I arrived in Moscow in fine shape and took the aerotrain to a station quite near my hostel.
There I got a taxi and soon was settled in. I was in a room with several people from Siberia—-where I’m going! The walls and beds are fine, but the carpet was very dirty—-and we can’t wear shoes in the hostel! I think that’s shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.
I had lots of trouble getting money from ATMs at the airport, so I changed a Ben Franklin (I only brought two for emergencies) and tried some more ATMs in town. It turned out I had three problems: 1) I was actually overdrawn in my checking account! A while ago I did a clever thing—-the bank used to take money out of savings if I was overdrawn, but I had that changed since I didn’t want to be taken prisoner while traveling so they could clean out both accounts. (How clever of me!) 2) the bank really did think there was fraud as I was on the machines in Russia. However, I travel a lot and I have never reported my goings to the bank before and it has always worked. Not now! 3) When I tried to call the bank number the call wouldn’t go through. I texted Claire and she checked into it—-for some reason there was an international block on my phone. Now that’s fixed——in fact it’s all fixed so I HAVE MONEY!
I walked a short ways (this hostel is in a good location) to the Kremlin and Red Square. It
was a beautifully sunny day with poofy clouds so it was fun to photograph.
I tried to see Lenin’s Tomb since I hadn’t seen it in 1982, but it was only open from 10 to 1 so I will have to see that at the end of my trip.
Also St. Basil’s church is closed for renovation. Then I had an exquisite lunch at 3:00 at the old, but lovely, Metropol Hotel. I had a big beer (the weather is perfect for sight seeing, but it’s still warm in the sun) and then wild salmon caviar with blini, dill, onion, sour cream and quail eggs. The quail eggs were loped off at the top so you could see their slightly runny yolks. It was so GOOD! Then I had cold borscht with warm potatoes, which was very good, too. Some beautiful dark and light bread rounded things out, and oh yes, I
had a beautiful perfect cappuccino, too. The lovely stiff linen napkin protected my blue jeans from any
I spent the rest of the day struggling with my computer. When I got a new Mac recently because my old one was no longer supported, I was able to put the same programs on my little travel computer. I thought I had tried everything I needed for traveling, but it seems it has a mind of its own, and won’t do what I tell it to do. Obviously I’m telling it wrong, but now what??!
The next morning I got up early after spending a jet-lagged night to go to Vladimir on the train. First I walked to the closest metro stop—-I had to ask several people the way, although I pretty much knew it but was making sure that I was going in the right direction.
The metro people were very helpful and sold me a ticket (about $1) and pointed me in the right direction. The name of the stop was very challenging, but I also knew pretty well how to pronounce Kursky Vokzal, which is the name of the train station to which I was going. It’s right next to the unpronounceable one—-Chicalovskaya. Going down, down the long escalators in the Moscow subways is thrilling! I remember these from 1982. When I got on the subway, I, again, said the name as best I could and then added ‘Kursky Vokzal, and a man nodded “yes.” When I got to the train station (easy to see upon getting out of the subway) I showed my ticket to a ticket seller who could speak English! She put me on my way, and while I did have to ask some more people for reassurance, all was ok.
The train was very nice, and on time. It also had a visual that told which station was next,
etc, in both Russian and English, and they also announced it audibly. That’s so nice—-in Europe I’m always wondering where to get off—-they announce nothing.
I had such a nice conversation with Lydia—-Leeda, for short—-who could speak some English. Our conversation was slow but satisfying. I asked her what she thought of Putin, and she said she liked him. She said Russia needed somebody strong and clever and that she thought he was both. Obviously she is one of the 80% approving of him. I was trying to use my new app, which translates English into Russian, which didn’t work very well. I finally figured out that there weren’t enough bars of service on the train going through the rural areas. When I arrived they announced that people could only disembark from certain cars, and not my car. So I went into the next car and got off from there.
Vladimir is a small city (300,000) and that is so nice. From the train station I could walk to the hostel—-only 350 meters (think three football fields) but it was all steeply uphill, some with steps. This hostel is very nice, very neat and clean. The proprietor speaks good English and put me on to visiting the town next door, Suzdal, since it has many old Russian beautiful buildings as does Vladimir.
Vladimir was the capital of Russia way back in the 11-1200s for awhile. I did spend time in a couple of churches, (Russian churches are so RUSSIAN). Their beautiful Assumption Cathedral was wonderful, with parts from the 12th C. Another smaller St. Dmitry’s Cathedral had stone carving showing King David entrancing animals and
birds with his harp. I also visited a history museum, and the Golden Gate (a gate from the 1200s that’s over a street coming into the town) and walked a ways to a lookout point. Here I almost came to grief when a muscular young man came very fast on a bicycle and nearly hit me. I was standing on a sidewalk, but that didn’t matter, apparently. We both yelled, but he managed to swerve/stop at the propitious moment, so no harm done.
Vladimir, my landlord, had put me on to a restaurant nearby that I looked at on my way to the ‘sights.’ It was a serve yourself with a tray like in a cafeteria. I could see that they had wine (no beer) so I was trying to ask if one could buy a glass—not the whole bottle. I thought I acted it out rather well, but I couldn’t get an answer. So after my sightseeing I came back to eat and asked three men patrons sitting at a table with a bottle of wine with their food. They understood right away, and said, ‘yes,’ (actually they said, “Da”) and pointed at the wine across the room. It was quite an elaborate process! The cashier came over when she saw me rummaging among the half empty wine bottles. She indicated that SHE must do this, and I must not. So I pointed out the one I wanted and she went to the kitchen to fetch a certain measure. She held it at eye level and carefully filled it to a line, and poured it into the wineglass. I said, “Thank you,” and reached for it but she indicated “no” and proceeded to fill the special measuring glass again to half the amount and pour that into the glass as well. OK, I had just the right amount of wine for lunch! The food was excellent—-a kind of moussaka, only with pork instead of lamb, and mashed potatoes instead of bechamel. Then I had a really good salad and some cabbage veggie dish, also very good.
The next day I went to Suzdal on the bus. It was raining, but later it stopped and was fine. Suzdal is chock full of old Russian churches and Monasteries from the 11-1200s. Most have been rebuilt after fires or just added on in later centuries, but they were spectacular.
There was a museum of old buildings that had been collected elsewhere and reassembled here. I
mentioned to Vladimir, my landlord, that the wooden churches reminded me of the 12th century stave churches in Norway.
He said that these were from the far north—-not so far from Finland, Sweden and Norway. I wonder who copied whom. I hired a taxi to take me around, which worked beautifully. I saw eight churches or monasteries in 1 1/2 hours. Then I took the bus back to Vladimir. What a nice day!
When I got back, I ate linner at the same restaurant, and had the lady measure out some wine, again.
Vladimir and I had a nice conversation about things Russian and American. We were joined by a young couple from the UK. Vladimir is also an admirer of Putin, for the same reasons. He said that things had improved economically a lot over the last 10 years until last year when the ruble lost so much of its value. Still, like everywhere, there are many problems. That’s one fun thing about hostels——the discussions that one has.
I had such a nice train ride this morning—-a very modern train. I went from Vladimir to Nizhny Novgorod, kind of hard to pronounce. I walked to the train from the hostel, then when I arrived at this town, I got a bus (having to ask a dozen times) showing the name of the street where I would get off, which my landlord in Vladimir wrote out in Russian.
finally got the right bus, and was checked in pronto. What a nice hostel. It’s located about 100 yards from the Kremlin in this town. I walked over to explore—-
the Kremlin walls from 1500, the beautiful government buildings, then the lovely Cathedral of the Archangel Michael.
Here there were many war monuments (too many!) along side the River Volga. My guidebook says that Moscow is Russia’s heart, St. Petersburg is
Russia’s head, and Nizhny Novgorod is Russia’s wallet. Back in the 1200s it was a business town, since it is at the confluence of the Rivers Volga and Oka.
After my exploring the Kremlin and visiting the National Center of
Contemporary Art, I ate linner at a cafe in the pedestrian street on which my hostel is located. (Four kinds of meat with a bit of lettuce!) After that a nap, then writing this and doing the pictures. I hope you are all fine. I am enjoying Russia, although the language is challenging. Still there are more people that speak some English than I would have anticipated. However, reading signs is a challenge since they are all in the Cyrillic alphabet. I do know the word for ‘restaurant’ though—-it’s like PECTOPAH—-in our letters. In theirs it means ‘restaurant.’ Tomorrow I will be leaving the hostel at 4:00 AM for a 5:00 train; arriving Yekaterinburg at 3:10 AM the next morning (20 train hours with a two-hour time change.) I hope my hostel will let me in at that hour——many won’t.