August 22, 2000
by Julia Urakcheeva
The Russians haven’t for a long time had the possibility to travel abroad freely. During the last Soviet decades we could make a trip to a limited number of countries, all of them socialist ones. The groups were formed for such trips in the factories and high schools and were always led by a strict and responsible guide. The tours were not too expensive, but only the best students and only the most "politically conscious" workers could go. So the Russians (the Soviets) knew what Prague, Budapest and Warsaw were like. As for foreign seacoast, we were admitted to Bulgaria. It was very much like Russia. There was even a saying: "A hen is not a bird, Bulgaria is not abroad."
For about ten years now you might travel as far as your money let you. It is not cheap, but upper-middle class people can afford, say, a two-week trip to Cyprus in summer. It costs about $500 per person. The most popular foreign resorts are Antalya (seashore in Turkey), Cyprus, Egypt with its Red Sea, also Greece, Italy and Spain. In less than a decade Antalya and Cyprus have turned into Russian resorts. It is known that the Germans love these places too. Most Turkish hotel managers and shopkeepers have learned some key phrases in Russian. The Rostovites also like Czech Republic and Germany -- two really civilized European countries easy to get to from Rostov (there are bus tours). Still, in summer most people prefer the joys of the Mediterranean.
The so-called "new Russians" reveal their characteristic features brightly when spending their vacations at the foreign beaches. As a rule, they wear thick golden chains, they are generous and absolutely ignorant of foreign languages. They demand much and drink much, being totally indifferent to the sightseeing and learning about the new country. It’s a pity that their behavior is considered typical of that of Russians.
And, of course, Russia has its own seacoast. The beach line of the Black Sea is about 400 km long. The central and most expensive resort is Sochi. The service here is great. Radisson hotel in Sochi is the place where business meetings often take place. But many people prefer tiny sea villages where all you can do is lie on the sand and bathe and where there are no dancings, restaurants, no crowds of people.
Mountains and steppes, seacoast and the Polar circle, lakes and rivers -- this is Russia. Many people here are sure that you don’t have to leave your native land to spend the holidays. It may sound like a quote from a tour guide, but Russia has all kinds of recreation facilities, and we use them. For instance, you can go hiking. There are numerous people whose style of life is MOUNTAINS. Every summer they take tents and guitar and go higher and higher to where there is no smell of urban civilization, but only the smell of fire-cooking. It is very romantic and it was extremely popular in 1970’s.
Wanna learn about the Russian past, about its culture trends? Then go to Moscow and St. Petersburg. The "Golden Ring" of ancient Russian towns will tell you the story of our Orthodox Christianity. Wooden churches, monasteries, bell towers, and the spirit of old times -- this is the "Golden Ring."
One of the most popular spa places is the mineral springs of the Caucasus. In summer all sanatoriums here are crowded with elderly people walking gracefully along the garden paths.
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Julia is a university student from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Mobile’s sister city. Julia will be filing stories periodically from Rostov on life in Russia.