One Year Ago: Photo Time Capsule

Twice a month I get an email from Photojojo with the most interesting pictures I took from that time span the previous year last year; it’s the Photojojo’s Photo Time Capsule and it’s a great way to spend some time reflecting. For instance, May 30th of last year I was sailing in Puget Sound:

Sailboats against the Mountain
180.0 mm || 1/1600 || f/5.6 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Manitou Beach, Washington, United States

A few days later, I was walking around Moscow, 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

This is going to be a bitter sweet summer because for the next 8 weeks I’m going to be getting emails about how awesome my summer was last year….I better get working on making this summer amazing.


Dateline: St. Petersburg, Day 1 – The Amber Room

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
10 June 2009

Sleeping on the train was one of those worthless endeavors that I still attempted anyway. It wasn’t because the train was bumpy or loud; on the contrary, it was smooth and quiet. I really blame the short length of the bunk (my feet easily hung off, and I’m no Michael Jordan) and the fact that I was sick, which made sleeping in general uncomfortable.

Thus, sleeping for the night consisted of me rolling into and out of consciousness.

We arrived in St. Petersburg pretty much right on time, and I made my way to the metro. The St. Petersburg Metro is exactly like the Moscow Metro, except deeper (the deepest in the world by average depth of all stations, according to Wikipedia) and they also use a coin token system instead of the RFID system that Moscow uses. The stations are also less conveniently located.

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I took the metro for one stop and popped off. Finding the Crazy Duck hostel was pretty easy, especially considering my state of sleep deprivation. I checked in, chatted with a couple of friends back in the States, and then promptly crashed on the couch until a bed was ready.

Around noon, Evan, Jared, and Max showed up and we all checked in and got beds.

Shortly thereafter, Greg and Mike, two brothers from the Seattle area invited me to come with them and Kennon from California and Gianni (pronounced Jonny) from Italy (but living in Germany) to Tsarskoye Selo.

After a bit of walking and a 30 minute bus ride to the outskirts of town, we arrived. Tsarskoye Selo is a former Russian residence of the imperial family and visiting nobility1 and houses, among other things, the Catherine Palace and Park, home of the Amber Room.

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The line to get in was over an hour long. Fortunately, there was also the park to explore. Greg and Gianni held our place in line while Mike, Kennon, and I went to explore the gardens. The entire grounds, garden and palace, is very western looking; often times I would completely forget that I was still in Russia!

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Aleksandrovka, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

Roses are Red
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Aleksandrovka, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

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Aleksandrovka, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

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Aleksandrovka, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

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Aleksandrovka, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

Then we switched. And it started to rain. And then pour.

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Aleksandrovka, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

The entire palace is magnificent really, the Amber Room particularly so, although I was pretty fond of the front stair case with it’s stark white walls contrasted by red curtains and blue-faced clock and barometer.

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Aleksandrovka, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

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It was still raining by time we left. We made a quick dash for the bus stop and then rode back in to town. This would, fortunately, be my only real experience on the roads of Russia (save my overnight bus trip). Traffic, even in St. Petersburg, is pretty horrendous and drivers take on an every-man-for-himself approach. Not terribly bad, just moderately concerning.

On the way back to the hostel, we decided it would be a good idea to get something to eat. Armenian was the choice and I sat down to a feast of cold-seasoned beans, a bread boat with egg and cheese, and beef medallions with a beer.

I called it an early night (at 11:30pm) and headed to bed.

Update: Removed hanging sentence from third-to-last paragraph.


Dateline: Moscow, Day 7

Moscow, Russian Federation
9 June 2009

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t really do anything today. Mostly because I wasn’t feeling to well. I dragged my feet in the morning, but eventually made it to breakfast and a shower.

I packed my bags and cleared off my bed. Then promptly crashed on the couch for a couple of hours.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

In the afternoon, Jared invited to be to coffee and beer at Cafe Pushkin, a restaurant akin to The Metropolitan Grill in terms of classiness and price.

You may be wondering how we managed to get in wearing out travel grub if Cafe Pushkin requires dress slacks, shoes, and a collard shirt (I’m assuming). The answer is we didn’t. We were turned away at the door and went off to find our beer and coffee somewhere else.

We settled on a small outdoor restaurant and got a couple half-liter glasses of beer. I also grabbed a sandwich that involved salmon in either a smoked or raw state, hoping for the former. We shot the shit about grad school1, then made our way back.

I dicked around on the Internet, getting last minute instructions for how to get to my next hostel from the train station and figuring out where the US Consulate was, just in case. I made my peace with everyone at the hostel and then was on the subway.

18.0 mm || 1/60 || f/3.5 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

I wasn’t quite sure how much extra time I would need, so I was sure to give myself plenty. I get top marks on that account, arriving at the train station even before the train did. I make a quick survey of the grounds and figured out just where I needed to go.

I was in third-class seating with beds. My ticket listed me on car 4. I assumed that there would be just one train car with the number 4…as in 4th car from the engine, or something like that. There’s actually several #4 cars. I picked the one I liked best and got in line. I handed my ticket and passport to the ticket lady. She check me off, then wrote 26. I assumed that I had done something wrong, and was trying to figure out what, when someone kindly said, “No, it’s seat 26.” That made more sense.

So I went in, put up my stuff, and took a seat. An older lady lady, thin but kind, was my bunk mate. Across from us, a mother and adolescent (perhaps 16) who clearly did not want to be on the train with his mother, let alone sleeping above her.

We started moving almost right on time…it was barely noticeable.

The ticket lady came by again to collect my ticket this time.

As soon as we were sufficiently under way, I climbed in to bed and tried to fall asleep.

Moscow was an interesting city, definitely not one in which I’d care to live. Perhaps one I’d visit again. Here’s to hoping St. Petersburg would be even better.

  1. Jared just graduated CU with a BSME 

Dateline: Moscow, Day 6

Moscow, Russian Federation
8 June 2009

Having gone to the Central Armed Forces Museum yesterday, my plan for today was to go the Cosmonaut Museum.

I headed out on the metro with Eric and Casper. We made our way to the Cosmonaut Museum, taking pictures along the way.

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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

We got to the entrance and…

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

…it was closed. On Tuesdays (which I knew) and Mondays (which I did not know). I was definitely disappointed, and it showed.

We decided to make lemonade out of our lemons. There was a giant ferris wheel a bit north that we went to investigate. It turned out to be the All-Russian Exhibition Centre. We walked around for a while before heading back.

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Ostankinsky, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Ostankinsky, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Severnoye Medvedkovo, Moscow Oblast, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Severnoye Medvedkovo, Moscow Oblast, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

When I got back, I asked Daniel, the guy who runs the hostel to write me a note so I could get my train ticket for St. Petersburg. I went down to the train station with Jared (who was trying to get a ticket for Evan and himself) and, boy, let me tell you something about getting train tickets in Russia.

If you don’t know any Russian, it may take you forever.

We went to three different train stations, stood in several lines, and I finally managed to get my tickets after over three hours of figuring the system out.

The first station we went to was for what I (believe) to be a regional train; the next city and such, perhaps less than an hour away. We stood in line and the lady pointed us in another direction. So we went outside and looked for another building that looked like a train station.

We went inside that one, and, after spending 20 minutes finding the ticket office, stood in line for another 45 minutes (at least) only to be told that, “No, this wasn’t the place to buy tickets for St. Petersburg, it’s аовлу овлфдщу лодфш Leningradsky vokzal аодушгв оудлфы”1. She did write the words, ” Leningradsky vokzal” on a piece of paper (Which I still have, just in case). I assume that this is the station we needed to go to.

So, we walked back across the street. Asking people if they knew where “Leningradsky vokzal” was. And they’d point us in a direction and we’d walk in that direction until we were confused. We finally found someone who spoke a bit of English and were able to get sufficient directions to get to the right station.

Now we just needed to figure out which tickets to get. Jared thought that we should go to the Information Booth to figure all of this out, which I thought was a good idea. So we found that and after much (and I do mean much) back and forth, Jared figured out a couple of trains he could take (he and Evan wanted to leave in a couple of hours).

I looked at the timetable to so I at least had an idea of what trains I might take. I just wanted the cheapest one that left in the evening.

So we go get back in line. And these lines move sloooooow. Slower than molasses slow. Seriously. I have no idea why it takes to freaking long to book a ticket (be it train or museum). So I wait and wait and wait.

Jared ends up heading back to the hostel because it turns out that you need a passport to book a train ticket…no idea why, you just do.

I’m about two spots from the front when this little old lady with purple dyed hair (not a really strong dye job, more of a tinting) comes over from another line and cuts right in front of me! I’m like, “Niet! Niet!” Thinking, WTF is this lady doing?! She points to the lady in front of her and says something that I can only surmise is, “I’m with her.” Which is complete BS, for the record.

I’ve been standing in lines for 3 hours and really don’t want to get kicked out of train station for arguing with a little old lady, so I’m like, “Whatever”…which translates to rolling eyes with a disappointed face.

Our line isn’t moving fast anymore, and about 5 minutes later the little lady with the purple hair goes back to her original line. Problem solved.

I get to the ticket counter and slide my note and passport through the tray2 to the ticket lady. She takes a couple of seconds to read my note, then types some stuff on the computer. She turns the screen around to show me the departure, arrival, and price. It’s about 300 more rubles than I want to pay, but I’m honestly too tired to argue…not that it would do any good at this point. So I nod, “Da,” and get my ticket.

She prints it out. I look it over to make sure it looks okay and then head back on the metro.

I’m feeling a bit rushed at this point because Eric and Casper are leaving and I want to say goodbye before they take off. Fortunately, they’re running a bit late and I catch them in my terminus station buying tickets

We exchange contact information, say our goodbyes, and go on our way. Eric and Casper off on the Trans-Siberian; me to my bed.

  1. I’m actually not sure if that’s what she said, it was all in Russian. And that last little bit is the critical parts of the instructions that tells us where to go, but that we didn’t get that part 

  2. Side note on the the tray: Every business has a tray. You never really hand or get money directly from the person. It always goes to the tray first. I have no idea why…and I often forget to do it 

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 


  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.

29.0 mm || 0.8 || f/4.5 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
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.

18.0 mm || 0.6 || f/6.3 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

62.0 mm || 5 sec || f/18.0 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

31.0 mm || 1/30 || f/4.0 || ISO1600 || NIKON D70
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.

18.0 mm || 1/60 || f/8.0 || ISO640 || NIKON D70
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, 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. 

Getting to Moscow

Dateline: Seattle, Washington, USA / Washington, DC, USA, / Moscow, Russian Federation

My flight for Moscow via Dulles left SeaTac at 7:30 on Tuesday morning (2 June). I had finished packing everything the night before and then unpacked it all so I could take a photograph and make sure I could repack everything:

I managed to get a few hours of sleep before I had to wake up. I repacked all my stuff. Added a couple more things that I thought would be useful. I also made a last minute bag change, opting to take a larger The North Face backpack for my day bag.

The check in line at SeaTac was atrocious. However, I made it though with time to spare. I also ran into Trevor Essmeier, who was flying and down-and-back to LA for an interview.

After passing through security, I went over the Red Carpet Club. I can do such things since I’m flying United Business International. On the way in, I saw Jim McDermott walking out. Anyway, I grabbed a couple of granola bars, and a coke, called Dad to let him know I got through security. Then headed up to board.

The flight checked in full. I was sitting in the window seat next to an older gentleman who kept his Bose headphones on the entire time. I ate breakfast, watched Bride Wars, and then ended up sleeping for about an hour.

My stop over in Dulles was pretty uneventful. I made my way to the Red Carpet Club again, checking in with Dad and some friends, and had my Russian Visa verified1

I ended up staying a little to long in the Red Carpet Club, as they were looking for me at the gate. I got on, and was immediately shocked by how few people were on board. By my count, there were no more 40 or 50 people on board a plane that carries 183 people normally.

Dinner was great, and included some smoked salmon and a glass of Firestone Chardonnay2. I put my on my PJ bottoms, threw the bed into recline mode, and turned on some classical music…sleeping the rest of the 6 hours or so to Moscow.

Upon touching down in Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, the first thing I noted was all the planes that were parked on the tarmac. Just rows and rows of planes. We eventually got to our gate and patiently waited while the health inspectors checked our temperatures using laser/infrared temperature sensors they would point at our ear. Everyone apparently passed with flying colors and we disembarked.

Getting through customs was completely painless, I think even less so than at Heathrow3. Stamp, stamp, stamp. And off I went. I grabbed my bag and proceeded through the Customs with a wave of her hand.

Immediately, I was accosted by taxi drivers. The signs in the airport warned against using taxis, so I practiced using the only Russian word I know: нет4.

I went to the ATM machine and got some rubles, then made my way to the 308 Bus. I took the bus into Moscow and got off at the Green Line Station, which was next to a shopping center with a set of stairs leading down the tunnel. I wasn’t quite sure if this was the stop or not, but I decided it was when almost the entire bus exited. I followed the mass of people down the tunnel to the subway. Purchasing a subway card involved me indicating “one”, giving the lady 100 rubles, and hoping she knew what I met. She did.

I went down the stairs and then tried to figure out what subway to take. Unfortunately, the trains weren’t marked. So I decided to hop on the first one going in the direction I thought I needed to go. As it turned out, they were all Green Line trains.

I got off at my stop and then started plotting how I was going to find the hostel.

At this point, I need to point out the biggest problem I’ve had thus far when it comes to navigating in Russia: everything is in two alphabets, Cyrillic and Roman. I can do a decent job of figuring out things, but the Cyrillic language just baffles me. Anyway, I went the wrong way for about three blocks, then back tracked and went the right way. I found the building I was looking for, but couldn’t find the white door that i was supposed to go through. I spent about 30 minutes walking around the building, wondering if it was the right building. I finally went into a dentist office and asked the guy (who I think was actually the dentist) if he knew where the address was. He kindly Google-mapped it and I did have the right building. So I threw out my assumption that the door was white and rang the door for the what I thought to be the apartment I needed. It was.

I had made it to Moscow.

  1. This was the second time that United made sure all my papers were in order. It was kind of nice having someone watching my back. 

  2. gratis, of course 

  3. from what I remember three years ago). I showed the lady my passport, with my visa, my registration, and my ticket stub ((I’m not sure why, but she insisted on knowing where I flew in from 

  4. Nyiet