Thursday, October 13, 2011

From Russia with Love – part adeen

Technically I’m not in Russia anymore.  Also technically it has been like three weeks since I’ve been back home.  Nevertheless (is that a word or just three words shmushed together? also is shmushed a word?) I have exciting photos to share and stories to regale you with.  With which to regale you.  Rats.  Apparently dabbling in a foreign language for eight days has impeded my ability to communicate in Engliski. Sorry about that.

Without further ado…..   my trip.

So I have this friend, let’s call her Rosley. Also that’s her name. She has been obsessed with Russia since college and all seemed pretty random to us at the time.  I will never forget finding the ‘Russian for Dummies’ book in her back seat on our way to a float trip.  I might as well have found a severed head.  Who would have guessed I would accompany her (along with two other college friends) to Moscow a few years later.  Thanks to a too-good-to-pass-up deal on airfare and hotels, it seemed like if I wanted to experience eastern Europe in my twenties (or at all?) now was the time to GO! Not that I needed any convincing. It had been ages since I’d been somewhere beyond the continental 48 and a mysterious far-off place with fur hats and kooky food made my heart skip a beat.

So I have been excitedly planning for this for the past year, but much remained up in the air until the weeks before the trip when my renewed passport came in the mail, and I received my VISA from Russia (you have to have permission to visit, serious stuff).  So though I may have mentioned it in passing, I was afraid that fixating on it too too much would jinx the whole thing. Hence the seemingly out of the blue postcard some loved ones received from me with some babushkas.

In other preparation for my trip, I purchased a couple of guidebooks from the used bookstore and then checked out all five Moscow travel books from the KC library.  But only one of them would continue in the hopes of becoming the one that made my suitcase.  But who stays and who goes? Congratulations, Lonely Planet was the lightest and the most fun to read. Also it had the most pictures. It turns out that 3 of the 4 of us brought that book (one person via iphone app).  Great minds think alike? or perhaps we all just choose books like first graders.

So we flew into DC the evening before we were scheduled to depart for Moscow.  We had my wonderful amazing heck-ova-guy brother be our shuttle and hotel for the evening.  I was especially grateful for his support when he had to wait for us outside the airport for three hours.  They lost our luggage.  Not even kidding, the trip had barely begun and what with Russia being about 20 degrees colder than in the states at that time, going with the summer clothes on our back wasn’t going to get us very far.  After a few stressful thoughts of wearing only ‘i bought this shirt in the Washington DC airport’ in my photos from the Kremlin, all was located and right with the world. WHEW.

Fast forward to the down time in waiting to fly out of DC and what is it that we should find?


The greatest thing since sliced bread, that’s what.  Bowler had known that her wedding (blogged about here and also featured in glamour’s blog here) was going to be in the fall/winter issue of Bridal Guide Magazine, but didn’t know much more beyond that.  When we spotted it at an airport newsstand we eagerly (understatement of the year?) flipped the pages looking for some small photo or mention.  HOLY SMOKES THERE IS A FOUR PAGE SPREAD. I’m not even kidding you, when we found it we started screaming and jumping up and down.  Making a scene in the airport probably could have compromised our whole trip (I hear they don’t want a lot of funny business or unattended luggage), but make a scene we did.  Worth it. So exciting! Plus as MOH I’m in there too, which makes ‘published model’ amongst my many exaggerated accomplishments to date.

Ten hours and three showings of in-flight movie ‘Kung Fu Panda’ later, we arrived in Moscow.  All kinds of sleepy and excited we headed via tram into the city center from the airport.


We spent most of the day wandering around and getting the lay of the land close to our hotel.  Though a trip to St. Petersburg would have been the bomb dot com (sidebar how old is too old to use that kind of slang.. or call it slang).. it was an overnight train ride away and with only a week in Moscow we wanted to pack in all the good stuff we could get.  Staying at the same hotel the whole week was convenient too and accommodated those of us who neurotically over packed.


Another lesson from Moscow is to not judge a book by its cover.  One of the things I was most eager to see was the beautiful medieval architecture.  However other than the capital and the churches, a lot of the ornate Romanov era buildings were replaced by simple soviet cinder block style buildings.  Our hotel wasn’t much to write home about from the outside (ironic that I am literally writing home about it now?) …


However inside everything was updated, clean and modern.  I would have stayed in a hostel over here to make this trip work if I had to, however having the comforts of home in this American hotel was pretty nice.  Minus the time I came back to the room to take a picture for you and there was someone in the window. Alarming. Can you see our little window washing friend’s shadow?

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So while there we never did get on a regular sleep schedule.  I was certain that my body would be up to its old tricks of waking at the crack of dawn.  Also because we were never with a tour group or had a set schedule, it was just the four of us out exploring, we didn’t exactly force ourselves to wake early.  Sleeping in late and doing whatever the heck we wanted was just one of the perks of this vacation.

Because we are so smart, and also because I am hungry like 23 hours a day, we visited the local grocery store to keep some snacks in our room.  No photos allowed, rats.  It was the size you would expect for being in the heart of the city, and a lot of things were labeled in both Russian/Cyrillic and English. Hazzah!

One of the treasures of this trip though, was inspired by this blog, where this girl lives abroad and eats a bunch of chips.  What could be better?

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The bacon flavored chips (left), tasted like smokey goodness.  Similar to BBQ chips but with a slightly different after taste.  Not bad.  The Caviar chips (right) were a different story. The bastard child of a potato and a sea thing, they smelled like the fishiest fish, and the powdery on-chip flavoring managed to replicate that smell amazingly well.  A cautionary tale for their other Euro friends to not take fish and chips too literally.  Scrunched up face aside, it was fun to try the varieties the rest of the world apparently finds appetizing.

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Speaking of food, our other favorite little spot was this popular chain of street vendors that we affectionately called crapdog.  Except that it translates to starboy (or something to that effect). Ugly Americans.  I know.  They stuck the condiments into a hollowed out bun (good baguette bread) and then shoved the hot dog in from the top. Will wonders never cease.

Guess what else we got to see? The Kremlin. Directly behind me there is St. Basil’s cathedral.  To my right (well, stage right anyway) is one of the big red wall of the Kremlin (mini capital city, previously I thought it was a building or two, but it’s almost more like the Vatican)… and just out frame is Lenin’s tomb where his actual mummified body that looks like a Madame Toussad’s wax doll is on display.  Um, yeah, we opted out of that one.




So that is about all the photos that the ‘ole blog can handle for one day.  Back later for part dvah (which means 2, adeen means 1) on our visit to the countryside, ballet, night life, and pictures from within the Kremlin walls.