It's now official! I just purchased my tickets to Russia. :) Here I am, standing on the frozen Neva River in Peter. Glorious! Dates of the visit will be 23 February - 9 March. For those in the U.S., airfares on Aeroflot are incredibly cheap now. Nonstop flights from Washington, DC or New York City to Moscow cost only $492 USD roundtrip, including taxes. I can't even fly to many places in the U.S. for this price.
The first week I'll travel with my Russian friend on a road journey to some new cities, though I'm not yet sure where. Proposed options include the following:
(1) Moscow → Yaroslavl → Vologda → St. Petersburg → Moscow
(2) Moscow → Vladimir → Novgorod → Cheboksary → Kazan → Moscow
Where to go? What to do? Suggestions for other intriguing driving routes from Moscow? Help me! :) I'm mostly interested in unusual people, wild and frozen nature and village life. Museums, Orthodox churches, and standard tourist attractions aren't really important to me.
If there's interest, I can try to arrange a reader gathering somewhere in Moscow the second week. Although I'm not sure where in the city is convenient for most people? If you know a good gathering place, like a restaurant or pub, please tell me in the comments.
I'm excited for the trip, to see if attitudes toward an American visitor have changed since my visit last February when I attended the Olympic Games. Since then, relations between our countries have shifted dramatically and even here on my blog I've noticed more anti-Americanism and hostility, even when the topic of my posts have absolutely nothing to do with politics.
Btw, I'm sure many of you saw Ilya Varlamov's post hanging in the TOP all day yesterday, but if not I suggest you give it a read. A foreign tourist's brutal impressions of Russia. Her story makes my first Russian post seem like a fairy tale. I think she was harsh in her review of the country, though she's certainly entitled to her opinion. It's especially amusing to view the reader comments to the story (over 4,000 of them now!!).
Russia - your country remains a fascinating place for me, and I'm very happy to return!