Farewell from Russia

by Len Friesen, tour leader


I have just returned from a long walk through the heart of St. Petersburg, a city that has played such a powerful role in my life over many years.  My TourMagination group has all gone to see the Swan Lake Ballet at the Hermitage Theatre, that is except for Buddy and Lois who have gone to bed early in the hopes of seeing their children in St. Petersburg tomorrow.

Tomorrow of course, is the end of our Russia/Ukraine (and Austria) tour for 2017.  I will admit that it fills me with nostalgia.  As with so many other TourMagination tours that I’ve been associated with, it will not be easy to say goodbye to this particular group.  There has been so much good will in this group, start to finish.  Like so many other TourMagination groups there has been a deep sense of community, the conversations have been rich and the laughter always from the heart.  In the oddest of ways I sometimes think that the places we visit on TourMagination are almost secondary to the richness of the group interactions themselves.  That’s why I keep being involved.

Oh yes, and we toured the world-famous Hermitage (Winter Palace) art museum today with particular attention to Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”.  The weather has been gloriously sunny the past few days, and this great world-city has been bathed in the softest of light.  I can hardly wait to return with another TourMagination group in October.

Tomorrow we go our own ways.  Mary and I lead a group to South Africa a year this August and I can’t help but wonder if there will be familiar faces there as well.  So this is good-bye from Russia, from Moscow’s Red Square to St. Petersburg’s canals and palaces, and from Ukraine with its legacy of Mennonite villages and colonies.  It is also goodbye to Vienna and the loveliest of days spent in the baroque village of Melk. Our verse for this day says it best, from the 16th Psalm:  “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.”  So it feels on an evening such as this one.

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