We’ve been back home for almost a week and can’t believe how fast these six weeks flew by. We’re exhausted but at the same time feel we could have kept going longer. We had many surprises this summer and are glad to have put our preconceptions to the test, most (all?) of them were completely wrong. The two countries we were most concerned about visiting were Russia and Turkey but they turned out to be two of the best.
In fact, Russia was Alejandro’s favorite. While the boys liked St. Petersburg better, I am partial to Moscow. St. Petersburg is much prettier but Moscow feels…alive. I am a big city kind of person though, New York and Mexico City are my favorite cities in the world. We fell in love with Russia and are dismayed at the very outdated laws now tarnishing even the Olympics. We can only hope that Russian officials will see the light and backtrack. While the news we hear about Russia from our TVs make it out to be a terribly oppressive country (not disputing this), it just didn’t feel that way when we were there. In fact, people pretty much acted, dressed and went about their business the same as they do over here. Given the recent developments in the USA, I have to wonder if we are in fact living with the same oppression but simply don’t recognize much of it. It is this country which has launched a full out surveillance program on all of us after all.
Turkey was a delightful surprise to us. It is a beautiful country with a tremendous history but its best asset is its people. They were by far the warmest, most easy going people to interact with. I wonder though if my traveling with men had anything to do with how nice they were to me and whether women traveling on their own would find the same. The recent theocratic laws being enacted are worrisome but one can hope that Turkey will manage to remain the secular country Ataturk intended it to be.
Estonia was another nice surprise. We almost skipped Tallin since we thought we wouldn’t have enough time for everything we wanted to see. Guidebooks all say Riga is better so Tallin was one of our possible scratches. We’re glad we didn’t skip it,; it was beautiful, relaxed and had the tastiest elk stew we’ve ever had. It is the only elk stew we’ve ever had but I am sure it is still the best.
Our only regret is not making it to Romania, we so wanted (still do) to visit Dracula’s castle in Brasov. It was difficult to gauge whether we would have enough time to make it to Istanbul by the time we had to be there and thus had to make the decision early to cut Romania out of our itinerary. We now have something to go back for.
This summer’s itinerary was heavy on historical sights: castles, palaces, churches, mosques and ruins. While it’s interesting to learn about all these places, it can get overwhelming at times so having small breaks visiting beaches, aquariums or simply electing to pass on some lesser sites was a must, not only for the kids but also for the adults. We wouldn’t have made it this long otherwise.
A constant complaint, you might have even noticed, was the lack of air-conditioning. However, we seem to have gotten used to it a bit and are now complaining about the cold anytime we go into a store here at home but I am sure we’ll get over that soon enough. It was so nice to walk in to our clean house when we got back (ask me about the disastrous time we swapped our house with a European family). Our kind neighbor had bothered to turn on the A/C that morning and it was just perfect. Thank you, Jane! We had a very happy reunion with our pup the next day as we picked her up from her summer camp and she jumped with joy at seeing us again. We love being home!
And then…we’re barely back and already wondering where to go next time. The world is so big and we wish we had time to explore all of it. An entire lifetime won’t be enough but for now we have almost a year to start planning, suggestions welcomed.