29 October 2009
A Return To Civilization
It has been just over a month since this big adventure began in Hong Kong. Now, having reached Eastern Europe, my mind is whirling by just how far I’ve traveled without leaving the ground. While we hopscotched southern China, I have journeyed from Shanghai to Helsinki entirely by rail, covering almost 4000 miles through Asia, Russia and Europe.
The most fascinating part about it is just how different the starting point and current location are. China is Asia. Really really Asia. Mongolia is nomadic. Kind-of Asia, kind-of outer space. Russia is supposedly Asia and Europe but having started in Asia and now being in Europe, I can stay pretty convincingly that it is neither Asia nor Europe. It’s just - Russia. This fascinating, complicated, bizarre otherworldly nation that’s three times the size of the USA with less than half the population and no real consistency except for the Lenin statues that dot the nation and an iron will shared by the Russian people. It is an intensity and a grit that I found both intimidating and inspiring.
Finally, pan to Europe. Scandinavia, in fact. After a month in China and Russia where bureaucracies are bloated and cities are only moderately developed I had forgotten about things like evenly paved sidewalks, clean public transportation and sandwiches (which I ate immediately upon arrival). I can’t even imagine what new dimension of “strange” the next six weeks in Eastern Europe (mostly former Soviet states) will bring. My eyes are open, my ears are wide and my stomach is grumbling. Bring it on!