Russia, the land of contrasts, shrouded in mystery to much of the western world. Russia is so much more than Putin. Its rich history, rapid recent development, and its cultural diversity makes it a walhalla for explorers like me. A country where the beautiful palaces and churches contrast the raw industrial landscapes that have been the powerhouse of economic and political development.
During my visits to the country, I have tried to explore what makes up the Russian soul, their pride, sense of nationalism, and their place in the world. Despite the negative media coverage by the western world, I have come to learn that essentially there are just like you and I. Just like us, they want to start a family, get their children a good education, enjoy walks in the park, and enjoy the outdoors in their Dacha’s. They have a strong connection with nature, illustrated by the fact that mushroom and berry picking is a national pasttime.
Although the remants of the communist era are still visible everywhere, society has undergone a rapid transformation in the last 15 years. Walking the streets of St. Petersburg feels like you could be in Milan, Paris, or Amsterdam. I am impressed by the warmth and kindness shown by the Russians I have met, and their willingness to have frank conversations about what is happening in their country and the world around them.