Posts Tagged ‘Moscow’

I regress: Saxony (the most southern province of former East Germany) and Bohemia (the western half of the Czech republic) were my next destinations on my January European tour after Berlin. Apart from being great destinations in central Europe, somewhat distant relatives who’d visited Arizona a few years ago and friends from Middlebury awaited me in both (and, not to mention, were offering housing).

Nepperwitz town signNepperwitz. The evening of January 9, I was received at the Leipzig Hauptbanhof (main train station) with wide open arms by my relatives Dieter and Eveline (avid readers of the Bablefish translator version of this blog!).

After the first of many very nice meals out, we drove back to Nepperwitz about an hour away, where we celebrated my coming with a bottle of wine and picture taking next to the Christmas tree they’d left up especially for my coming. So sweet! We established that my great grandma (my mom’s mom’s mom) is Dieter’s grandmother’s sister, whatever that exactly makes me to him (apart from an even too well-received guest!), and looked at each others photos, and made great use of English and Russian as semi-common languages. (more…)

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Jan 5. State power day. Woo! Filled with a late breakfast (usually the broiled potatoes Ryan had made, long-overdue Honey Nut Cheerios with milk and OJ–simple delights I hadn’t had in months), I arrived at Kremlin walls just after 12 noon, where the line to see Lenin’s Mausoleum (free) was being told that they probably wouldn’t make it that day (the attraction closing at 1 p.m.). Since no one else seemed to believe the police officers saying so, I stayed in line and did make it within the last 20 minutes.

After the baggage check (40 rub.) and metal detectors, you walk along a bush- and grave-lined walkway along the Kremlin wall next to Red Square, occasionally seeing a name that pops out: Khruschev (USSR premier), Gagarin (first man in space), Stalin (had about 30% of the country killed). The path leads around the front of the monument, where you walk into the mostly dark, black granite structure labeled “LENIN.” The guard shushes anyone talking and with an aggressive flare of the eye, tells you to get your hands out of your pockets and to take off your hat. You walk down the stares, passing more guards saying “SHH!” with their fingers in front of their lips

And then boom. There he is. (more…)

Moskva. Bottom line: my feet hurt. Yes, great metro and bus system, but stepping out of every metro station and glancing around would hardly give a traveller the right idea of the city. Thus, walking can’t be done without, and so, walk I did.

Jan 1. And the decade begins. Streets quiet (except for the left-over fireworks and blank gunshots that continued until the day I left) and littered with empty bottles of Russian champagne ($2.99/bottle), Ryan and I got up early to get him to Sheremetyevo airport for his noon flight. Buying our train tickets to the airport just in time from the electric walk-up vendor (“3 minutes until next train”), only afterwards did the conductor decide to tell us that the first train wasn’t for another hour.

When I asked, “Because of the new year?” I noticed that it was a bit ominous to already be combining “new year” with “iz-za,” the participle used for negative reasons. No other bad omens have popped up since. (more…)

Wrapping up the end of a semester, year, and decade in Russia came with a few idiosyncrasies, challenges, and definite high points. Hardest of all was being away from family and friends in the comfort of my grandparents’ living rooms, wishing that my Christmas and New Year’s could be white. But, the trade-off turned out to be pretty darn good, too.

The night(s) before Christmas. I spent the few totally obligation-free days before Christmas doing some final shopping for the host family (travel picture book and a bottle of wine for the ladies, and a book of mostly politically incorrect Russian jokes for Yevgenii), wrapping them, and adding some final decorations to my room.

I had bought a package of festive napkins that I ended up using for wrapping paper for said presents and the ones I’d bought for Ryan earlier, adding (baller) hand-made ribbons out of newspaper or brown packing paper. The modest pile of presents (with the ones sent from home) on the window-sill, along with the stockings and snow-flake cut outs (I know, I’m a kindergardener at heart at Christmastime) hung on my shelves made me happy.

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I think that I understand why Russian literature tends to be so lengthy: if I were to try to enumerate and explain everything that’s happened to me from moment one on the ground in Moscow to moment 3498523049857 sitting here in “my” room at “my” apartment here in Irkutsk typing a blog to post the next time I happen to be around an internet connection, I could probably fill two tomes the size of War and Peace. Though, my version would be a lot less of the “peace” side, and though I can’t describe it as “war,” it wouldn’t be too far from it.

In light of that fact, I present. . .

My Top Ten from Moscow
10. Waiting 2 hours in the passport control mob, the first of an almost infinite number of situations where there’s usually a line or some sense of order in the US.
9. Having my first convo with a real Russian with my taxi driver about the city and gas prices, among other topics.
8. Getting my first internet access to the Western hemisphere, and consequently to the loved ones back home.
7. Seeing familiar faces, that is, Sophie’s and Ashley’s, walk into the lobby of the hotel (in a huge tourist complex built for the 1980 Olympics, complete with a kremlin-looking gypsy market).
6. Placing my first orders for things like Rum-Servis, breakfast at a pastry stand, my metro ticket, and so on.
5. Putting on my non-smiling Russian face for the first time in the context of pushing my way through the Moscow metro.
4. Hiding my smiling American face for the first time when I more or less stumbled upon the Kremlin, Red Square, and St. Basil’s Cathedral for the first time and realized I was actually there.
3. Walking around Moscow’s Izmailovsky Park of Culture and Rest (yes, I’m doing literal translations for purposes of humor) and finding a “Vestern Park” complete with huge pictures of plains indians with tomahawks and a roller coaster.
2. Getting (not literally) b**** slapped with typical Russian ignorance of strangers for the first time (don’t worry, it’s not rude here, so I’m all good) by the lady changing my money at the hotel who was wearing an Arizona tourist shirt. Well IIIII thought it was cool. Guess not. . .
1. Having drinks and lively conversation with old friends, with soon-to-be American student friends, and with new, Russian, middle-aged friends at various bars and on-the-street locations around the hotel complex on what we promised would be our one and only stupid-American-tourist night.

So that was that. After orientation at the hotel and saying our goodbyes to our fellow MiddKids studying in Moscow and Yaroslavl, we hung around the hotel til 8, when we took a 2-hour ride to the Sheremetovo airport to catch our red-eye to Siberia. Hey. It beats 6 days on the train, right? (Stay tuned for the winter break travellog for that. . . .)