Russia 2006 Journey Epilogue
Orlando, Florida

                                    [August, 2006] Against the varied backdrop of either history's most repressed people or most 
                                    successful with highest standard of living, our travels did see the extremes.  Our journey started with 
                                    the timeless beauty of French southern beaches that reach out into the cool and clear Mediterranean and
                                    then the alluring Provence with it's array of purple lavender fields and food that excite all the taste buds.
                                    The next leg transitioned was the well defined and well structured Germany.  Time to put away any maps
                                    and traveler's concern.   We know roads, trains, or any path will be easy to understand.  It is as if the
                                    country is a permanent tutorial on how to navigate correctly and efficiently.  Weather was a brutal foe
                                    with continuous heat without the joy of our home based Caribbean breezes.  However, this did not rob the
                                    joy of the Special Convention with meeting and enjoying an extensive international family.  Other highlights
                                    included new visits to Dresden and Potsdam.  They continue to progress with silencing the echoes of the 
                                    former Eastern Communistic designs and controls - just a minor slice compared to the next leg of our trek.
                                    Much has been written, said, and documented about Russia; however, the actual on site viewing is a very
                                    different story.  This was the place that was greatly feared for so long?  Is this the real Kremlin with hardly
                                    any  noticeable marks of their previously held power?  All are now just sites to charge tourists and attempt
                                    to govern on their current terms.  Lenin's Tomb showed the wisdom of the statement that his "thoughts did 
                                    perish in his day".  Joy or smiles were an exception to the stoic faces.  
                                    One tour guide summed it this way, "There is only 200 years of  real history.  Peasants that overcame 
                                    Mongols followed by a few decades of European enlightenment".   The stage after that was just another
                                    extreme - following a man's limited wisdom and disengaged vision.  
                                    Moscow was the city of two classes - one of new riches with modified Hummer and BMW vehicles to another class
                                    with greater unknowns.  More vehicles, on average, had window tinting than sunshine filled Florida.  This added
                                    to the character with black shirted security in lobbies and street corners.  The city has the history and adventure
                                    to see; however, it's far from being a "Honey, pack the bags and grab the kids, we're going to Moscow" place.
                                    A few days with a Disney consultant could go a long way for tourism improvement.
                                    St. Petersburg has more potential.  Peter "the Great"'s desire to start over with a quasi Venice of the North and 
                                    Paris profile can be seen through the modern layers.    At the height of the summer tourist season, the number
                                    are just not there to fuel greater improvements.  One travel agent provided the insight that the infrastructure
                                    and escalated prices continue to drive away the visitors.  Estimates of over 50% less traffic compared to 2005
                                    was powerful evidence.  
                                    Smiles and humor seemed to be much more apparent than Moscow.  On the museum front, the Hermitage had
                                    the World class presentation with common Euro signage and LCD maps.  Being a part of the Winter Palace was
                                    like a gift with special wrapping; however, being in the room of priceless artwork with the windows open was 
                                    a little different.  West of the city were the fountains at the Peterhof palace and it was a surprise and a must see.
                                    Onward to the Scandinavian cities of Helsinki, Stockholm, and Oslo with their joy of enjoying extended summer -
                                    prime examples of culture with a current and historical port trading center.  Helsinki was worth a day visit and 
                                    an easy to navigate from train station to cruise port.  Independent travelers really appreciate ease of transport.
                                    Our cruise line - Viking - was a mid range between a British Columbia ferry and Carnival cruise ship.  Reserved
                                    exterior room with double windows was very much worth it to see the green pearl necklace of endless islands.
                                    View and an extensive smorgasbord with varied caviar was a treat.  The song "On the Road Again" sung at
                                    the ship disco band (Channel 31 on the room's TV) would make our Texas family cringe - best to stick with the
                                    ABBA hits.
                                    Concerning Stockholm, could never understand what the main attractions would be, or what constitutes the
                                    required viewing.   After a few hours, it was clear that the city as a whole was the attraction.  Two days of
                                    biking allowed us to condense the city to village size and enjoy parks and outdoor cafes.
                                    Oslo was the Seattle of Norway - new apartments on the waterfront with it's fair share of culture power.  Just
                                    a few hours West was the mountains and fjords.  The profits from the North Sea oil has been very, very good
                                    for their standard of living.  The hundreds of sculptures at the Vigeland outdoor park was mesmerizing with 
                                    it's snapshot of human expression.  In true Norwegian style, touches of fir and birch wood were accents on
                                    most sites and even seating in the airport express train.
                                    Our trek started with the comfortable and familiar locations with a mid section of adventure and finishing
                                    with new high comfort countries.  Russia was an experience with limited return reasons.  Scandinavian
                                    countries with the right weather match are always a treat.  Southeast France and Germany are always
                                    the comfortable locations.  Another adventure has been booked and time to prepare for the next travel
                                    destination with potential new Kiwi and Aussie friends.  Stay tuned next year.

Lobby Return                                                      Created with Fusion 8.0     Last Updated on August 09,  2006, CE