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Around the world travel, Backpacking, Layover, Moscow, Russia, Travel, Uncategorized

Day Tripper… to Moscow

Moscow: subway ride: $.75, Water: $1.00, Internet: $2.00 (15 min), Americans spotted: 4

It’s 6:40 pm Moscow time, and I’ve just spent the last 13 hours in Moscow trying to take in some sights during my day-long layover. I arrived at 5:20 this morning. I suppose the smart thing to do would have been to buy a guide book on Moscow while I was in the UK, but I was winging it today. I figured I had plenty of time to find my way back should I get lost. I spoke to a few people in the airport just to get some general directions. At first, I was surprised by how little English people speak. I suppose it doesn’t help that I don’t speak a lick of Russian. I learned how to say goodbye on the plane, but to be honest, I didn’t even know how to say thank you. I felt like a bit of a twit. (Lesson 1- learning just a bit of the language can go a long way). I was THAT girl a few times today where I was holding the map and pointing at where I wanted to try and go.

The train into the city was quiet straightforward- 30 minutes, one way, one stop. You can’t really screw that up, can you? But then there was the metro (or metpo, as they say).I approached a mother and daughter who fortunately knew English and they sent me on my way. A one-way ride is just $.75. It’s not a complicated system once you get your bearings, but it’s not easy either. The stations are not clearly marked and transferring from one line to another can be quite confusing, Not to mention the Cyrillic alphabet!

I intended to start my day at the Red Square, but my Russian friends had told me about a good museum at Tbepckab. (yeah, try saying that. It’s actually pronounced Tverskaya). I was getting turned around, so I exited near the museum, which wasn’t open yet. Then I saw a Marriot, felt a sense of relief and made my way to get some clearer directions. They hooked me up with a street map, info on guided tours and walking directions to the Red Square. I was much happier on foot – you can soak it all in a bit more.


It was a pretty neat feeling to approach the Red Square. When I saw St. Basil’s Cathedral, I think it finally sank in that I was in Moscow!! The city is different to what I expected. It’s very beautiful architecturally and very colorful. In my mind, I pictured the city to be a bit colder and less colorful. It’s incredibly clean and tidy.

I do sort of feel like I’ve stepped back in time though, and I expected a more cosmopolitan city. It’s just that there’s still such a striking dichotomy between old and new. You have a beautiful old Russian Orthodox church on one corner, and across the street is the entrance to Louis Vuitton. It’s as if Prague took some steroids and went to visit Paris
Now for the people- I can’t make too many sweeping generalizations because I have literally only been here for 14 hours, but there’s definitely a cold exterior. However, people are not turned off by being approached and they are willing to help, or to try to. A smile goes a long way in Moscow, and most people are quite friendly. With a bit more time here, it would have been fun to befriend some natives and see Russia from an insiders’ perspective, but for a day I was happy to play the tourist card.

I queued up for Lenin’s mausoleum. We were walked through a courtyard where I’m sure many of Russia’s famous leaders are buried (I wouldn’t know, because again I couldn’t decipher the names). Lesson 2- It does help to do the research first and makes for a more fulfilling trip. If not, it’s sort of like going to a concert for a band you don’t know. You can dig the music, but it would be a hell of a lot more fun if you could sing along… We were shuffled downstairs to a cold, stark, dimly lit room where Lenin has been resting since 1924. Needless to say, there were absolutely no photo ops.

From here, I went to get some info on guided tours, and a lovely lady gave me a list of things to do for the afternoon. Given my lack of knowledge on Russian history, I thought it would be smart to hit the historical museum next. Here I was able to get a snapshot of Russia from the Stone Age all the way up to Nicholas the Reformer. By the end of this, I was fading. 3 ½ hours of sleep on the plane the night before was catching up with me. I headed for some food and coffee.

I then made my way back to the airport, getting turned around on the metro one last time! One thing I will say is I admire anyone who can pick up another language, but I truly respect a native English speaker who learns a language like Russian, Greek or Chinese, etc. It truly is a whole new ballgame.

Last observations of Moscow…

The Russians smoke. A LOT! Especially the young ones. And from what I can tell, they do like their vodka.

You can sense a big gap between the last couple of generations. It seems that Russia’s youth is really taken with pop culture, fashion and money. I suppose this also has a lot to do with the fact that Russian’s in their 20’s are living a completely different life to their parents and grand-parents since the wall came down…
The youngsters, especially the women are the fashionistas. Even the female police are sporting baby blue short dresses and stilettos- not kidding!

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Layover, long term travel, Moscow, Russia, Travel, Travel Wishlist, Uncategorized

And I’m Off…

I left the states over a week ago, but I don’t feel like my journey has truly begun yet. So now, I am officially off. I’ve come to realize that I’m the type of person where things don’t really hit me until they are happening. And well, it’s happening! During my taxi ride to Heathrow airport tonight, I realized that I am going to step off the plane tomorrow morning in Moscow… this is very surreal.

My time in England was spent catching up with family, indulging in pub lunches, seeing old friends, and galavanting around London.  And I spent the last 2 days sorting my Russian visa, so that I can leave the airport during my 17 hour layover tomorrow. A $200 rush visa (transit visa at that) is worth it to me, but hurts a little bit!

When I started planning this trip, I began thinking about the places I have traveled, will travel, want to travel, and then thought about the places I might never make it. Russia is a place that interests me, but it’s not #1 on my list of places to go, so I never really knew when I’d make it. But since I booked the flight on miles, I let Delta plan the route and, subsequently, have a day in Moscow tomorrow. We arrive at 5:20 am which is 2:20 am to my body, so I will need some strong coffee before sorting out a day tour.

Ok- so now I’ll admit, I’m a bit nervous about Russia. The only word I know how to say is “No.” and isn’t the country full of corruption? What if I get in a taxi and don’t get out?? Do they accept Euro? I don’t know what to expect other than the standard sterotypes: they drink a lot of vodka, and the women are all beautiful blondes out of fashion magazines. Needless to say, the day will be interesting. That’s if the flight leaves. Better go check.