Averyt: Heart And Soul
11/13/12 5:55PM By Anne Averyt
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When poet and commentator Anne Averyt crossed continents this fall to
fulfill a lifetime dream to visit Russia, she discovered Vermont
connections remain strong no matter how far you travel.
(Averyt) Ulysses made his odyssey, Gulliver had his travels, and the Canterbury pilgrims shared a journey. Deep within us, it seems, there is wanderlust, an itch to see what lies beyond. To cross over the mountain, glide down the river, venture into the unknown - and then, of course, come home and tell about the adventure.
Early this fall I headed out on the trip of my dreams, following my curiosity across continents, traveling west to east physically and metaphorically, to cruise the Volga River through Russia, from St Petersburg to Moscow.
Russia has always been my passion, my fascination. In high school I fell in love with Dr Zhivago. In college I shared the heart of Anna Karenina and the tortured conscience of Raskolnikov. I read thousands of pages and fell under the spell of Ruska. The vastness of its landscape, the tenacity and endurance of its people; the beauty and the bleakness, the paradoxes, the mystery.
When I finally visited, the reality of Russia didn't disappoint but it did surprise. I wasn't prepared for the breathtaking beauty of St Petersburg and the lights and glitz of Moscow. St. Petersburg is known as the Venice of the North and the Hermitage, sitting on the banks of the Neva River, looms over the city like a cathedral, majestic with its blue façade and imposing statuary. Its grandeur is matched by the fountains and gardens of Peterhof, Russia's Versailles, and by Catherine the Great's summer palace, crowned with golden oval domes and lit from within by the mirrors and mosaics of the resplendent Amber Room.
From St Petersburg I travelled 1200 miles by riverboat to Moscow. A city dominated by history and ghosts - the Kremlin Wall, the onion spires of St Basil's and the legendary Bolshoi Theater. For me the most memorable moment was standing at midnight on Red Square, surrounded by silence and the deafening echoes of the Cold War.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, whether a lifetime of imagining this trip would be disappointing in reality. Russia is obviously too vast a land, a literature and a history to understand in one short trip, but she opened her arms and welcomed me.
In Moscow I visited the home of a young Russian couple, Anton and Lena, who also crossed an ocean to visit a strange land. Several years ago they lived in Burlington. They opened their hearts and home to me just as Vermonters had done for them.
We talked about Russia and Vermont, about first impressions, differences and similarities. We each had made our odyssey, ventured into the unknown and returned home with memories and stories to fill a thousand pages and a thousand and one nights.