European media having been showing photos and reporting on the state of Olympic Games stadia in Greece. All are falling apart and/or are not maintained. Millions were wasted for two weeks “glory”. This games played a role in the current economic debacle in Greece, which was obvious but ignored. Of course, many made a lot of money in bankrupting the country.
This made me wonder about hotel bookings in Sochi. Millions—perhaps billions—were spent for a few weeks glory for Russian. I am certain that many hope for a bright future with tourists flocking to the “resort city” on the Black Sea. Rich and powerful from Moscow will continue to occupy their villas, but foreign tourists will surely avoid this city, because they have so many alternatives not tarnished by crazy politics or filled with ill-mannered Russian tourists.
The following opinion piece has nothing to do with nor was it inspired by the idiocy currently raging in the Ukraine.
On this vacation (as with many in the past), I am surrounded by Russians. With little else to do, I observe behaviour of other guests and staff. I have noticed that personnel at this hotel has changed over the years, from predominantly Asia to an increase in Russian-speakers, most of which emanate from the former Soviet Union.
Having spent some time in that country, having dealt with Russians at various levels, having read much of the great literature, and having learned a bit of the history all flavoured my opinion. Of course, I will speak in cliche, but at least this will be informed cliche.
The point I want to make is about the difference between Russians and Americans. All Russians appear glum. Sure, they laugh, but they do not seem happy. They seem to bear the burden of the vastness of the land and its turbulent history Americans are, more often, jolly. They believe that the pursuit of happiness is a right, so they tend to be lighter and laugh more-easily. I have seen a few somber Americans (some say that I am, but I am not), but I do not recall ever seeing a jolly Russian. Perhaps, they have a different definition of happiness. The main titles of their great literature gives a hint: War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Gulag Archipelago, and so. My impression is that, like wealth in Soviet times, happiness must be concealed from all but ones closest friends.
Humans notoriously vote against their own best interests. If you need proof, consider the re-elections of Mssrs. Bush and Putin. Many more examples could be found, if I were willing to think.
Most cannot people judge the cause of their misery or what is happening around them. Few know even basic facts about history, and most are incorrect. No one can predict the future, but believe promises of politicians who have been less than truthful in the past.
This came to mind after reading headline that stated: Majority of Russians Prefer Stalin over Gorbachev. Perhaps, respondents were not alive during the former’s reign of terror. Or they chose to glorify the illusion of Soviet greatness, which caused them to re-elect a kleptomaniac that has enriched himself and his friends at the expense of voters (not unlike politicians in the land of their former enemies).
_ The only surprising aspect of this story is that Russians were on this ship, but I suppose that even this should not surprise me.
Anyone that has done business in Russia or dealt with Russians will recognize this common practice. If you have money, you have power; if not, you are worthless. It’s easy to imagine the scene described in the following headline from a Daily Mail article:
Rich Russians 'bribed their way onto Costa Concordia's lifeboats by stuffing wads of cash into crew members pockets'
It took me a while to notice that something is missing on this vacation—Russians. For 20 years, they have been a prevalent feature and often a minor aggravation that accompanies every foreign visit. That said, I prefer them to the insects in Florida…
Plenty of Germans, a scattering of Scandinavians, Canadians, of course (Temperatures may be warmer in the summer, but they have no beaches: ever try to swim in the Bay of Fundy? I have and would not recommend it.), and many speaking Spanish, which could be from any number of countries or states. Given the hysteria one witnesses in US media, I assume that all possessed appropriate papers and carry them at all times (television advertising has been running, which hope to collect donations to build a fence in Arizona).
Hordes of tourists from any country are never pleasant. There are enough clichés about masses of Americans, gaggles of Japanese with cameras, and armies of Germans spoiling the local color at various vacations spots and tourist attractions around the world. Chinese are beginning to show up in groups, whereas before they came in pairs, always recognizable by their bad clothes. At least, they are polite less demanding that some nationalities I could point out. Some countries do not do “horde”, the French in particular. Most tend to vacation in France, a far-flung dependant, or one its former colonies. One does encounter the occasional Ausreisser (the German word for the Tour de France rider that breaks out in front of the pelaton), and they always seem out of place.
Anyways, I don’t miss the clichés on this vacation…
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.