One of the great things we love about traveling is the people we meet. Over the years you learn that people who travel to unusual places are nearly always interesting, smart, fun, and Canadian (with the occasional Aussie…). Over the two weeks or so since we left Beijing, we’ve spent a lot of time with Dave & Hannah, and just thoroughly enjoyed them.
Part of what’s fun is that they’re not the people I would ever have met in my narrow political/NGP VAN/Cambridge world. It’s not just that they’re decades younger; they just lead very different lives. Rural Vancouver. He does construction, she’s a teacher. Partiers, even 9/11 conspiricists – at a minimum, certainly open to the idea that George Bush and Dick Cheney let it happen because they wanted to start a war. But genuinely fun, interesting, great , smart people, taking the long route from Vancouver to Denmark for a family event. How much more interesting can you be?
We shared a lot with them – two train rides, one mashruka, meals, drinks, even dancing to taped music accompanied by live drums and disco lights. Strangely, we never got a picture of the two of them, and the one picture of Hannah we have just doesn’t do her justice, so here’s a repeat of Famous Dave.
All great memories. But Dave and Hannah – along with Andy & Jackie and Shawn & Lorri – have moved along the Trans-Siberian Railroad faster than we’re going. So farewell. So far you’ve been the highlight of the trip. Along with the Great Wall, of course. And Lake Baikal. And the Mongolian steppes. But right up there at the top!
And finally, while Vlad Lenin wasn’t a friend, I didn’t have any other place to put this, so why not here? As Mark mentioned in his post this morning, Irkutsk is a mish-mash of old Tsarist, Soviet, and capitalist Russia. It was a major center for 19th century exiles, and thus became a cultural center of Siberia; it still has one of the great theaters in Russia. During the Russian civil war between the Reds and Whites, Irkutsk was a major center for those opposing the Bolsheviks. Still, while in much of the old communist world, the statues of Lenin came down in the late 1980s this one is still standing. At the corner of Karl Marx and Lenin Streets no less. So Vlad, here’s to you. Turns out that whole Bolshevik thing didn’t turn out so well…