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Russia. The word evokes so many things. Snow, ice, the cold war, Stalin, fur hats and leather boots. Vodka of course. Caviar. Ballet – best in the world. Lenin, tolstoy, communism and the ugly concrete buildings. Matryoshki the wooden nesting dolls. And of course the tsars with their wonderful faberge eggs.

This is what I thought of russia… a random collection of half remembered history lessons and snatches of stories.

How different it is! For starters its absolutely beautiful. Pine forests, vast fields of wild flower, ramshackle dacha – beautiful wooden houses, normally intricately carved with gardens bursting with colour, there are vast lakes and winding rivers. And the weather is wonderful. Warm and sunny.

 

The Russian people are a unique set… beautiful girls with perfect hair and make up dressed like they’re on a night out stalk past perfectly balanced on 6inch heels – on cobbles too! The old babushkas bent double under the weight of change from communism where they were poor but had all they needed to capitalism where their social system has been pulled out from under their feet leaving them with nothing, rich oligarchs who control the oil, own the nightclubs and do deals with the west drive by in their ferraries and masaratis, their fat cigar in hand, beautiful trophy wife by their side, and the drunk new “friend” who insists on a vodka drinking match – not recommended from the stories I’ve heard.

There is a great deal of kindness shown by the people. We saw 2 beautiful girls helping an old lady cross the road and its hardly possible to pause to consult a map without someone offering to help with directions.

My impression of the Russia I’ve seen so far is one of a country just starting to become part of the wider world. It’s hard to get into the country, there hasn’t been the exposure to western media seen in other countries and few people speak English. There aren’t many tourists so there’s little need.

Russia is very much itself. Stoic, kind, stern and full of contradictions. I’ll be coming back to spend more time here that’s for sure. I hope it doesn’t change too much.

 

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