I knew it was going to be a good trip within five minutes of getting off the train, when a policeman walked up to us to ask whether we’d mind calling a taxi for the girl passed out on the pavement. A mere few minutes later, Rach, who’d met me at the station, asked if I was hungry and handed me chocolate, saying that she knows i’m addicted. Super-Russian experience + friends + chocolate = YES!!
I know I’m a bit tardy in writing this post as I got back last nearly a week ago. My only excuse is that I’ve been frantically studying, trying to catch up on work before returning to uni this week. I had my first grammar class back today and spent a lot of the time staring at the page thinking “derrrr……………??” and that’s about it. Hilariously, the grammar teacher applauded when I showed up – I think she enjoys my joie de vivre, because it’s certainly not my grammatical abilities! Apparently we started studying for upper intermediate exams today, grammatically speaking at least, and I am just nowhere near ready for that. No. Where. Near.
Back on track! So, after staying up most of the night catching up, Rach and I got up on Saturday with no real plan. Except, of course, that I had to go to Red Square (I’ll include the photos as a gallery down the bottom today – if you’re on my facebook, there’s nothing new). I had this moment, entering the square, of “wow, I’m really in Russia” – and then another moment of “why does St Basil’s look exactly the same as the Church of Spilled Blood in St P?” (I later found out that the latter was based in part on the former).
It’s weird actually, but even though I was in the Russian capital, I felt less like I was in Russia than I do when I’m in St Petersburg (which is purportedly not ‘real’ Russia itself). And, contrary to what people say, Moscow was friendly. There were people smiling on the street. Smiling! On the street!! What craziness is that?! Moscow felt to me more like I was in a ‘real’ city, not in Russia at all. Of course, signs and the language were still in Russian, but I could have been in London. If London were full of Stalinist buildings and statues, and also Russians. Omg and there were supermarkets with things in them – we even found green Thai curry paste! And there were varieties of fruits and vegies!! (I was super-excited as it’s getting harder and harder to be vegetarian in Piter – there are really only onions and potatoes left in most places).
We lined up to go into St Basil’s, but unlike me Rach doesn’t have a student pass, so she went to the Гум (more on this in a second – and it’s pronounced ‘Goom’) while I explored inside. And got lost, multiple times. Entering the building, the lady told me I didn’t have the proper ticket to take photos, but I elected to take the Russian approach and take absolutely no notice whatsoever. I don’t have any software atm to fix the lighting for some of the interior shots, so I’ll upload a couple in a few months when I have Lightroom again (unless someone wants to sponsor me :D).
After accidentally spending over an hour wandering around in the church, I met up with Rach and things just got better. The Гум is ‘the’ exclusive mall on Red Square, so it’s full to the brim of high-class designer shops, and at the time I was there, a completely ludicrous amount of decorations. Nothing succeeds like excess, in the Гум.
We met up with Rach’s housemate Sarah and made our way to a Georgian restaurant, where we met the amazing Artur. He has a seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of Moscow and was more than happy to tell us about all of it. He’s also the most fluent-in-English Russian I’ve ever met, it’s astonishing. I didn’t have to grade my language at all!
The rest of day 1 was spent wandering through the darkening city, with frequent stops for me to take blurry photos haha :).
On day 2, Rach and I went to Sokolniki Park, a big park in the city. We then proceeded to go cross-country skiing. It was my first time on skis in nearly ten years, and it was interesting to say the least! I spent the first half hour automatically going into my snowboarding stance, then having to tell myself to keep my knees in line. It was absolutely fantastic though: we saw a lady with birds eating out of her hand, a la Snow White; a HUGE freaking squirrel (seriously, it was like a football); horsies (yes I ran/skiied after them to say hello), and we went for epic lost-style adventures. Poor Rach though, I kept changing my mind about which way I wanted to go, so she kept having to go through the somewhat painstaking kerfuffle of turning around on XC skis. In the end, she would stand in a neutral position (one ski pointed in each direction) until I made up my mind.
While leaving the park we checked out all the weirdness taking place. Lots of people were ice-skating of course (some unintentionally), there were kids in ski biscuits, a ferris wheel, a giant inflatable slide like you’d see in a water park, and there was a dance-floor with music. In fact, there were multiple places in the park which were flooded with music, it was great. At this particular place there were a lot of mainly older couples, ballroom dancing. I loved it.
Rach had to work that afternoon, and would be making as much in an hour as I do in around 10, so lunch was on her. We had the ubiquitous sushi, and as I said to her, it was so nice to have a proper meal. There have literally been days where I’ve dreamt of having a proper meal! Best <3
I didn’t achieve much while Rach was at work, but that night we had green curry. Man. It was awesome.
On day 3 we got up fiendishly early (anything before 11am is fiendishly early in my books) and met Artur. He, Rach, Sarah, myself, and one of Sarah’s ex-colleagues Elliot, went off on a road-trip to Sergeev Posad, a really old monastery and I think the most important one in Russia? That seems like a big claim though. It was yet another lovely chilly day in the snow. On the way home that evening, we dropped Elliot off at the metro, and Artur was kind enough to give us a city tour of Moscow by car. He did it in Russian so I only got around 50-60% of it, but it was enough :). Not only that, he then drove us all back to where Sarah and Rach live, in the middle of freaking nowhere, an hour from the city. They work for a school for millionaires’ kids, and it’s in a really random location. It was such a great day!
For my final day in Moscow, I mooched around in the morning and did some study, then headed into town with the girls. Sarah and I went to Gorky Park after managing to store my bag in a fairly random train station. She assured me she’d been to the aforementioned park loads of times, so I was happy to yet again have a guide – well, until I realised she had exactly zero sense of direction and had no idea where we were haha! We got there eventually though, and went for a wander. There was, somewhat hilariously, a little Burton snowboard freestyle park. It was so cute! But what gives, a Burton park in the middle of a park in the middle of a city of 30 million? I can’t decide if it was out of place, or exactly the right thing.
Sarah and I headed to the metro, at which point she went home and I met up with Rach. We were meant to have dinner, but failed to find anywhere both reasonable and fiscally viable, so pretty much just drank a glass of wine. At this point Artur joined us – I’m a complete retard and had left my hoodie in his car – and Rach went home exhausted. A & I went for a bit of a wander through the darkened city, thence to Leningradskiy station to catch my train home 🙁
I love Piter, but my experience in Moscow was enough to make me think I could work there next year. Either way, I’m really looking forward to the next few months, now that I’ll be working part-time: there’s so many things I can do (and nothing I can buy haha)! I’m going to the Piter-Moscow ice hockey game Saturday week with my friend Lana, to see Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Theatre on February 10, I’m back at uni as I’ve said, and I’m planning on visiting 1-2 museums etc a week for the remainder of my time in St P. It’s going to be amazing 🙂
Photos as promised: