soon it started to sound like the entire Red Army Chorus surrounded the place.

“Porn! That’s all it’d take to invade this place!” I thought as I watched the spectacle unfold. For a few minutes both the customs official and I openly shared our amusement at the soldiers who’d all retreated with the book to a break room. He shook his head bemused by the folly of youth and bent back down to explore the remaining titles … perhaps hoping to find another such gem. (No such luck – I’d purchased the book as a souvenir in Stockholm after observing a mother with her young son window shopping in front of a bookstore filled with such books along with a large variety of sex toys … ah, those Swedes!)

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Degenerate, provocative and strictly forbidden!

I’m certain the customs official took his time because he had nothing better to do. After all there weren’t any other vehicles at the crossing, which I found surprising considering it was the only road between the two world class cities of Helsinki and Leningrad!

The cold war was still quite frigid back in 1967. Only a few green sprouts had started to make their way through the permafrost … and among these first signs of Spring was a young, newly discharged US soldier blithely driving into Mother Russia after giving the trip about as much thought as he gave to a decision between buying a Mars Bar or a Snickers.

My wardrobe and behavior betrayed this my lack of preparation. I wore an US Army field jacket (sans stripes and tags), which represented the uniform of Russia’s archenemy. I had rock ‘n roll blaring out of the open windows and sun roof of my VW which represented the decadence of the West, and I had a camera with a telephoto lens lying on the passenger seat, the sure sign of a spy!

Obviously I hadn’t thought the thing through, and when the four Finnish border guards lined-up in strict military fashion to salute me as I drove past them, I felt as if I were in an old “I Love Lucy” episode … I didn’t know whether to laugh or make a quick u-turn and head back to Helsinki, Charlie and happiness!

Apprehension bordering on alarm started to creep into my consciousness at the sight of this bizarre honor guard … and then the remotely controlled Russian border gate quietly slid open. There was no one in sight. I drove through the gate. It silently slid shut behind me.

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Okay, GI! Hold it right there!

I had no choice but to drive on. A long stretch of meadow rose to a nearby forested hill. A two-lane asphalt road led up the hill where a tall, bright white flag pole stood with the giant, brilliant red USSR flag.

That was it. Nothing else manmade in sight save the border fence topped with spools barbed wire.

I started to drive but stopped after a few yards when a Russian soldier came strolling out of the woods towards me with tommy gun. I gulped.

“I probably should have thought about this a bit more!” I mused. However it was too late, much too late. So I resorted to the oldest trick in the book … a smile.

It worked. He smiled back with a broad, welcoming grin, gave me a nod and pointed up the hill, up which I drove to meet my doom, and where I was to surrender my forbidden porn pamphlet to the wide-eyed guards and the bemused customs official … after which I was on my way into Mother Russia!

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Coming next! Driving Around Europe Without A Map, Part 7 … ON THE ROAD TO PETER’S PLACE

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About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you choose to spend with them ... Joe
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