St. Petersburg, Russia to Istanbul, Turkey, July 2016

I have written and re-written this post and I’m never happy with it. The facts are these: we had plane tickets to Istanbul, suicide bombers attacked Istanbul’s airport less than 48 hours before we were to arrive there, we went anyway. The senseless violence, the death of innocents, the repeated violence in the Middle East and daily gun violence in the US- we live in a violent world. It goes back beyond our lives. As I consider civilizations through the many museums in different countries we have visited, I must conclude that so much of human history involves violence against each other, but not always, and I wish it weren’t so. 

It was heart-breaking to see the memorial at the Istanbul airport. We saw the photos of those who had died and we talked about it with the kids and we wrote in the book there our wishes for peace and love. It is sad to witness too that tourism is negatively affected here, as the organizers of the violence want it to be. We worried a little for our own safety, but not enough to cancel the trip. And we enjoyed beautiful Istanbul, and the people were warm and friendly, and we were surrounded by mosques and Islam, where the Muslims sing out a call to prayer five times every day. Life goes on in Turkey and we were part of it for a few days.

As for logistics, we left St. Petersburg on an overnight bus to Moscow, then had about 12 hours until our flight. We were unable to get train tickets due to availability and cost, unfortunately*. We actually couldn’t even get six tickets on the same bus, so it was Fiercely, Cleverly and I on one bus with DH leaving a couple of hours later on a different bus with the twins. None of us got much sleep, and I had the experience of sitting next to a large, somewhat unkempt local man who spoke some English and possibly had a touch of mental illness but was ultimately harmless. F and C had easier seatmates close to me but we were not together. The countryside passing by was lovely, with six foot tall flowers, white ones that looked like Queen Anne’s lace, mist lay over the fields and we were treated to a gorgeous sunset that lasted for hours followed by an equally gorgeous sunrise a few hours later. We tried to sleep but with the limited darkness and the seated position and being next to unfamiliar people, it was not very comfortable. Also, our bus stopped for about an hour for a roadside repair at one point, so it was a long night. We consoled ourselves thinking that we saved about $50 each on the airline tickets by leaving from Moscow instead of St. Petersburg. 

We were very happy to reunite the next day after waiting about three hours for DH and twins. Their bus was also late by about an hour. Our next move was to get to a central location to sight-see in Moscow before heading to the airport in the late afternoon. We learned we could take the express train to the airport- three kids ride free for every two adults, so we only had to buy three tickets. This was great since we had planned a complicated, time-sucking, luggage-schlepping metro to shuttle bus route. Fiercely and I elected to watch luggage while the others went out. The four of them found a fair going on nearby and had a great time. Fiercely and I were tired and I was happy to hang out in the nice waiting room at the train station, enjoying my last kvass and blini and reading some Tolstoy. Then it was another excellent Russian train experience, a fancy dedicated airport line, and then the airport hustle to check bags, go through passport control, etc. It was goodbye to Russia after nearly a month and I was kind of sad to leave. I know, I’m always sad to leave, not sure when or if I can ever return, and we had such great times here. And we were getting on the flight before I knew it, and off we went to Istanbul. 

* Note on the St. P- Moscow bus: there is no obvious bus station. Buses stop on the highway towards Moscow near the (I think it was) Obvidny metro station. There are minibuses there as well; the long distance buses just stop near them. Most people we asked did not know this system and our tickets listed a bus station, so it was a little confusing. 

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