Thursday, March 31, 2016

Saturday in Moscow

Friday night I had decided not to set an alarm and I ended up staying in bed until almost 9. After getting ready I had a delicious breakfast of coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and sirniki with sour cream and raspberry sauce at шоколадница cafe. I sent Mario a message while at the cafe that said, "I don't think I'm in Russia. The people are so insanely friendly." The waiters and waitresses in the cafe were extremely friendly and even making some jokes. What I'm used to in Russia is service staff who acts like you being there is extremely annoying and they hope you get out of there as fast as possible. Service with a scowl, so to say. In any case it was a positive start to my day.

It was immediately clear in the morning that I was going to be a beautiful sunny day. So any plans I had of holing up inside museums just weren't going to happen. I needed to be outside soaking up that sun!  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

First stop of the day - Moscow State University
My favorite cathedral in Moscow-Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Best view of the city 

Lenin Library 

It just doesn't get any better than this! 

Red Square by day

Большой Театр

Count down to FIFA world cup in Russia 
I hopped on the metro and was soon reminded just how loud the trains are here. I'm not used to it anymore and it made me grimace. It amazes me that there was a time when I accepted that as the norm. I once again got familiar with the complicated hierarchy of who gets to sit down on the metro. Men always get up for women, even if it's a young, healthy woman who is perfectly capable of standing on the train. Both young men and young women get up for the elderly, especially elderly women and pregnant women and children also have priority. Now, if a babushka, pregnant woman, and small child all get on at the same time and there is only one open seat....

Anyway, moving on. It's so easy to get caught up in the beauty of Moscow and the carefree life I lead while in Russia that it's sometimes much too easy to forget about some of the less pleasant realities of life here. For example, a woman in the metro was reading an article in the newspaper titled "Что делать если не платят зарплату" (What to do if they don't pay your salary) because that is the reality in Russia that sometimes your employer just doesn't pay you. I can't imagine how I would feel, let alone someone who has a family to provide for, if I had to fight my employer each month for the money I had worked hard for and was contractually entitled to. Just a reminder to myself lest I be blinded by the bright lights, beautiful parks, and astounding architecture.

A little after four I met up with Joseph and some of his friends and we stopped into a cafe which is supposed to be reminiscent of Soviet times for coffee and a small snack. We then parted ways with some of the group and checked out the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games. What's cool about the place is that it's not just a museum where you can look at the games, but you can actually play all of them! We had so much fun!!!
This game was a bit like snake, except you had to catch rabbits and they kept moving

Afterwards we were all a little hungry so we went off in search of an asien noodle place which was on my hostel map. Just when we were about to give up and thought we couldn't find it we just so happened to stumble upon it! It was just a little hole in the wall place, but what we ordered was delicious.

After a quick stop at my hostel we parted ways and marked down day two in Moscow as a success! 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Good Feelings in Moscow

Friday morning I found myself on a direct flight Munich - Moscow. If you would have asked me Thursday night, my feelings about the trip weren't exactly the most positive. I was exhausted from the last few weeks of work and felt like the only thing I wanted out of my long weekend was sleep. Luckily, Friday was full of pleasant surprises and positive experiences and my trip was off to a lovely start.

Even though I found myself in the middle of a row of three on the plane, on the plus side it was an emergency exit row and I had plenty of room to stretch out my legs. I was flying with S7 airlines and didn't have very high service expectations as I have always been under the impression that it is a budget airline. I was certainly surprised then to receive blankets, newspapers, and in flight meal service on a little less than 3 hour flight. After lunch I dozed off for a little bit and woke up just before landing. Once we landed I made my way through passport control and the boarder officer was FRIENDLY  - if you've ever been to Russia you understand just how unbelievable that is!

Since everything moved on right along I was able to catch the express train to the city right away and enjoyed the train's on-board WiFi. And to add to my nice experience, a friendly middle-aged woman planted herself next to me on the train and struck up a friendly conversation. Again, not exactly typical Russian. She told me about her son who studies in Msocow and people she knows living in the US. We talked about the best places to visit in Moscow and the refugee crises in Europe. We discussed the differences between Western and Orthodox Easter, maslinitsa, and Lent. And before I knew it we were already pulling up to the train station and parting ways.

My hostel was incredibly easy to find and I was just as impressed with the hostel as the photos online had led me to believe I would be. Honestly, this hostel is one of, if not THE, nicest hostels I've ever stayed in. The beds aren't your typical squeaking hostel bunk beds, but solid wooden bedframes built into the wall. Each bed has it's own curtain for a little privacy as well as a lamp and outlet (none of that fighting for the only outlet in the room nonsense). The bathrooms and showers are clean and modern and the kitchen and common area are cozy and inviting. The staff is super friendly and helpful and wants to make you feel like you're at home. Honestly, if you're looking for an affordable positive hostel experience in Mosocw - check out Good Mood Hostel! When I checked in and showed my passport the receptionist called me a "путешественница" And while showing me around the hostel she wanted to know, "А как это получается, что ты так хорошо по-русски говоришь?", which I was happy to hear after feeling like I don't have any opportunity to practice my Russian recently.

After settling in and having a cup of tea I headed out to meet up with my brother! As soon as I knew that he would be studying in St. Petersburg this semester, I started making plans for a visit over Easter break. It just so happened that his group was going to be in Moscow this weekend, so off I flew to the capital for the weekend. I can't imagine that my mom ever thought two of her children would be meeting up in Moscow one day!

Once we had met up we headed off in search of something to eat and ended up popping into B&B Burgers and trying their "Чикаго" Burger. When we decided to grab a beer with dinner, they asked to see my ID. I had to laugh, as this is a country where they only ask if they really think you aren't old enough and the beer drinking age is 18! Apparently I look verrryyy young.

After dinner we had a walk around the city, catching a view of Red Square at night, strolling through ГУМ, seeing the Большой Театр all lit up and eventually sitting down in a fun little English Pub until the boys had to get going in order to catch the metro before midnight.


My first day in Moscow far exceeded any expectations I had. I had only positive experiences and the people were so much friendlier than I have previously witnessed in Moscow and Russia in general. Are the Russian people changing? Is it just Moscow? Or was I just really lucky?