Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back in the U.S.S…A.

Yeah, that's lame… but… ah… whatever.

I'm back from my trip to Russia and Finland. Wow. Just Wow.

Experiences and overall impressions are created by a series of the smallest things. A small issue at an airport, perhaps a rude person on a street curb, or maybe a less than stellar meal – and you can HATE the place to which you went. It's not that the overall experience was bad, but it just sits funny in your throat when people ask you about it. Conversely, a good meal, a friendly or helpful person guiding you somewhere… a few positive small things, and you remember a place fondly.

When every single instance of a journey is perfect, it's rare. In fact, it's a bit unnerving. Well, I just got back from one of those perfect journeys; from St. Petersburg, Russia and Helsinki, Finland.

Wow, just wow.

Rather than immediately go into the details of the places I visited and things I saw, I will only write now that – if possible, the way to see a country is to stay with a family. If you are given the choice between a five star hotel or a small bedroom in a family's house, don't hesitate – stay with the family. You get a chance to experience the country in a way that simply isn't possible in any other way. Tours are great, but they are an insular world and not necessarily the real country one is visiting. And if one gets to stay with a really great family, then the experience is one that will be remembered and cherished forever. Such was my recent experience in Russia and Finland. Besides seeing all the incredible sights of the cultural wonderland currently called St. Petersburg, I also got to experience the people somewhat. I had a chance to go into the supermarkets, the stores, ride in the cars and walk some streets not on the obvious maps. I had a chance to talk politics with normal people. By the way – They LOVE Putin. That's not propaganda.

I will, most likely, create several web pages devoted to this trip – but for now this blog entry is strictly to say Thank you to the Ruchkin family – Sasha, Helena, Alexander and Dasha – who may or may not read this. Families like this are what reminds you what a great place the world is.

Once the dedicated pages are created (dutifully added to the list of things to do), I will direct you to them. Look forward to the hearing about the harrowing traffic, the nerve wrecking drive to the opera, impressions of St. Petersburg life and the art and the palaces – oh, the art and palaces.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I went to Helsinki once and it was really nice. I'm so glad you had such a good time. I envy your trip to Russia. That is one trip I hope to do someday. Happy Thanksgiving!