This was my last email from Russia, back on May 26, 2014, probably sent from St. Petersburg. Some of you ask if I would go to Russia again, or even take the Trans Siberian Railway again. Probably not. Once was enough.This is my last email (with some updates and additions)from Russia. Many of you are thankful.Back when Siberia was the land of dispossessed white Russians, the little towns did not offer much. It did offer space and quiet. Some day you could hear your watch ticking at high noon on main street. Life was so dull, that anyone receiving a telegram was expected to circulate it as reading material for the entire town.
Most of the cities and towns along the TSR are gray, drab, and depressing. Meeting the two Russian PhD girls in Novosibirsk was a highlight. My roomie from Switzerland was a great and adventurous travel pal. But I did not partake of his Russian nightclub activities. The huge KGB man singing lullabies on the train at night was eerie. The smoked omul and beer were my best meals.
How much has changed in this mostly misunderstood part of the world? I tried to find out. If you sent me a telegram, I would see if someone else would like to read it. I suspect the answer will be that nobody cares. (But during this war, I am certain the Russkies would read everything!)
I told you that my itinerary required giving up my passport at each hotel, limiting my movement without their knowledge or approval. Any deviation from the schedule attached to my visa is a big RED flag! The side trip I was offered to Ukraine would have been a huge RED flag, even in 2014.
When I was growing up, as a young boy in the great San Joaquin Valley farmland of California, I often wondered how life would be on the opposite side of the world. Now, my chance is here. Yet it turns out the EXACT opposite side of the world is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, southwest of Madagascar, not Siberia, as I was always told my parents, teachers, and those with geographic authority.
However, if I choose one of my major stops on my trip, Lake Baikal, the exact opposite is a place I have been, called Punta Arenas, Chile. Mostly, the exact opposite of the world from where most of us live in California is in the middle of the Indian Ocean! So much for the ‘romance” of standing in the exact opposite part of the world.
Find out for yourself. Just google “map tunneling tool” and you will have the surprise of your life.
All I can say to you for reading, commenting, and enduring is “spa-SEE-ba” or thank you in Russian!
Yes, 2022, and the world has changed. Even if Ukraine is resolved in some acceptable manner, we will have a new “Cold War” of sorts, primarily economic. I cannot imagine Russia wanting to stay in a protracted war. Their reproductive balance between males and females is already askew (too few males due to previous wars). Visiting some old Iron Curtain countries becomes problematic again.
Maybe it is time for me to refocus on Asia once again.