Moscow- 7 a.m., July 31:
Well I’ve just put Sandy into an Uber headed to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. We’ve enjoyed a wonderful 8 days together in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Her path homeward goes through Helsinki & JFK on her way back to Dallas, and down that gravel road to the Gap Creek Ranch. I’ll spend one more night here in Moscow, and then head east on the Trans Siberian Railroad tomorrow.
Update- 5 p.m.:
OK, this is funny- now: After Sandy left I took an Uber up to the north side of Moscow to a travel office to pick up my TSR tickets. I found the place no problem, and had the tickets in a few minutes. Then I left the office on foot, carrying the backpack from hell, and following Google Maps towards a little Airbnb hostel that I had rented for tonight. I chose this hostel because it showed to be very close to the travel office I had just left. Well, I walked for an hour and a half, around numerous blocks, down dead-end roads, and was even turned away from a gated complex that Google was telling me to walk through. Finally, I found the place, panting, soaked in sweat, aching severely from the heavy load, and knowing that Google had done me wrong. I checked in and took a nap. So, a few minutes ago- around 5pm, I’m walking back from dinner at Burger King, and I’m less than a block away from my hostel, when I realize that I’m walking past the very same travel office building that I had left earlier in the day. It was precisely a 1-minute walk from that office to my hostel, which is why I had chosen the damn place to begin with! So, let the record show that I was right, and Google was full of shit. Pardon me while I pour another Stoli.
The Russians have their own alphabet- Cyrillic. Folks, I’m here to testify that it’s hard enough getting across a country where the people speak a different language than you, but if you’re gonna layer on a completely different alphabet, well it gets intimidating. This problem is only gonna get worse for me when I get to China, where they don’t even write with letters, but symbols.
OK, here’s that last paragraph translated into Russian with Cyrillic letters: Русские имеют их собственный алфавит кириллица. Это достаточно трудно получить через страну, которая говорит на другом языке, чем вы, но слой на совершенно другой алфавит и получить действительно пугает. Эта проблема будет только хуже, когда я получаю в Китай, где они не писать письма, но символы.
And here it is in Chinese: 俄国人有他们自己的字母西里尔文。 它是一个国家，说不同的语言，比你多，但图层到一个完全不同的字母表，和它得到真的吓够难熬。 这个问题只会变得更糟，到中国，他们不在其中写字母，但符号的时候。
Now tell me please which bus stop to get off at to find my hotel.
In truth, Moscow has been amazing. This was Sandy’s 1st time here, and she noted several times this week that Russia is not at all what you imagine it to be. It’s much more modern, much more friendly, and much more beautiful than an American expects. So don’t believe the stereotypes & propaganda, y’all. The Russian people are very friendly, especially to Americans (except for those checkout ladies at the supermarket, who we suspect get paid to be grumpy to everyone).
Sandy and I agreed that we could live in Moscow as easily as Dallas, if we only spoke a little Russian. The one Russian word we mastered was “spasiba” – “thank you”, which when spoken by an American will make the average Russian gush with appreciation.
Here are some observations about Moscow and Russia and the Russian people:
- The air quality was good and the waterways were clean, or at least neither were noticeably polluted (compared to Houston & Dallas).
- The streets and sidewalks in both Moscow and St. Pete are kept clean of trash.
- There are 10’s of thousands of tourists visiting Red Square & St. Basil’s Cathedral every day. In the summertime, it can be more than a hundred thousand.
- Just like the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, tickets to tour inside the Kremlin museums were sold out well in advance. I’m grateful that I got to tour inside the Kremlin the last time I was here in 1999, and Sandy didn’t care either way. Those of you who said get some pictures of the inside of the Kremlin- you’ll have to google ’em.
- Burger King rules in Moscow & St. Pete. I’m too embarrassed to admit the number of times I’ve eaten at either BK or KFC this last week. The Russian’s love American fast food.
- Traffic sucks worse than any traffic has ever sucked before. Except for when it snows in Dallas.
- Drivers drive crazy fast, when they’re not sitting in a traffic jamb.
- Green spaces are everywhere. The apartment buildings have little parks and playgrounds between them that you would never notice if you didn’t walk through them.
- Russian families behave exactly like American families.
- Fast internet
- Russian men have the same tattoos as American men. Russian women have bigger tattoos than American women.
- There is a significant percentage of the Russian people that are devout Russian Orthodox Christians. Another significant percentage are not.
- Fashion: mostly blue jeans & tee shirts.
- A liter of Stolichnaya will run you 900 rubles ($15)
- Moscow is the absolute best place on the planet for people watching: hipsters, hippies, old folks, skate boarders, jocks, pink/green/purple haired women, monks, veterans, rednecks, patriots, protesters… and plenty of self-important executaters. Same as back home.
I’ll post Moscow pictures in a day or so.