Technically speaking, the title of this entry is not exactly accurate. I don't think we're going to be anywhere near the Steppes of Central Asia, but it was too cutesy a title not to use.
It appears that we are about to travel again next year. My trip to France and Italy went so well, dontcha know!
Ahhh, but this time it's on a cruise. No baggage to schlep. No Ian to follow. The choice of walking around Moscow or lounging on the boat reading a book. 24 hr a day sun in June. The ship also promises "free internet in stateroom." What more could I ask?
Now, in truth, Russia has never been a "gosh I gotta see it!" place for me. People have raved about being there and I've always thought "well, yes, isn't that nice..." but I never had a burning desire to go, other than the fading burning desire to see strange and unusual parts of the world. How this has all come about is very strange.
Pat, who left the U.S. for the first time on our Europe trip, was so thrilled that she survivied the experience that when a friend of hers was setting up a tour group to go to Turkey, she was the one who suggested we all go. She thought she might even be able to get her husband to go along this time.
We were all excited. Not so much excited to be going to Turkey, but excited to all be traveling together again. This time it would be the couples renewing the years when we all lived so close together, not the kids.
Talk about the Turkey trip continued for a few weeks until Pat announced that her friend, who was organizing the trip, had decided to postpone it a year.
Peripatetic Char was not to be put off so easily. She did her own investigations on tours and found a couple, one to Turkey and one to Russia. I'm not sure how Russia became the one to take. Perhaps she was saving Turkey for 2011, or maybe it was that this tour covered parts of Russia she had not yet seen (she's already been to Kamchatka--and how many people can make that statement?) She says she's aways wanted to see the French Impressionists at the Hermitage.
So she seems determined to make this happen, whether for all of us, for some of us or just for her and her husband.
Enter Viking Cruises and their "Waterways of the Czars" cruise in May or June of 2010. Three days in St. Petersburg and then on to Mandrogy, Kizhi, Goritzy, Yaroslavl, Uglich and ending with three days in Moscow.
Actually other than Moscow and St. Petersburg, I haven't heard of any of those places, but all those onion-shaped domes across the country just cry out for a camera.
And heck, if you're going to travel, why travel to places that you've read about for years? Explore someplace you know absolutely nothing about!
There is an optional side trip to Helsinki, a place I've wanted to go less ardently, if possible, than I've wanted to visit Russia. But heck, if you're going to be traveling all that way, why not. It's only money and we're going to die soon anyway, right? The only thing I know about Finland is that our friend Tarja McGirr has relatives there and Jean Sibelius wrote "Finlandia." So it's all virgin territory for me.
There was some urgency about booking our passage, apparently, since there were few cabins remaining on the Russia part of the trip and in order to get the early booking discount (2-for-1 cruise pricing, $400/couple off air fare and complementary wine with dinner), we had to book almost immediately. So, though we may take years to decide frivolous things like fixing a hole in the wall or putting in new flooring, in a matter of 10 minutes we had committed thousands of dollars to taking a cruise and exploring Russia. We will celebrate our 45th anniversary on the Volga-Baltic waterway.
Maybe, just maybe, if this cruise goes well, I might eventually get that trip up the inland passage to Alaska before I die!