A new year, a new country to explore – happy 2018 from Russia! Today is the start of my ~3 weeks in Russia, courtesy of a winter program through my college; it’s a pretty sweet deal. I’ll be in Moscow for the next few days then catch a train to St. Petersburg, where I’ll be taking classes about Russian politics, culture, identity and more. While I’ll mostly be in a classroom starting next week there will still be plenty of exploring so stay tuned. Alright, the debrief is done!
So my day started yesterday. Confused? My sleep schedule sure is. I caught a 2 pm flight to Moscow out of New York, and given the 9 hours spent flying and the +8-hours time different my group arrived at a not-so-shining 7 am. And I mean the not-shining part, because it didn’t get bright over here until maybe 9:30/10 am. So after we exited the airport and made out way to the Star Wars Hostel (what a pick) we bummed around until the breakfast joint nearby opened up.
The Marketplace had a nice wide selection of breakfast stuff, ranging from griddle goods to pastries to salads. I ended up with a блин (blini) and some сирник (syrniki) with sour cream, both of which were really tasty. Also ordered a Transiberian tea, which was thick and interesting with some sort of unknown herb, ginger, and the biggest sprig of rosemary you ever did see.
After food our wandering began, from just around the hostel to down around the Red Square. There were plenty of holiday lights, trees and decorative structures around and it was all beautiful. The pictures below are of random street lights, the State Historical Museum, the Lenin Mausoleum and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
There were also all these lights hanging above the streets, twinkling and glowing overhead. Hopefully I’ll get to see them in the nighttime tomorrow.
After those wanderings we circled back to the ГУМ (GUM, pronounced goom), which is the most fancy and extra department store I may have ever seen. They had brands whose solo stores I’d never seen before (Jimmy Choo, Dolce and Gabbana, wayyy more than I’m forgetting) paired with random places like Dyson – get your vacuums today, folks. Very crowded, uber classy and just an experience.
We took another scenic walk after the ГУМ and ended up with an overhead look at the area, which felt very white and misty and a bit otherworldly depending on where you stood and looked. There was also a great park path with these fantastic happy birch trees that I really appreciated.
After all that wandering we had a bit of a break and recharge at the hostel before our 2 pm bus tour, which ended around 5 or 6. In Evgeny’s words (our professor/program leader), it was a nap tour of Moscow since most of us conked out for over half the ride. In our defense, the flight was long and our guide’s voice was surprisingly soothing. We did have a few walking breaks, one before and after dinner. The post-dinner break was fun, as we saw Сталиские высотки (Stalinski Vysotki, or Stalin’s High Rises), also called Moscow’s Seven Sisters, which are the seven tallest buildings in the city commissioned by Stalin. We saw a hotel, the Moscow State University building for biology, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of these skyscrapers was gifted to Poland, as a random fun fact. They were absolutely towering and very impressive, so it was nice to be able to see them.
Before the high rise fun was dinner though, and that was an adventure. We went as a group and received 3 courses as part of what I assume was a set meal, but who knows. They didn’t know how to handle vegetarians apparently, because myself and the other veggie person on the trip had a lackluster pickled cabbage and carrot salad vs a chicken/cucumber/lettuce concoction, and a plate full of boiled dill potatoes vs fried potatoes with a sausage-y thing and some greens on it. We did get a good pea soup, but that replaced a chicken борщ (borscht) that I would have adored sans meat. Alas, it was filling and I’m sitting here satisfied so all is good.
Overall it’s been an interesting introductory day to Russia, and I’m excited for more exploration tomorrow (and some dearly-needed sleep before that). Thanks for checking out the post; I know the blog’s been dead for a while and I have some major backloading to get to, but for know enjoy daily updates from Russia. Gooodnight for now!
P.S. If anyone reading this has recommendations for me for either city, but mostly St. Petersburg, please let me know!!