Rescue in the Urals

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Orphanage in Orenburg, Russia

Thirteen years ago I wrote a piece for our subscriptions travel newsletter, Gemütlichkeit, about an adoption trip to Russia. It was a fascinating, heart-warming story but since it didn't really fit our newsletter content, it never saw the light of day. Today, December 21, 2012, for complicated, political reasons, Russian president Vladimir Putin is in the process of pushing through a law that would prohibit Americans from adopting Russian babies. Given that context, perhaps you'll be interested in this quasi travel story.

Summer, 1999—A few weeks ago, Nancy Bestor, wife of son Bob, and mother of our two terrific granddaughters, agreed to accompany her good friend Sally (not her real name) on a trip to Russia. A single woman bent on adopting a Russian baby, Sally needed help and moral support. What with Russian politics and bureaucracy, the adoption was on and off at least half a dozen times. In late May it seemed definitely off. Vladimir Putin, the new Russian President, was scrapping the program. Sally, who had known the name of her baby for months and had pictures and videotapes of her, was running on emotional empty and seemed ready to look elsewhere for a baby.

Then came an early morning phone call that changed everything. A Russian court date had been scheduled and Sally and Nancy needed to be in Moscow within 72 hours.

Lufthanza Video Screen, Biz-Class Seat, 747-8
Video Screen, Biz-Class Seat, 747-8

We flew back to the U.S. from Frankfurt in the upper-deck business-class cabin of Lufthansa's newest airplane, a less than one-month-old Boeing 747-8. More than 40 years ago, a reporter friend was invited to take a short ride around Northern California on a 747 just prior to that very first, and long-awaited "jumbo" jet being put into passenger service. His response to the inevitable "what was it like?" questions was, "very much like flying." I've flown the 747 many times and that's pretty much my reaction to this latest version, EXCEPT for LH's new lie-flat business class seats.

I prefer not to be encumbered by having to return a rental car on the day of a flight home from Europe, so our initial—but flawed—plan was to go online a few days before departure, book a hotel near the Frankfurt Airport, and return the car the night before our flight. That meant dropping the car at the airport and taking a taxi or a shuttle to the hotel. When I finally got around to make the booking, three days before departure, I realized our scheme had holes.

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View from all the hotel's guest rooms

We're putting this one in the “find” category. It's a hotel that has it all: great value, good design, waterside location, family ownership, and a very warm welcome.

This is such a terrific value we felt the need to let all our web visitors know about the nine-room Pension Havelfloss, directly on the Havel river in the old city of Brandenburg.