To Russia with Love

Intourist Caucasus

I left Berlin an hour before midnight on a red-eye flight to Moscow. I flew to Russia for the first time in more than twenty years to climb a mountain in a remote corner of a vast, potentially unfriendly country.

As I sat in the airplane conveniently ignoring the Aeroflot safety announcements in English, German, and Russian, I sought comfort and reassurance in my thoughts.

I reflected on a lovely day spent with my wife and youngest daughter. We ate a long breakfast, briefly visited family in Birkenstein, enjoyed a wonderfully cooked last meal at home, went for ice cream during an afternoon shower, and watched Sandman, a German television program for small children, before we left for the airport. The day’s activities distracted me from my nervousness and from my concerns. I was worried about being far away from home and far away from the nearest consulate. I also questioned my decision to travel to Russia at a time when the roof over our heads was about to be physically replaced.

After my wife and daughter dropped me off at the airport with a quick goodbye and several sweet, farewell kisses, my stomach churned and my fears returned. I stood in line to board the plane, and I thought about how they would remain in Berlin while I was away in the Caucasus mountains. I asked myself what was more dangerous: fending off thieving Chechen bandits or fighting an eviction-threatening Bavarian landlord.

Now, upon arrival in Russia, I am much less nervous. I will certainly have it easier than my wife. She will have to battle alone in Berlin. I will attempt the summit of Elbrus with a team.

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