When travelling, it's good to observe, read, experience, absorb. As it's also good to stop and think back. It's not easy to put the first third of our trip in writing. But we liked the idea of making an assessment of our time in Russia. We used the same the criteria we had used to assess the 21-day’s Bootcamp we attended in August. Keep reading to see the result!
Light bulb - what we have learnt
Ale: ‘Moscow is not Russia and Russia is not Moscow’. I had heard a similar statement about London and England, Paris and France… But I didn't expect to hear the same here. Mainly, I didn't expect to hear this from every single person we met in every single location out of Moscow!
Fra: гречневой (buckwheat) is really good and самовар (the train huge kettle always on) is a great invention!
Heart - what we have loved
Ale: lovely wooden tiny houses (not on wheels like the ones we talked about here!!) in the Lake Baikal region. Actually, the whole Baikal region!
Fra: the Wooden Architecture and Ethnographic museum in Taltsy, also in Baikal region. It was fascinating to see aerial burying structures, to travel in space and time from nomadic campsites to impressive fortresses.
Smile - what made us laugh
Ale: our attempts at speaking Russian, like when Fra called for остановка, пожалуйста (next stop, please) on the minibuses :-)
Fra: train life episodes. Once, I got off the train at a station as we often do and… the train went off with my wife and on it! (The train came back 20 minutes after, so all was good apart from Ale’s level of anxiety!).
Pointing finger - what we take away
Ale: a feeling of gratitude. We felt welcomed all the time, all journey on. Since the moment when the attendant on our first train found a seat for us despite us not having a reservation* to the little boy who greeted us in a canteen in Ulan Ude (our last stop), offered us some croutons and happily spent an hour talking to us with a keyboard and google translator!
Fra: people’s smile and their openness to us. Also, their variety of points of view and opinions on Russian politics and history.
*our original Berlin-Moscow train got cancelled because of Storm Xavier so we had to find alternative ways to Moscow.
Shaking hands - what connections we have made
Ale: so many! Through Couchsurfing - Pavel & Kathya, Oksana, Alyona to mention a few. And through our research on social impact - Moscow Impact Hub, Delai Kulturu, Reforma, Flacoin, Dubroludov, HumanWorld.info, Stenograffia, Shapka Rulit, Great Baikal Trail...
Fra: and beside them, all the people who spontaneously came to us to help and give us directions in the street or in the middle of crazy Moscow metro stations. And young Alexander who walked us around in Sljudjanka / Слюдянка. And little Misha who was a generous philosopher 11 years old :-)
Rooted foot - what we had known already and was important to remember
Ale: Russia is huge. Of course, I knew it. On the atlas, maps, etc. Russia has always seemed huge to me. But now I have experienced its vastity. In the number of hours we spent on the train, in the number of time zones we crossed, in the endless landscapes we contemplated from the train, in the variety of cultures, architectures, stories. Even ‘small cities’ are huge in Russia.
Fra: the atmosphere and the interior design of trains reminded me of what I had read in the Brothers Karamasov. A sense of age and weight. The conversations with the people reminded me of the Eurasian nature of this country. Their being in-between continents. Their being in transition. Their simultaneous attraction for the Western lifestyle and the Eastern hyper-technology.
Bin - what we’d kick away (didn’t like that much…)
Ale: too much worrying about what will happen and who we should meet next. Good planning is good but… trusting the road and where it will take us is better!
Fra: urban outskirts when they become "human outskirts"…
Does anything resonate with you? Whether you have travelled to Russia or to somewhere else, whether you had similar or completely different experiences, feel free to use the comment box below or email us :)