Imagine a castle, a small castle, I’d say, but a castle nonetheless on the edge of the lake with terraced lawns on which to sit while eating one’s picnic lunch. Just across the water are towering snow-capped mountains, coming very nearly to the edge of the lake, but leaving room for small villages between the water and them.
Attached to the museum is a nice, homely restaurant. For $30 the 3 course lunch was duck with potato gratin and other vegetables, preceded by ravioli with asparagus in a cream sauce and followed by creme caramel. I can’t comment on the latter, but the rest was yummy. The chef came out to check with the diners, so I got to say tres bon, which he appeared to recognise.
After lunch a promenade along the water, and still the highlight. What a collection of games. Everything from stones and shells used prior to the invention of the dice to slot machines. One of the highlights for me was something I’d never seen in the flesh before: a 1930s bridge table, which has a mechanism underneath it to deal the cards. Fantastic.
I’m a fan of the Staunton chess set and I think I saw the most beautiful one of those. At the Havana Olympiad every participant received one of these large, magnificently carved sets. Not TOO large. Definitely useable.
Castro was a big chess fan. Bob Wade told this story: he was on his hotel room balcony watching a parade pass by which included Castro. Suddenly Castro looks up and sees Wade and the parade stops. He strides into the hotel and before you know it, he is knocking on Wade’s door, pleased as punch to be able to meet him, two body guards out of breath bringing up the rear.
Because of chess’s relationship to the Russians, there were some incredible opportunities to see a side of the world back then which was rarely seen by the rest of us. There was also an Olympiad held in Yugoslavia and participants got to meet Tito.
The best I did in my Olympiads was an invitation in 1976 to a cocktail party being given by the Prime Minister of Israel. I turned it down. What can I say. To a sixteen year old, hanging out with chess players and drinking too much seemed by far the better option. I’m afraid to say, given the opportunity to meet Castro or Tito at that age I would have knocked them back too. Teenagers….