Behind Putin’s Curtain is a fun, informative travel memoir by Stephan Orth, who wrote Couchsurfing in Iran. Orth uses a few websites to travel cheaply so he can spend several weeks traveling from one end of the country to the other and spend time meeting people and doing what they want to do. He is not a tourist, he is a traveler.

The websites he uses are Couchsurfing.com, Blablacar, and Maps.me. Unlike Suri, Maps.me works offline. Sadly there is no blablacar in the US and the alternatives are very sad. For example, Kangaride does not even return results for rides to and from Seattle and Portland. When you search for alternatives, search engines suggest Uber and Lyft, both of which are nothing like blablacar, where folks can get a ride for little to no cost.

He travels all over, to places many readers, including this one, will have never heard of. I had no idea there was a Buddhist state in European Russia. A lot of the travels are in remote areas and Stephan fully joins in with whatever his hosts propose which is why one three-day is remembered with some details about vodka and little else. He goes to the commune organized by Vissarion who is the long-awaited return of Jesus. His visit to Olkhon Island known for its shamans cracked me up so much the only reason I didn’t call my best friend to read the penultimate paragraph right that minute was because it was the middle of the night.

Behind Putin’s Curtain is great fun to read, but also informative and important. With all the pernicious activities of Putin and his cyber warfare efforts around the world, it is a good thing to be reminded Russia people are people, most of them good people who want the same things wee want of life. Stephan Orth is the kind of open-hearted person who meets people where they are and enjoys them as they are. The perfect traveler.

Behind Putin’s Curtain will be released on May 7th. I received an ARC from the publisher.

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