As we’re sitting at the airport waiting for our flight, I wanted to put together a small list of the most interesting or surprising things we noticed in Russia:
1. Russians love their history. They embrace it, make memorials to it, talk about it, joke about it, and drink to it all the time. Not just the happy times, either.
2. There are many “familiar faces” here. Looking around at the faces of people, I notice that almost everyone looks a lot like somebody I know. I guess what that really means is that we must have more Russian heritage in the USA than we know. Maybe something conveniently “forgotten” during cold war times, but, then again, I don’t know.
3. Potatoes will fill you for a long time. Potatoes come with every meal here. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Sure, they can be prepared in a variety of ways, but, potatoes are potatoes. While they might not excite me gastronomically, they sure fill me up—for HOURS! I guess that is what they mean when they say Russian food is hearty, and gets the people through many a hard winter. Continue reading Last thoughts on Russia
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We spent our last full day here wrapping up the most “touristy” (although most of the tourists here are Russian) sites on our itinerary. We started out with the Lenin mausoleum. The mausoleum has pretty limited hours of 1000-1300 only and closed Monday and Friday. The VERY limited hours might reflect the periods of the year when those hours are nearly the only time there is daylight. Looking at the numbers, it’s pretty clear this place endures a bitter, cold, dark, endless winter each year…. kinda like we endured in Boston last year.
Admission to the mausoleum is free, although you really have to get there early. The line to get in starts building about an hour early and quickly gets really, really long. So long in fact, that in today’s case they stopped letting people in at a certain point, even though it was still well within their limited hours. Luckily, Martha had made sure we got there plenty early though and we were in the first batch to….. ummm…. walk solemnly past Vladimir Lenin’s preserved corpse. Actually, you know, the queuing process for this was not terribly dissimilar to waiting for “Space Mountain” at Disney World. The line was endless and moved slowly, you’re surrounded by beautifully manicured lawns and gardens, you’re waiting in the hot sun, and when you finally get where you’re going it’s over in like a minute. Well, ok, maybe they’re not that similar. The thing is, while I’m normally pretty irreverent, they set this whole experience up so completely that you can’t help but just STFU and sort of pay your respects. After finally finishing up in line, a Russian officer let’s in small batches of people into a gated area in Red Square. Then, you have to check any and all bags, cameras, and phones. Finally, after a complete security check, you start to get ushered behind the mausoleum through marble walkways lined with monuments to prior Soviet leaders. Continue reading Out of Time in Moscow
We’ve been battling some sleep disturbance since our arrival in Moscow. Not just because of the 8 hour difference from Jacksonville (actually 9 hours if our stay in Mexico counts), but because the sun is always out. Mike and I have found ourselves galavanting around town (sun still out and bright) thinking it is early to mid-evening only to find out it’s already 11 pm! Then later, just as we’re getting into a nice deep sleep, the sun rises yet again (around 4:45 am or so). Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly happy to be here for the 18 hour days, especially considering the sunrise in the deep of winter here isn’t until 10 am or so, and then sunset is around 5. If you’re counting, that makes for a 7 hour day—much too short for decent sightseeing opportunities.
Today started out finishing up seeing the “must see” metro stations. We started out at Mayakovskaya station. It is known for its “stalinist architecture” and it’s mosaic ceilings extolling the “bright Soviet future.” A few snaps (or in Mike’s case, more than just a few), and we were off to the last of our must-see metro stations, Komsomolskaya station. This was definitely our favorite, with the yellow ceilings and baroque-ish style. If there is only one metro station to see while in Moscow, I’d say this is the pick. Continue reading Fallen Monuments
Walking through the Moscow Metro, you get the sense that you’re moving through hallowed ground. The place is busy, but not notably so, and everyone moves with a very quiet efficiency. Workers are constantly cleaning and polishing the floors. I saw one worker diligently moving a straight line of fine wood chips across the floor to pick up dust before another followed behind polishing the tile. Considering the age of many of the stations (it opened in 1935), the subway really is incredibly clean and well maintained. The architecture is really unique, with some of the oldest stations containing elements of a Soviet take on art deco called postconstructivism. Lots of classical shapes without the classical adornments. A lot of the older stations conform to Stalinist architecture, with all sorts of communist elements such as revolutionary statues and even, say, images of wheat in the ventilation grating. We made a point of stopping for a few minutes at several of the more notable stations, and it’s easy to see why the Moscow Metro makes it on any Moscow “must see” itinerary. Continue reading The Moscow Metro
After an uneventful flight to JFK, we checked in at Terminal 1 for our Aeroflot flight to Moscow. I don’t think we’ve ever been in Terminal 1 in JFK before, but I’ll say this: the place is a zoo. Flights are departing to every imaginable destination with every imaginable culture being jammed through the same customer-friendly TSA security protocols. The people-watching was entertaining to say the least during our wait there. Check-in at the Aeroflot (Russian airline) desk provided some cultural hints at our next destination. For one thing, it’s interesting how ethnically diverse Russian people are. I mean, it’s easy to imagine a stereotype like Ivan Drago (Rocky IV), and there are definitely some of those around. However, there are a lot of Russians who look far more “asian,” as well as all shades in between. We were some of the very few tourists on the flight, but I don’t think it was our physical appearance that made that obvious. The one thing that all the Russians on the flight seemed to have in common was TONS of baggage. Ridiculous amounts piled up on rolling carts. These guys went shopping, big time, and they were bringing home insane loads of stuff. So there were Martha and I with our little backpacks, and when we were finally able to check in the lady seemed a little incredulous that we hadn’t/weren’t checking any bags. Continue reading Arrival in Moscow