Originally, my plan was to visit the ‘Russian market’ (a local nickname for a huge black market, where you can buy anything from CDs to Antitank guns (yes, really). But in the morning, the aftermath of the vast amount of alcohol I had consumed the evening before easily helping me, I decided I would go straight to the airport. There I had to wait for a couple of hours before my flight finally came up.
When going through customs, they spotted my Bachuga (how couldn’t they, the thing is some 40cm long). I had to wait until someone had been called down, to pack the thing real tightly before taking it away. It was to be handed over to the airplane crew and I would get it back after landing. Soon after, I boarded and the flight was an easy, and short, one. Pretty soon, we were already over Dutch territory.
As the plane was flying lower and lower I started to distinguish between individual houses on the ground. Small cars going to and fro, little houses littering the landscape and I imagined tiny people moving busily around. My mind went back to the past six weeks I had been on my own, traveling for some 33000km in a country I had never visited before. I thought of the cities I most probably would never return to, the people I would never see again. I thought of the beautiful landscapes, the poverty and the diversity as I felt the plane going in for landing. I remembered everyone who had invited me for a bite to eat, some vodka to drink or some ideas to share and recalled the numerous people I had encountered on my way. I went over all the foreigners that I met who were also traveling through Russia or over the world and wondered where they where now. I wondered what would happen with a country that big, a government system so corrupt and people, as a whole, so confused as to what the future would bring for each and everyone of them. I wondered.
I wondered on what time would tell, what the Russian future would bring. If the country would survive as a whole or whether small semi-states would evolve with fairly independent economies. Whether the East, under the influence of Japan and China, would fair better than the West. Whether the tension buildup in the South would lead to another war. Whether all the riches available all over Russia would ever come to the benefit of the people themselves, in stead of the few opportunities seekers and the hordes of foreigners. I wondered… and looked up. We had already landed and the plane was already empty.
Then, leaving these past weeks behind, I stood up, said good-bye to the steward and stewardesses and left the plane. I was home again.
I didn’t have a hard time adjusting to normal life again, although my then-girlfriend Julia helped me a lot with doing so. It was just as easy deciding I needed to go back. Which I rapidly did, visiting St. Petersburg again and touring the Baltic states. Which I did in January 2000.
My trip to Russia made me understand so much more about the Russian spirit that I now have an easy time in understanding the West its problems with Russia. It really is a pity to see so much misunderstanding in the world.
Would I like to go back? Of course, I already went and I would love to go back even again. See more and learn more. Because Russia not only is a mysterious country, its also a country of unsurpassed beauty.