Bucket lists are all about finding the perfect or unique adventure to experience before, well, you know, you kick the bucket. Morbid. But it certainly resonates with most people.
Before Elizabeth and I were invited by the Minister of Higher Education of the USSR to come to the Soviet Union to teach free market and business classes to their leading industrialists, going to Russia was never a consideration. After all, they were the Evil Empire and in my mind I could only picture Russia in black and white. Dull. Cold. Stern. Uninviting.
After that first adventure in 1990 and a subsequent lecture tour that my brother Eric joined me on, teaching free market principles to President Boris Yeltsin's cabinet, the Supreme Soviets of BeloRussia and Ukraine, the president of Moldova, and 17 city councils and a host of other full day lectures, my image of Russia and Russians was forever changed.
Elizabeth and I have now been to Russia more than 50 times and taken all five of our children to stay weeks and months at a time.
So when people tell me they have no desire to visit Russia, I try to assure them that their decision is correct and give them these 7 Reason Why Russia should NOT Be on Your Bucket List.
1. Too many Russians want to meet Americans. Solitude is tough.
2. A headache may ensue from having seen the largest most ornate palaces in the world set in millions of acres of huge forests, lakes and rivers.
3. Yes, 900 miles on rivers and lakes – yeah, there are rolling banks and forest and little villages here and there, yada yada, but how many trees and acres of farmland and inside of villager’s home and tea parties that suddenly spring up…can one stand to see.
4. Where are the giant cruise ships!!? Only river yachts holding 200 – and 40 of them are those pesky Russians wanting to meet Americans. A ship that size doesn’t have the joy of waiting to get off the ship in port as thousands go ahead of you. No waiting time to get into your book.
5. When’s a body to sleep! The Bolshoi Theatre is closed in summer so you are stuck with those singers on the ship every night. Bring ear plugs.
6. Not a single McDonald’s Happy Meal anywhere on our ship. You’ll starve, except for all the chicken, duck, beef, vegetable Siberian, Russian Far East, Ukrainian and Russian dishes. Too many deserts too. Too much to choose from.
7. Talk about not leaving you alone. You’re stuck with a highly educated Russian who speaks English better than you, who only helps your group of 12 to 14. Trying to stump them is so impossible it’s no longer fun trying.