I FIRST MET MAXIM at the train station in Petrozavodsk, Russia. My wife and I had contacted him through Hospitality Club only a couple of days earlier from St. Petersburg. Even though our train rolled in at 6:50 AM, there he was, greeting us with a big, warm Russian smile.
Petrozavodsk is 400 km north of St. Pete and was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 to manufacture weaponry (the city’s name means “Peter’s Factory”). In one of the suburbs, Martsialnye Vody, you can find the oldest spa in Russia.
Keen to show us his city, Maxim brought us home and fed us pelmeni (dumplings), then allowed us a brief rest before ushering us out the door. We walked down to the embankment, a boardwalk on the shores of the second largest European lake, Lake Onega.
While we walked around the old factory city, we talked about Russia — about its politics, its police, and its culture.