Required reading for instant Russia wanderlust.
Have you traveled to Russia? I’ve yet to visit this alluring country. To be honest, I really don’t know much about Russia, yet it’s always intrigued me. The entire country feels shrouded in mystery. Perhaps it’s because Russia only opened itself up to mass tourism within my lifetime. Most people visit the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, but the country itself is massive. There’s so much that lies beyond those major destinations.
Want to learn more about traveling in Russia from those who have personally experienced the journey first hand? Enter Destination Russia: A Ship and a Cat in the Tundra and Other Extraordinary Encounters. Authors Roberta Melchiorre and Fabio Bertino put their experiences into a collection of short stories. In this Russia travel book, we gain insights into what it’s like to visit Russia as an outsider. It’s enlightening, fascinating, funny, and captivating.
Personal Tales and Connections
One of the major aspects of Destination Russia are the personal connections and recollections from traveling around the country. Some of the best travel stories come from the people we meet while we travel. Every short story centers around the authors’ encounters with the people of Russia.
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In The Beauty of Petersburg, the Italian travel companions, Melchiorre and Bertino reveal a story detailing the kindness of strangers. Their encounter with a boy named Andrey back in the early 90s demonstrates how the true beauty of Petersburg lies with its people. His kindness helps the traveling couple while making his life a little more difficult, and he asks for nothing in return.
In the story, A life on the Trans-Siberian Railway, we delve into the lives of a husband and wife working on the train. He works at night, and she works during the day. While they live together in a very small space on the train, their main encounters happen during their shift changes.
The whole life of Lyudmila and her companion is permanently
linked to the Trans-Siberian Railway. He is from Moscow where from
Yaroslavskiy Vokzal, one of the nine stations in town, depart the trains
to East. She is from Novosibirsk, boasting the biggest and most im-
posing station of the whole Siberia, more than 1,864 miles from the
capital. Without the railway they would have probably never met.
In every short story in Destination Russia, we gain some historical context about Russia’s mysterious and intriguing past. Having a basic knowledge of the history of a place or event helps us understand the present day lives of the people. I’m grateful that the authors made these historical connections to help connect the dots for those of us who might not have a great knowledge of Russian history.
For instance, A Dinner in Moscow, highlights a dinner party with Lilya Mihaylovna, an elderly Russian lady. We learn about her personal history in the context of a broader framework about Moscow and Russia’s past. It’s amazing what you can learn over a meal with a local.
The story, Visiting the Museum, illustrates a trip to the small museum of Komi culture in Vorkuta. It also details the harsh conditions of living so far to the north, with frequent closures due to the winter weather. While the snow and ice make Vorkuta nearly uninhabitable, the city also has a harsh past for its residents. From its forced labour camps in the 1930s to the internment of prisoners in the 1940s and 1950s, the only memorial that remains are small metal crosses without names, poking through the deep snow of the tundra.
My Favorite Stories in Destination Russia
It’s hard to choose a few favorite stories from Destination Russia, but I was able to identify with a few of them. The first story, Towards Belarus, demonstrates the mishaps that can happen while traveling by train between countries. What seemed like an easy journey is never quite so easy. I felt like this story resonates with anyone who has traveled by train…or who has traveled at all. Nothing ever goes off without a hitch (at least, in my experiences it doesn’t). Something always goes a little askew. For Melchiorre and Bertino, this issue almost disrupted their entire trip from Warsaw to Brest, Belarus.
And naturally, I loved the story called A Cat in the Tundra (for regular readers of this blog, I’m sure you know how much I love cats!). The story isn’t so much about a cat as it is about living in a remote village in the Arctic tundra. It seems that the entire town of 25 residents welcomed the two travelers to their home. Social life in Seyda revolves around the main shop in town where a cat also happens to live.
Buy Destination Russia
Destination Russia is a fairly quick read at 140 pages, although I feel it’s a perfect length. You can pick it up, read a story or two before bed, and put it back down. Each story is self-contained, making it easy to pick up from where you left off with a new tale. This Russia travel book is such a captivating read that you might not want to put it down until you finish the whole thing!
If you’re interested in books about Russia, travel stories, or personal tales in general, definitely pick up a copy of Destination Russia: A Ship and a Cat in the Tundra and Other Extraordinary Encounters. I was left with a greater knowledge about Russian people and their history, and I now want to pack my bags to experience this amazing country first hand.
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