I’m back! It was 18 days of travel, 4,560 photos and 24 hand-written chapters for this blog (with two more pending in my head). It was exciting, gorgeous, challenging, different, eye-opening, beautiful, tiring, inspiring, heart-breaking, cold, wet, relaxing, testing, comfortable and frustrating — all in all, a trip of a lifetime.
I am not the worldliest of travelers but I have covered some ground in North America and a decent bit of Europe in my life this far, and this… this was something else. Maybe because I had no expectations. Despite hundreds of stories from family, friends and coworkers I had no idea what to expect for me. While on an international scale I had crossed countries and oceans, in Russia or even in our “near abroad” I had never ventured out past Moscow, Saint Petersburg and dacha (country house). I couldn’t even imagine it — this twilight zone of dealing with “foreigners” in my “native” (Russian) language. Of being treated like a “regular” (a Russian tourist) when I was the furthest thing from one (generally iffy outside of the Moscow Center). Craving some down-to-earth adventure while at the core remaining elitist and spoiled to the core in the area that is anything but, BUT one that lives on systemically catering exactly to “my kind”. I went for it. On a whim.
And it was Amazing.
Jump-up-and-down Amazing. Scare-my-colleagues-with-my-enthusiasm Amazing. I-need-to-go-back-now Amazing.
I wonder if this is how the Muscovites and the Pitertsy of yore felt spending time in Crimea. Royals, nobles, war heroes, poets and painters flocked there in droves for centuries. Romanov, Pushkin, Aivazovsky. While I sort through my notes and pix, do take a look at how they the artistically-gifted ones saw the land that captured my heart: