Back in 2003 I visited Russia on a reporting assignment. I stayed in the Bryansk region, about 230 miles southwest of Moscow, at the Chernigov Hotel. It was a strange experience. The hotel had "watchers" who sat at the end of each hallway and recorded every coming and going in a monster logbook. Whenever I'd leave my hotel and return, my bags were regularly searched (I did the strand of hair test. Duh.) I figured that's just how Russia works, especially for American journalists.
Back then Google maps wasn't everywhere and there wasn't even much information on Bryansk online. I have learned so much about Bryansk since then, including that it was a Chernobyl fallout region and a major center of thyroid cancer. (I did not know that and was, in fact, diagnosed with thyroid cancer several years after my visit. Connection? All my docs say there's no possible way to know.)
But now the world is at our fingertips so I decided to Google map Bryansk and see how it has changed in 10 years. It looks like a happier town. Buildings and signs have fresh coats of paint, the people in the town are wearing bright clothes instead of the omnipresent gray of 2003, and maybe they're even working on computers now instead of the sea of typewriters I heard click-claketing away in every office.
But here's my mystery. That hotel I stayed at, the Hotel Chernigov at 7 Karl Marks Street? (Google translate of the hotel web site) I can't walk around it. They wouldn't let the Google car in. It's clear it's not a case of the Google car choosing not to go in, because it traversed all the little streets surrounding the hotel. But there are security guards in uniform stationed at every entrance to the circular street where the hotel sits. So that tells me they really didn't want the Google car in there taking photos. People INSIDE the circle have posted photos which are available on the map, but you can't walk around inside the stupid little circle where the hotel and a post office and some other buildings (KGB?) are housed.
Am I being paranoid? Or is that too stupid a question to ask when dealing with Russia? I'd love to have the thoughts of the crosstalkaverse. The red A is Hotel Chernigov.