Sunday, May 12, 2013

Random Thoughtlets on the Russian Visit

Weather: Considering the weather I was reminded of a sign in a Juneau Alaska bar. "If we fail to meet your expectations, please lower your expectations."

It is May in a northern latitude. We should expect and, in fact have experienced, a range of weather conditions. We had rain, clouds and sun in Moscow. On our waterway trip we have experienced similar conditions. Temperatures have floated in the 50's and 60's. On Saturday we sailed through heavy fog that put us behind schedule. We have encountered patches of ice on a lake and had to skip one village stop due to ice conditions further north.

Most guests , with a sense of adventure, take the conditions and changes in itinerary in stride. A few need to lower their expectations.

The Alphabet: The Russian alphabet creates challenges for me when shopping in smaller towns. First, the signs mean nothing to me. I have not learned the word for "grocery" for example. Second, many of the shops look like houses or office buildings with no window displays or posters to indicate what's inside. I feel awkward going up to a door and peeking inside to see what is for sale. Clearly I need to spend more time on my Russian language lessons.

The Convenient Convent: During the 16th and 17th centuries the Russian church frowned on divorce so the noblemen, seeking a new chamber mate, had to devise a new approach. They would send their wives to a convent. As soon as they took their vows they were no longer considered married and the husband could move on. Very interesting....

I doubt the practice will return to Russia. In this "enlightened era" women might agree to the idea provided they had the opportunity to send their men to a monastery!

Freedom of Speech: There have been many changes since the fall of the Soviet Union. One of the more pronounced is the introduction of freedom of speech. It is not perfect and some business people have had problems after commenting on the current government. But the people (guides for example) have no qualms about commenting on what they like and dislike about the government or any other topic. It has not always been so. In the old days a KGB agent might be present on a tour bus and let the guide know if they strayed from the party line. Not now. The USSR came apart 20 years ago. The younger generation doesn't know what it was like. Those that are 20+ can recall and they relish the new freedom.

St. Petersburg Traffic: During Soviet times cars were hard to get and very expensive. Now they are plentiful and congestion is the new way of life in big cities like St. Petersburg. We have experienced it so we appreciated the joke told by our guide.

A guy is walking along the street. A taxi pulls up and offers him a ride. "No thanks," he replies. "I'm in a hurry."

OK, maybe you have to be here to appreciate it.

No comments:

Post a Comment