I didn’t travel at all after the summer program I went to in Petersburg two years ago. I didn’t have much cash (I bought pretty much two things while I was there– theater tickets and ice cream cones) and I wanted to go home. I regret it, but now I’m making it okay by going back to Russia. Seeing this train map, though, filled me with excitement and awe. Some of these cities I’d only heard of vaguely, maybe they were the hometowns of characters in Chekhov stories or the birthplaces of people like Chagall or Babel. A lot of them I hadn’t heard of at all. Some trains took you out of Russia to eastern cities like Almaty and Samarkand. There are so many places to go to! Russia is so vast! So, so vast.
I started thinking of this when my letter of invitation arrived by email. (A hard copy should arrive in a few days). It looks something like this:
Everyone who goes to Russia has to get a visa. Unless you’re from one of the former satellite countries of the Soviet Union. Or Cuba.
Getting a visa, I’m sure, is going to be a hassle. But once I have it, I’ll have a page of my passport taken up by a rather pretty holographic document and the cozy feeling that I have been specially, personally granted entry into Russia. It’s kind of like a golden ticket.