With my great-uncle, Jim Vann, on a trip to the former USSR during my winter break in 1993. After a prolonged layover in Germany, we eventually flew into Russia and then made our way to Central Asia for a fascinating journey and a chance to visit the families of Timour and Ulugbek. They resided in Tashkent, a city of 2.5 million and the capital of Uzbekistan. Germany itself did not disappoint. Uncle Jim and I visited Beethoven's birth home, Bonn. We actually toured the home museum and saw the bedroom in which the musical genius was born. Two other very memorable moments: giving our Moscow taxi driver a bottle of vodka instead of rubles, of which we had none; being secretly spirited onto a plane in remote Uzbekistan only to find out later a bribe was paid by our handlers.
On a side trip to neighboring Kazakhstan with Timour. We stopped by his cousin's home in the then-capital city of Alma-Aty. Nowadays, Astana is the capital of the oil and mineral rich country made internationally famous by Borat. Next to Uncle Jim is Kamil. Next to me is Ildar, the son of the car driver who took us to the mountain to ski.