Saturday, August 8, 2015

How about a trip to Russia?

The time has come for another trip, Hubby informed me.
- But, but... I haven't even finished posting about our trip to the U.S. and Canada! I blurted. - Not to mention those amazing weeks in Paris and in the Loire Valley! All those chateaux! Marcadet Poissonniers! Place des Vosges! Orleans! Jean D'Arc...  I continued, spitting out names, looking at the pics on my iPhone.
Hubby shrugged. What was, was. After all -- that was in September 2014... nearly a year ago. Who's fault is it that I made do with uploading a few pics onto Facebook, rather than consulting my handwritten journal and doing some real blogging?

Honestly, I don't know how we decided on Russia. I wanted someplace not too far away (i.e., Europe, because most other nearby destinations are enemy territory), yet "exotic", and new to us.

Russia has always intrigued me. I know precious little about it. Considering that my maternal grandmother was born there (well -- in the former USSR, to be precise), and that I am pretty much surrounded by Russians wherever I go here in Israel, I thought it was high time I popped over and had a look-see. After all, some of the best books, plays, short stories I ever read are by the great Russian literary legends -- Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky. My mother's father's surname was Caranefsky; doesn't that sound like something out of Anna Karenina?...

The long and the short of it is, we're flying to Russia in about 24 hours' time.
Not that everything has gone smoothly so far. Theoretically, it should be simple: Google "trip to Russia"; narrow it down to "Moscow and St. Petersburg", look at dates and prices, compare Travel Agencies A, B, and C; take out your credit card; et voila! You're booked on a 10 day trip.

To begin with, we decided that, for the first time ever, we'd go on an organized tour from Israel. Which means that our fellow travelers will be Israelis, and that our guide will be speaking to us in Hebrew. Despite his xy years in Israel, Hubby feels more comfortable in the company of English speakers.  Can't blame him. My folks lived in Israel from 1946 till their dying day scores of years later (2000; 2009) and still felt more comfortable among English speakers. And, possibly more important, Israelis are notorious for speaking fast; which would make following the guide's explanations more difficult.

In addition, we're not used to traveling with a group. Our organized trip to China in 2012, through a [now defunct] British travel agency, ended up being comprised of only 3 couples; and our tour of Thailand in 2006 was privately organized by the very capable Hagai Lahav of Golden Lotus. So this is a first for us.

By now we've met most of our dozen-or-so fellow travelers, as well as the CEO of the agency -- Star-Tours -- and their chief guide, who was supposed to be our guide but was called to more pressing duties. But in the weeks between our first meeting with the company rep to the day the tickets finally arrived, we were unsure of what was going on. Oh well -- we'll chalk it up to experience. And now, I should really finish packing and try to get some sleep. In addition to everything else, I'm looking forward to the Russian lessons offered on board the Rublev, during the Peter-to-Moscow cruise. It's all very well to be able to write 50 assorted words in Russian, but in practical terms, let's admit it, on their own those words are quite useless.

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