Entering Russia overland from Estonia, the Russians instantly greeted us with warm-hearted hospitality. Due to the language barrier we are more or less dependent on the goodwill of the Russian people – when buying a train ticket, when talking to the receptionist of a hostel on the phone, when ordering food without meat (a meal without meat is not a real meal in Russia), when asking for directions to the next ATM. We are learning words and phrases day by day though, and only showing the willingness of speaking Russian as a westerner puts a smile on almost every serious Russian face. Side note for non-Germans: If you thought Germans were serious, you haven´t been to Russia JBut just when you begin to think that the person you talk to is somehow angry with you, they give you a warm smile.
We´ve been in this vast country for almost two weeks now, visited St. Petersburg and Moscow, most certainly the most visited places in this country. And for the past 6 days we´ve been on the trans-sibirian train (on and off) moving further and further to the east.
St. Petersburg immediately captivated us. The kindness of its people, the beautiful architecture, its proud history and culture, the young alternative vibe and the tranquility despite the city´s size.
Moscow on the contrary was just overwhelming. Hectic, busy, noisy, bewildering, hazy. The three days we spent in the city were quite special however. Coincidentally, we experiences Russia´s most important holiday, 9th of May - the victory over Nazi-Germany. We saw pride, joy, unity and respect for the relatives who lost their lives over 70 years ago. What made our stay in Russia´s capital even more special was that Mia´s Dad came to visit. We mostly walked and walked, went on a boat-trip and walked again, took the metro and admired the beautifully designed subway stations, and then walked some more. To appreciate Moscow beyond the main spots in the city center, to understand its history, to experience its culture, you need patience...and time. The short time we were there only let us get a glimpse of the beauty of Europe´s largest city and we left with a mixture of astonishment and relief.
After visiting and traveling through 8 cities in the first 3,5 weeks of our journey, we were also a bit exhausted of city life and all that comes with it. Cars, noise, people, consumption, and information overflow. As these lines are written we are sitting of the trans-sibirian train heading to Siberia, after spending a few days on the Asian-European border cities of Perm and Yekaterinburg. It feels good to think, write and digest the impressions and experiences of the first part of our journey, while watching trees and houses passing by outside the window and listening to the roaring engines of the train.
Russia is different. Russia is beautiful. Россия отличается. Россия прекрасна. ...or something like that...