The contact to our costumers and traders worldwide is one of my tasks as CEO at Merus. This naturally entails a lot of travelling. Over the time I visited all continents. In a few years, during which we have grown strongly, we have made two to three circumnavigations of the earth per year.
“When someone goes on a journey, he can tell a story”. This is also the case with me and I have been asked to share some experiences and anecdotes from my travels.
In the early 2000s I flew to Russia the first time. At that time, people were still travelling without smartphones.
This first trip took me from Germany to Moscow, from there on to Yekaterinburg. This city lies south of the Ural and is also called the gateway to Siberia.
Landing in Moscow, I had a strange feeling at first. Since my childhood, Russia had been "the enemy", and now I'm landing in Moscow Sheremetyevo just like that. That would have been unthinkable a few years ago. The onward flight was supposed to leave from a local airport, with Aeroflot. I grabbed my suitcase and went to the taxi terminal in the airport. Luckily the lady at the counter spoke English. I said where I was going and paid 50 euros. A person directed me to a Lada taxi and off I went - I trusted that the taxi driver knew what he was doing.
He did, but in a different way than I thought. It was already dark, but I noticed that we were only going around the airport. And after less than 10 minutes, I got out again on the other side of the airport. And I thought to myself "Welcome to capitalism".
In Yekaterinburg it was very, very cold. My translator was a young student who spoke English quite well. She wore a long coat and a white fur cap. We stood out as we walked through the city. Actually, she stood out, at most I created envy.
The provincial government had organized a meeting, with people from the waterworks, district heating, and scientists. Some of these scientists were members of the Academy of Sciences of the former Soviet Union. So they were among the top 50 scientists in the country.
I was then confronted with things I had never heard of at that time. One wanted to talk about Bohr's theorem, another about Heissenberg's uncertainty theory. Both topics were far beyond my horizon. I can hardly explain such things in German and the Russian-English-German translations of my poor interpreter were not helpful either.
The way back led me to Moscow. I stayed in a venerable Stalinist hotel, or rather fortress, right on Red Square. From my room I could see the Basilius Cathedral. The hotel has not been standing for a long time.
In the evening, I was alone, I went across the street to the Red Square. It was dark and cold. Apart from me there was nobody on the Red Square, I had it all to myself. Except for two guards who were freezing next to their guard houses and guarding the Kremlin.
The basilica was closed, of course. But I could walk around it completely undisturbed and admire your beauty from the outside.
I have been to Russia several more times, the last trip so far was to Moscow again in the summer of 2019. This time I stayed in a well known International 5 star hotel. I could not see the Basilica from the window, although the hotel was much more expensive. But from the hip roof terrace you can see down to the Kremlin. Not bad either, as you can see in the picture.
On Saturday I had free time and wanted to go to the city together with some friends from Moscow. Kremlin, Basil's Cathedral, what you just do.
The difference to my first visit was striking. People, people everywhere. The line at the Kremlin had over two hours of waiting. It went on to Red Square. Thousands and thousands of people. Lots and lots of tourists following different colored umbrellas. A last half-hearted attempt at the Basilica, the queue was also endless. So a very different picture than a few years ago.
Moscow is now one of the cities that are overrun with tourists from all over the world.
But I'm not giving up, I'll try again in winter. It is and will remain a special destination for me.