Russian Soul

In July 2004, I flew to Saint Petersburg to visit one of the dearest people I know on this earth, Angela Malkova.  Angie was one of the first real people I met in Melbourne, and I was devastated when she had to return to Russia following the collapse of her engagement to an Australian guy.    But, thank goodness she was sent back, so I could visit her there.  It remains one of my most marvelous travel memories.

PeterhofIt was summer, at the time when the skies never go black at all during the night.  It remains a pale bluish hue from 11pm to about 4pm, then it’s daylight again.  I rode in black taxi’s and ate real Borsch;  I visited the Peterhof by boat;  went out to a lake with Angie’s friends to sunbake and play; toured the Hermitage; and bought suspiciously pirated latest release DVD’s from underground kiosks for a few Aussie dollars.

I went to a night club where it’s Christmas eve every night, next door to my favourite – the bar where every night was New Year’s Eve.

I was blessed by a Russian Orthodox Priest, who had come to cleanse Angie’s home after her mother recently passed away;  toured a sad but beautiful graveyard; and bought the  hand made lace curtains that still hang in my bedroom today from an old lady in a street market.

But, although these are all wonderful delights, nothing comes close to the spiritual experience I had there.

For three months before I went to Saint Petersburg, I had been suffering bronchial problems.  I had been sleeping in an upright position, so as not to drown in my sleep from all the fluid in my lungs.  I really was in a bad way.  Angie told me not to worry – she would get me healed after I arrived.

So it was that Angie took me to visit Viktor.  Viktor had traveled and studied in India, and was some kind of guru.  Angie, and her flat-mate – Tania, visited Viktor several evenings every week for some sort of spiritual healing lessons.

We did some sort of tantric dancing, followed by laying of hands.  Angie told Viktor about my chest problems, and that I had trouble breathing at night.  Viktor said that my energy was blocked, and that he would fix me up.  I lay on a mat on the floor while Viktor connected my chakras in silence.  I closed my eyes and had distinct visions – that are still in my mind’s eye today:

I was standing on a cliff edge, looking down across a large body of water towards a rugged, barren island.  I flew towards the island’s rocky peaks, but halfway there, I dropped into  the water and lay on the bottom facing upwards.  Sunlight was twinkling through the water above me.

Then I saw a young boy, wearing a Scottish flat cap.  He was standing with a small red wheelbarrow, and holding a book open in his hands.  He looked at me with a gentle, sweet smile.  He wanted to give me the book to read something.  But the vision was pushed aside by a disturbing vision of a stern Russian man’s face.  He was scowling and angry, and looked very much like Carl Marx.

I opened my eyes and looked at Viktor – who had his eyes shut, but a serious look on his face.  He was concentrating very hard.  We finished, and Viktor asked Angela to translate what the visions were that I had.  [How did he know?]

I told him, via Angela’s translation, about what I had seen and he nodded knowingly all the time.  He left the room and came back with a book.  On the cover of the book is that exact water and island I had seen in my vision.  I couldn’t stifle my surprise when I recognised the picture.  “That’s it!!” I exclaimed.  Wow … it really was exactly the place, and certainly no place that I had been or seen before.


Viktor had been away visiting  Lake Baikal in Siberia.  Lake Baikal is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water, and thought to be the world’s oldest lake at 25 million years.  The water is eerily clear, and reportedly the most pure water on the planet.  It is referred to as the Holy Sea, Sacred Lake, and Spiritual Waters, and is a mecca for spiritualists the world over.   This lake was on the cover of this book he now showed me.

He smiled and told Angela “Yes, she is a very old soul.  She is from the Lake.”

Apparently, there is a belief that original life came from this lake.  There were an original “tribe” of spirits who left the lake and spread themselves all over the world.   And I was one of them.  I have great spiritual powers, and am a healer.  People’s lives become better when I am part of them.

[I always knew I was different …]

He was as excited as I was at this discovery, and he seemed very pleased to know that I was living in Australia.  At the end of the world, Australia is the one place that is going to be saved, they informed me.

And before the skeptics of you ask – no, he did not ask, nor was he given, any money.

He had no idea about the boy, the book and the wheelbarrow … or the scary face of an old communist that pushed it aside.  I’m still open to theories about that today.  Feel free to leave me your interpretations on my blog.

I have come across “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams – and wonder if I should sit and contemplate this poem further:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

I am embarrassed to admit that I left there nonetheless quite skeptical, and when we went back on the third evening, I had lost interest completely.  I was beginning to wonder if I was going to be kidnapped, as I was such a treasure.  Russia’s like that, you know.

I wasn’t kidnapped.  I made it back to Zurich at the end of that week.  Back to clean streets, clean food, and mass capitalism.


I look at a picture I have of Angie and Tania standing in the street, holding bunches of flowers they had bought from poverty stricken old ladies at the train station.  Everything about this image is simple, and humble.  Their clothes, hair, lack of makeup, and the forest-picked flowers … but regardless of what little they have, their souls are richer than anyone I’ve met in the western world.

Angie disappeared from my life not long after this visit.  Last I heard, she had again been refused an exit visa from Russia, and was working as a translator/usher on the Trans Siberian Express.   I miss her, and think about her very often.

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering …  in all the years since that time, I have NEVER had a recurrence of bronchial asthma or anything even remotely resembling chest congestion.

AngieAndMe_Russia 2004


Dodging Golf Balls and Cows in the Swiss Alps

I was staying in Schweiz (central Switzerland) with a friend who was living in a tiny locality of Einsiedeln – ironically called ‘Gross’ – back in 2006.   Population was around 50, and there were only a handful of streets.  He commuted to Zurich for work via park’n’ride for over 1.5 to 2.5 hours ever day – but the view from his gingerbread house made the long trips more than worthwhile …


I had arrived in Zurich after the usual l-o-o-o-ng flight from Australia only a day before, and was extremely jet lagged.  But the opportunity to foot it up a Swiss alp is not to be sneezed at, regardless of the state of body or mind – so when he suggested that’s what we would do the next day, I was in.

It was a drizzly and cold Sunday morning.  We packed water bottles and cameras, and drove south from Gross along the banks of the Sihlsee, eventually stopping at a small carpark, which seemed to me to be in the middle of nowhere.

The air was so fresh, my lungs were dancing in my chest.   I could have burst into song:  THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC!!!! but my hiking partner was somewhat extreme conservative central Swiss, and spontaneous outbursts of childhood musicals were not likely to be smiled at.  So I just stood there, with my song expanding inside me like a gum bubble, sucking in the moist, sweet air.

We started walking towards the base of the mountain, and I came across this sign:

YbrigGolfClub Sihlsee

It basically says:  Caution! Flying golf balls from the right.  Please go through quickly. No standing still.  Hilarious!  We had to cross the fairways of Ybrig  Golf Club to go up the mountain.   We had an interesting time dodging balls as we crossed on the way up and back.  The golfers didn’t care if you were in the way – they just played through as though you were just a bird that would jump out of the way.  Friendly …

Regardless, it was an alpine wonderland. It was like walking in a rainforest – drizzling  lightly the whole time.  Pine trees and typical European forests snuggled around us, whilst up ahead you could easily see the rocky, barren peaks – where not even the hardiest of flora can survive the extreme temperatures.  Soft, fluffy clouds bounced along the treetops, looking like custard sliding down a Christmas pudding.

Half way up the mountain, we saw another warning sign:

Scwarzwald Hike

This one seemed obvious – “Warning – Cows on the road?”  I asked.

“Sort of. It says “No responsibility is taken” he replied.

“No responsibility for what?”

“For anything the cows might do”

Concerning …

Up the road a bit, we came across cows with huge bells around their necks … how ‘Heidi’ can you get?  They were so different from Aussie cows. Not skinny, or Brahmans bred for the Asian market … these were the sort of cows you find in a ‘Milka; ad.  They wandered freely along the roads, munching on lush grassy patches between the forests and the tracks.  So sweet were their faces, I found it hard to believe they could cause any harm.  Until they started following us as we left … and getting closer …   I started wondering if they were going to push us off a slippery slope somewhere.  Sweet, my arse!  These cows were territorial.   I turned and yelled “Raaaaaaar” at them.  But they just continued closing in.

Fortunately we came to the end of the bitumen road, and they stopped.  I’m sure I heard one of them laughing at me.

Scwarzwald Hike2

I know why.   It was a tough uphill walk facing me.  At 1,000 meters above sea level, it was half the distance before altitude sickness kicks in – but I was feeling it already.  Maybe it was just a combination of jet-lag, excessive beer drinking the night before, and my body’s overall preference for sea-level.   And the track was as slippery as a water slide seasoned with dishwashing liquid.

Scwarzwald Hike4

It really didn’t help that I was wearing the only pair of casual shoes in my suitcase.  A pair of Nike runners.  Great for dry roads, but useless in soggy uphill alp situations.

The track became something only a mountain goat might entertain as a pathway, and once the angle of the climb got to around 80 degrees, I had to give up.  My hiking buddy left me there, gasping for breath and clutching my chest to stop my heart bursting through my ribs, and continued to the top.

After catching my breath, I slipped and stumbled back down the track and sat looking at the cows again until he returned, smugly criticising my lack of stamina.  I’m a city girl who has sat on her corporate arse for decades.  He trained as a rower for the olympics.  Bully for him.

But between you, me and this blogpost – the Aussie country girl was a lot less scared of the cows …