Russia is big, far away, and still a bit scary. St. Petersburg, its second-largest city, has Venice-like canals, gold-domed churches, sprawling palaces, the Hermitage Museum, and a complicated history of tsars and wars. It’s a stone’s throw from Helsinki (OK, three hours by train) and in shouting distance of Estonia, two countries included in the group tour we just took.
Traveling with a group is new for us. We’ve always enjoyed having to figure things out on our own. That meant talking to the natives when we were lost or just plain curious. But we have changed and although we still have an adventurous spirit, our flesh isn’t what it used to be. So this time, we joined a tour.
Our new friends came from California and Massachusetts. From Olympia, Washington and Omaha. From Atlanta and more. Our main guide was from Hungary, and we had terrific local guides in each country.
We had enough time on our own to make mistakes (especially with Russian menus), but we enjoyed having someone else negotiate trains in Finnish and Russian or get us on a ferry across the Baltic.
We had to add more pages to our passports for this trip. That leaves us with plenty of room for whatever comes next.