In 17 days Ruth & I are on our way to Russia. We’re not going with a group. The planning has been unusual, frustrating, and instructive. Of course, I’ll tell you about it and the trip as it unfolds.
We have about a dozen countries left to visit before we can make this claim, “We’ve been to every European country.” Most of the ones that are left are potentially problematical, so I’d appreciate any feedback about travel to them. Here’s what I know….
A few years ago we were on a train from Vienna to Budapest and shared a compartment with a well-educated woman from Georgia. On her way home after being away for several years, she spent our time together trying to convince Ruth & me to come to her country. Her brother was driving down to Istanbul to get her. Since it seemed a long trip, I asked if that was the only way to get to Georgia and she said, “For now.” When I asked why we should come to her country, she said Georgians made excellent wine and take pride in old rituals like sacrificing animals on the altar during religious ceremonies. Hmmmmm.
Ukraine is still on our yet-to-visit list. When I learned that a salesperson at Macy’s, a courtly older gentleman, was from there, I asked him if he’d recommend a visit to his native country. Without hesitation he said glumly, “Not now.” I didn’t press for details.
I learned something new rather recently. I asked a woman with an accent where she was from and she replied, “New Zealand.” Then she thanked me for not being typical. Most people ask like there’s a prize for being right, “You’re from Australia, aren’t you?’ (or England, etc.) This she found both irritating and offensive.
Bulgaria. A recent New York Times article about Sofia showed happy young people enjoying a beer garden and the author, Christine Ajudua, reported, “the Bulgarian capital is finally coming into its own.” She went on to commend Sofia’s youthful, creative energy as it strives to become a European Capital of Culture. Is it time to go? Hmmmmm.
What about Albania? Are Americans welcomed there? I thought we’d be greeted with open arms in Lybia until this past week. I’ve never spoken to anyone who has been to Albania, which we could easily go to after visiting Serbia.
As I mentioned recently, a Serbian restaurant server in Aspen took my notebook and wrote down 5 things not-t0-miss when we go–rafting on the River Drina, the festival in Guca, Novi Sad, Belgrade, and Djavolja Varos. I looked up the festival and learned that it’s perceived as wild, is about trumpets, and it takes place in August, attracting more than half a million people to Guca, a small town. Hmmmmmm.
The same with Moldova. It’s on-line profiles report civil unrest, parliamentary dissolutions, controversy. Anyone been there?