Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Over Jet Lag

Posted by Warren Peterson on September 22, 2008

We returned last Monday from about twenty days in Europe divided between Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg) and eastern Germany. The trip was very enjoyable but hard on this political junky and blogger. Imagine having to rely on CNN International and BBC for news of the political battles back home.

Some observations:

If I could live my life over, I think I wouldn’t own a camera except maybe to take pictures of family. Looking at the 1,000 plus digital photos hogging space on my hard drive, it may have been smarter to just buy tourist booklets and post cards.

My wife and I visited Russia in 1977. The changes are remarkable. In Moscow the few cars of 1977 are replaced by traffic as great as any American city. The cars of choice appear to be Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover. There is also the familiar rumble of Harleys and the high-pitched whine of Japanese bikes. We observed at least 200 motorcycles one night at a gathering place overlooking the city, Sturgis East. The street crowds appeared young with an abundance of drop dead gorgeous women most wearing sprayed on jeans and three inch spiked heels, not that I noticed. In 1977 an Intourist “guide” monitored every move. Today there is freedom to come and go as you please.

Religion has reemerged after 70 years of Communist effort to wipe it out. We toured the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Originally started in 1839 and completed 44 years later, it was demolished on Stalin’s orders in 1931. The plan was to erect a seven-story monument to Lenin but WWII stopped that project. An open-air swimming pool was built on the site in 1960. In 1990, the Russian government authorized construction of a new cathedral, which was completed in 2000. Inside and out, one would think it had been there for hundreds of years and in a sense, it had.

Our time in Germany was all spent in the former German Democratic Republic which was neither democratic nor a republic. Looking at Check Point Charlie and sections of the Berlin Wall, seeing the remnants of the wall and guard towers near the town where my wife’s father was born behind the Iron Curtain, that wall stretched from the Baltic to the along the Czechoslovakia boarder all to keep people in not out, was sobering to say the least. Even more so was Buchenwald death camp. God only knows what drives leaders to such depravity.

With the fall of the Soviet Empire and the reunification of Germany, change came quickly. New autobahns and restoration projects, particularly churches, have removed much of the blight from WWII and Communist rule. There is some resentment from the West about the amount of money being spent in the East of Germany but the economy of the old GDR was ages behind the West.

Fuel was about $7.75 a gallon for diesel, the lowest cost fuel choice. I ran our rented diesel Volvo to 105 miles per hour at 3,400 rpms still being passed by the Beamers and Mercedes.

As always, it was great to come home. Trips like this make one appreciate all the more what we have in the United States of America

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