Kate and Lizzy and Tom and Gary and Ryan

Dateline: Moscow, Day 5

Moscow, Russian Federation
7 June 2009

Today was a bit of a down day. I made a list a of the last few places that I wanted to visit. It basically boiled down to the Central Armed Forces Museum and the Cosmonaut Museum. There where some other things that I could have done, but Moscow has begun to wear on me.

Since the Central Armed Forces Museum is closed on on Monday and Tuesday and the Cosmonauts Museum is only closed on Tuesdays1, I decided to go to the Central Armed Forces Museum today.

With the Brits (Kate, Lizzy, Tom, Gary, and Ryan) off on their Trans-Siberian adventure and Eric and Casper already gone for the day, I ventured off by myself. Heading north, I caught the metro. I was trying to be cool and minimize walking, so I took the green line to the brown line and attempted to get off at Dostoevkaja. However, the station was still under construction, so I ended up getting dropped off at Prospekt Mira; this ended up being about the same travel distance to the museum as if I had just walked to from the hostel. Oh well.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

The museum itself was rather awesome, however it looked like it was in desperate need of funding. Several of the attractions inside were incomplete and the outside looked very poorly taken care of, a shame considering the amount of history present. The museum also had a small but impressive (to me) collection of paintings. Note: I’ll have photos of the museum up later, I have close to 100 pictures and want to get some more critical stuff posted first.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

I walked back to the hostel in under 30 minutes, seeing yet another part of the city new to me. On the way back, I stopped briefly in a park. There was party of some sorts going on, perhaps for a wedding. Everyone was dressed nicely and drinking vodka. Drunk Russian sounds almost exactly the same as drunk English.

For tonight, we decided to hit the town. There’s a bar and grill called Papa’s Place that also has a basement club. Casper and I went down there with Max, Jared, Evan, and Ryan, who are all super awesome engineering students who graduated from CU Boulder! They’re flying from Denver to Rwanda to work on a water sanitation project, and taking an extended layover to attempt Mt. Elbrus (they were unable to successfully summit due to weather) and visit Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The club was pretty empty, at least according to Casper. We had a couple of beers and then Max joined us (he had to finish up laundry and then biked down on his rental). We ended up just shooting the shit. Around 5 am, we (Casper, and probably me) were almost scammed by some Russians. The club had closed, so they booted us upstairs to the bar and grill (which is open 24/7)2. I found Casper already upstairs; arm wrestling with some Russian dude.

Evan and Ryan had already left, and Max and Jared and I wanted to leave. Casper wanted to stay though, as he was talking with some cute Russian girls. I agreed to stay with Casper, since I didn’t want him staying by himself.

Not even five minutes later, we’re siting at a table with black-label alcohol being shoved in our direction. I politely decline. Casper does not. I strongly urge Casper that it’s time to go

Only a few minutes later, Max and Jared come back. They were outside chatting with some other Russian girls. They somehow figure out we were getting scammed and had come back to save our asses…literally. This is how you can find yourself out 10000 roubles. So I owe them one.

Max throws away the empty beer bottle he had in his back pocket and we head back to the hostel. It’s almost seven in the morning by time I crawl into bed. Lesson learned…and not the hard way.

  1. which I later found out is not true, it’s closed on Monday and Tuesday as well 

  2. Side note: same place that Ryan got lost at 

Dateline: Moscow, Day 4

Moscow, Russian Federation
6 June 2009

Today was a big day with lots of traveling. Ryan, Lizzy, and I set out to go back to Red Square to see Lenin’s Mausoleum. However, we kind of got lost on the way. Instead of heading straight toward the city center, we ended up going around it, following one of the famed ring roads.

We finally made it to the city center, were we think new officers were being commissioned, although we’re not entirely sure.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

They all looked pretty young though.

We decided that we better get in line to see Lenin, since viewing hours are only from 10am to 1pm. We dropped off our bags at the bag check (the Russians are very serious about nobody photographing Lenin) and queued up to see Lenin. Interestingly enough, viewing Lenin is completely free. I think the level of irony would shoot out the roof if Russia charged visitors to see Lenin, one of the great Communist leaders, being exploited in a capitalism manor.

Anyway, Lenin is doing very well. Resting peacefully (and somewhat creepily) in his mausoleum.

Ryan wanted to go to the Market to get some trinkets to bring back home with him. We found the nearest Metro station, after a bit more wandering, and made it clear across town to the Market in no time.

Lunch was in order by this time. Every where we went, we kept seeing these huge chunks of meat on a skewer…sort of what you see at a place that makes gyros.

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Sokolinaya Gora, Moscow Federal City, Russia

They’re called Шаурма1, and it’s sort of like a gyro, but not. It has some form of meat in it, with a salad like filling and sauces, served in a pita or tortilla. All for 70 roubles2.

We wandered through the market for the next 30 minutes, but were throughly disappointed. All we would see for rows and rows were shoes, clothes, bags, and coats. There would be an occasional wedding dress or electronics shop, but nothing of tourist interest.

Until we found the secret door.

It’s actually not a door, it’s just an entrance. But they do charge 10 roubles to get in. We paid and immediately found what we were looking for.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

Old soviet maps. War time memorabilia (both real and reproductions). Russian dolls. We took our time gazing at all the awesomeness. After spending what seemed like hours, decided on a matted photo taken shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet government and a propaganda poster. There was so much more I want, but I knew I didn’t have the space (or money) to take it with me.

We finished up our market excursion, and then headed home with a quick stop at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

This was Kate, Lizzy, Tim, Gary, and Ryan’s last day in Moscow. We said our goodbyes, exchanged Facebook information, and then they headed out to catch their Trans-Siberian Train.

  1. pronounced: Shaurma 

  2. $2.25 

Dateline: Moscow, Day 3

Moscow, Russian Federation
5 June 2009

We (Gary, Ryan, Tom, Kate, Lizzy, and I) walked down to Red Square today.

The first order of business was to see the State Historical Museum. The lady at the ticket counter1 was nice enough to give us all student discounts, even though only half of us had ISIC2 cards.

The museum was more of what I’d call a Nature and History of the human race. It wasn’t super exciting, but still probably worth the price of admission. My favorite part was the later periods of Russian history, it was a very ornate period. The building in and of itself is quite remarkable as well. Each room has giant vaulted ceilings, often times with ornate frescoes.

We stopped by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier3. Several newlywed couples came through to place flowers (and take photos).

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

At one point, a flower girl tried to follow the couple in. The guard who let the couple in quickly ran over to her, picked her up, and placed her back outside the ropes.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

We found some lunch before splitting up for the afternoon. tom went to find a post office, Kate, Lizzy, and Gary went to St. Basil’s, and Ryan and I went to the Kremlin. I think I could have paid extra to bring my camera in, but I wasn’t in a mood to try and communicate that to the ticket lady. Thus, sadly, I don’t have any photos from the inside.

The Moscow Kremlin4 is really a fortified city center, and the site has been occupied continuously since 2 BC5.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

The insides are a mix of military-looking barracks and chapels, accented by the Kremlin Gardens, Tsar Cannon6, and Tsar Bell7.

The chapels were the only thing open (as far as we could tell). They had been converted to display deceased (and possibly canonized) persons of importantance or more Russian history, making them akin to the State History Museum. At the entrance, they would also try to hawk trinkets to the tourists.

After the Kremlin, Ryan and I met back up with Kate, Lizzy, and Gary (Tom had gone back to the hostel). We decided to walk down to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Unfortunately, the actual building was closed (it was after 5 by this point). Fortunately, the grounds were still open and I got some great pictures.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

We all agreed that riding the train home would be a welcome respite for our feet.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

  1. KACCA, in Russian 

  2. International Student Identity Card 

  3. Могила Неизвестного Солдата 

  4. ‘Kremlin’ is Russian for ‘citadel,’ and there is more than one kremlin in Russia…although the Moscow Kremlin is certainly the most famous 

  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_Kremlin 

  6. the largest howitzer ever made 

  7. the largest bell in the world, massing in at almost 200,000 kg 

Dateline: Moscow, Day 2

Moscow, Russian Federation
4 June 2009

I woke up around 6am for two reasons. First, it was really light outside (Moscow gets about 19 hours of daylight this time of year). Second, Eric had just stumbled. I inquired as to last nights fun and he said he had no idea. I believed him.

I tried to go back to bed, but couldn’t really fall back asleep. I think this was mostly due to the residual jet lag. I ended up laying in bed and resting for another two hours, listening to my iPod while also playing solitaire on it.

I eventually got out of bed at 8 and headed out to the common area. There was quite a commotion going on. I slowly started to piece the story together. We all (Eric, Casper, Kate, Lizzy, Tom, Gary, Ryan, and me) all went out last night. After we had issues finding a pub, some of us (Lizzy, Tom, and me) decided to come back.

Apparently the rest who stayed out (Eric, Casper, Kate, Gary, and Ryan) found some combinations of nightclubs and strip clubs to enjoy themselves in. And sometime between 4 and 6am, they all stumbled back home in a series of taxis. All except for Ryan.

By 6am, Ryan had not yet show up to the hostel, and Kate was growing more concerned by the minute. By 8am, she was trying to track down the last nightclub they were all at. This was more easily said than done for two reasons; first, they were taken there by taxi and had little idea as to where it was in relation to anything else. Second, they were all piss drunk and hungover.

By 10am, I had left with Kate to go and try to find Ryan; no one else seemed particularly keen on going, and the excursion would help me get a better idea of Moscow’s geography. And it makes for a hell of a good story.

So off we go. First to the night club, which takes forever to find. The owner pretty much laughs at us. We continued searching, but by noontime had mostly given up. Kate hadn’t sleep all night and the realization of the impossibility of searching all of Moscow was starting to sink in.

Kate went back to the hostel and I continued on.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

I decided that my first stop should be Red Square. Getting there didn’t take to long on foot.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

As it turns out, Moscow’s Red Square isn’t all that red, although the State Historical Museum is a wonderful burgundy color:

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

Lenin’s Mausoleum was closed for the day, so I would have to stop back tomorrow.

And of course, there’s St. Basil’s Cathedral, which is actually a collection of several chapels (each onion dome is a separate chapel) all joined together.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

My earliest memories, and probably the moment that I knew I wanted to visit Russia, was when Mr. Rogers visited some 22 years ago. I have this distinct image of Mr. Rogers with St. Basil’s in the background.

Fred traveled to Russia to tape special segments for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. © 1987 Family Communications, Inc.

Fred traveled to Russia to tape special segments for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. © 1987 Family Communications, Inc.

After St. Basil’s, I quite tired (Having only actually slept four hours). I came back to the hostel and took a nap.

A couple hours later, Kate came in to tell me that Ryan had just walked in the door. While I was comprehending the words she was saying, I was too tired to do anything. I mumbled something about, “oh, great!” and then fell back asleep.

So what did happen to Ryan? Not a lot really. He stumbled around for a bit. He tried to use his phone (from the UK) but it hasn’t been working…no signal. He tried to find an Internet cafe, but there seems to be a dearth of them in Moscow (I myself haven’t even seen one, although I haven’t been looking hard either). Eventually, he headed to Red Square and wondered around for a bit. He was finally able to figure out where the hostel was and how to get there. Then he wondered in around 6pm or so.

In short, Ryan got lost in Moscow and lived to tell about it.

After dinner, Gary, Ryan, Lizzy, Kate, and I wandered down near Lomonosov Moscow State University.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

We caught the last glimpses of the sunset and watched a group of fire dancers before catching one of the last trains back.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


Dateline: Moscow, Day 1

Moscow, Russian Federation
3 June 2009

When I last left off, I had finally arrived at the hostel. I got a bunk, then went out to find some food and get some more money from the ATM, although not necessarily in that order.

I walked back down to the Metro station and then wondered about. I eventually came across a Банкомат1 provided by CitiBank. I figured that would probably be a safe bet.

Money in hand, I set out to find food. Not feeling the best, I decided that the local KFC would fit the bill. Of course, the next tricky part was figuring out how to order. Looking at the menu, I had no idea what was what. So I was more or less relegated to ordering whatever they happened to be advertising on menu board (with pictures). So my plan was thus: figure out what I wanted to eat, then go stand in the line beneath the image. As it turned out, what I wanted to order was also on paper tray insert. So when I got to the front, I just pointed to the chicken wrap thingy (there’s no American equivalent as far as I know) and the Coke. It worked.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

I went back to the hostel, which is where I met my first set of hostel friends: Eric and Casper. Eric is from the UK and Casper is from Germany. They both study at university in the UK. They both came into Moscow today and are leaving on the Trans-Siberian railway on Monday.

Shortly thereafter, I met Kate, Lizzy, Tom, Gary, and Ryan. All five of them attend university at Edinburgh. They (minus Ryan) had just come from St. Petersburgs and Tallinn, Estonia, the exact reverse of what I’m doing! They’re traveling to Mongolia via the Trans-Siberian, leaving on Saturday.

According to Eric, the one must get pissed2 on the first night anytime one is in a new city. Furthermore, since there were several different nationalities represented, International Drinking Rules applied. I had no idea such rules existed, but they do:

  • The word ‘Drink’, or any word with ‘Drink’ inside it, must not be spoken during the game.
  • There is to be no use of players real names during the game. Uncommon nicknames and “Oy, you!” may be used. Kate was know as “red shirt.”
  • There is to be no pointing during the game. Elbows are acceptable.
    Ungentlemanly conduct is prohibited (i.e. No swearing, openly belching, etc).
  • Alcoholic beverages must be kept at least one thumbs-length away from the edge of the table. This is known as the safety area.
    Beverages must only be consumed with one’s left hand, if you are right handed, and vice-versa.

These were the rules listed at http://www.everything2.org/title/International%2520Drinking%2520Rules, which is basically what we were playing.

So, after several drinking games involving cards, dice, beer, and Russian Смирнов3, the group decides that we should go find a bar. And 2am would be a good time to do this.4

So we head out, in search for a bar that’s open. After wondering about for 10 minutes, and being accosted by lots of taxi’s again, about half the group decided we wanted to go back. So we did.

What I didn’t know until the next morning is that while 8 people went out, only 7 people returned.

  1. ATM 

  2. drunk 

  3. Smirnoff 

  4. In retrospect, this was a stupid idea.