Surprises in the East

After various articles on my experiences in the metaphorical journey of my life in these crucial years of my forties, it is finally time to start sharing some of my real travel experiences, which by the way is the ultimate goal of my Blog.

Rather than talking about more common destinations that I have experienced, Id’ like to start from more peculiar destinations that have brought me suggestions such as those very east of the river Rhine, Eastern Europe and Russia, Countries culturally distant but very stimulating from a historical, political and social point of view given my roots in Western Europe.

I was born in the early seventies and grew up in the shadow of the American TV series broadcasted in the eighties in my Country and the Hollywood acclaimed movies of the nineties, largely oriented to highlight the qualities of the Western life system in the cultural battlefield between East and West that was the Cold War.

At the time “Russians” were considered all those who lived generically beyond the notorious Iron Curtain (whose the stylised map above refers to), whether they were really of Russian origin or they generally lived in Eastern European countries, sealed beyond the reticulates that marked the border with the European West. The “Russians” were generally seen as faceless peoples living in dark cities, ready to move like single-color armed forces to subjugate “our beautiful Europe”.

On the contrary, thousand opportunities awaited by looking at the shiny lifestyle of the “Americans” who lived in our West: national parks, enchanting landscapes, cities full of lights, endless entertainment and warm people largely descending from our European ancestors as well.

None of us at the time would have ever imagined only of comparing these two lifestyles, one made of freedom, nature, monuments and moral values, the other in fact described by the only term “communist” or “red” and of which one was also uninterested in wanting to know anything more.

In reality this was the political goal for which the Cold War had fought from the West, much more culturally than militarily , for the goal to make our liberal model prevail over the communist one.

I do not mean here to debate the pros and cons of these two economic and social models, even if in the end history has decreed the victory of the liberal one.

In the past, a trip to Eastern Europe would have been impossible due to the inviolability of the borders but, even when the barriers fell in the late eighties, there was little incentive for an average citizen of the West like me to discover something more of the East if not of the old Austrian and Russian kingdoms’ capitals of Prague, Budapest and St. Petersburg, or places impressed in the history of man as the infamous Auschwitz camp.

With the end of the communist oppression of Eastern Europe, this “undercover world” gradually opened up, first offering Companies production opportunities at infinitely lower costs than in the West, then slowly tourism began to touch even lesser-known places and states, starting from the Baltic countries, Poland, the Czech Republic, also favoured by the entry of these countries into the European Union.

As part of this new phase of my professional life, I began to make myself aware of how much Eastern Europe has to offer from the point of view of opportunities for doing business, the possibility of visiting surprising natural places or observing civil and religious monuments of the highest quality and the pleasure of meeting interesting people whose past is in many ways more stimulating as they couldn’t enjoy ┬áthe freedom as we did.

Despite the shortness of my business trips and the fact that their primary purpose is purely professional, I always leave a couple of free hours in my agenda to savour some of the places I visit and immortalise them in photographs that become a sort of my travel diary .

Places of particular interest that I have so far discovered and that I would like to tell you in the next articles more about, were the surprising and vital Czech Republic, the proud and luxuriant Lithuania, the “Parisian” Budapest, the monumental Bucharest and the elegant and historical Moscow, which has been my latest destination in chronological order. Of course the more my discovering, the more my reports will be shared in the Blog.

I would like to start from Moscow in the next article, to tell of the place where I have most breathed the weight of history and its incredible growth potentials.

So we’re gonna meet in a few days in the middle of the Red Square, in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum. Do not forget to get a Russian visa otherwise you can not keep me company!

Paolo

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