by Len Friesen, tour leader
It’s been a magical if slightly sleep-deprived 36 hours or so. I’ll summarize in three snapshots:
1. The first snapshot: Our final banquet in Zaporozhe seems to have barely happened, but it was a rich time of reflection with each other and Olga. Once again Intourist arranged for a beautiful string quartet to accompany us. People on the tour spoke with deep appreciation of the chance they had been given to walk in the footsteps of their husbands, mothers, fathers, and forebears. People of non “Russian” Mennonite background spoke of how strong an impression it made on them to see others in their group suddenly moved to have connected with their own past. It was a terrific way to say goodbye.
2. The second snapshot: We had a very long stopover in Austria yesterday en route from Ukraine to Russia (it’s a long story: for more information google Russia, Ukraine conflict). All of us took the train from the airport to the medieval village of Melk, Austria, and after 90 minutes of beautiful rolling Austrian countryside we arrived. The village is quite lovely on the banks of the Danube, and it is informed by a massive baroque monastery, though its roots also go back a thousand years. It was a lovely day of Austrian coffee, quiet conversation, schnitzel, more conversation, and finally an equally pleasant return by rail to the airport. Oh yes, and a few people even managed to get some sleep!
3. The third snapshot: We arrived in Moscow a few hours ago, at about 3 a.m. As we drive on along road-soaked streets it cleared just as we approached the Kremlin. There is no sight quite like it in the world: seeing the Kremlin churches aglow in the night, and its fortress walls, and the stunning Christ the Savior Cathedral. In one brief moment we had arrived in the heart of Russia.
We’re now at breakfast and can’t wait to get rolling.