Next one on the list was no other city than the current russia’s capital – the mighty Moscow. We arrived in Moscow via air on Rossiya Airlines. One hour flight from St. Petersburg proved to be uneventful. We were lucky to be picked up from the airport by my uncle, who proudly pulled up to the front entrance in his 2009 Hyundai SUV. We took a highway to get to his place. And my adult first impression of Moscow was nothing like imagined. Highways, cars, and big box stores on the outskirts of the city reminded me more of Denver suburbs than a lively European metropolis.
As soon as we arrived, we were lucky that my aunt was away at the family’s dacha (russian word for a summer house), so we ended up having her Soviet style apartment all to ourselves. Oddly enough, it was the same apartment
as I stayed at during my first visit to moscow 22 years ago.
Once we all settled in, it was time to head to my uncle’s for a traditional russian ‘zastol’ie’, which can be remotely equated to a dinner party with certain traditional items such as a bottle of vodka and food to chase the shots of it. That night we ended up splitting 2 entire bottles among 5 of us. ‘Beluga’ was going down too easy that night but luckily the next morning when it was time to get up for the next adventure, surprisingly, we were not hungover.
Our plan for touristic activities next day included the trip to the Red Square as well as the Mausoleum where the very well preserved remains of the father of communism – otherwise known as Vladimir Illiyich Leninlaid on display.
After waiting in line for about 20 minutes and getting a deal on bag check just for speaking Russian, we made it to the front wall of the Kremlin which has transformed into a burial ground for the Soviet leaders during the past century. We spent the rest of the day strolling around moscow’s landmarks including a commercial drag way – Arabat as well as the VDNKH which was a convention showcase ground similar to the one built in @ueens for the Worrld Fair in 1950s.
The next day we were up to go visit my uncle’s dacha, a summer getaway for many Russian families. In the 70s and 80s, families received several acres of land to develop. All and all, it was great to get away from the smoky and hot summer city. Unfortunately, that trip took longer than expected due to poor infrastructure that has plauged Russia for years and now that has strived to drive a car, every possible roadway in and around Moscow has been jammed the vast majority of time. It is important to understand that the large portion of overall Russia’s population lives in the region around the capital.
Later that day we went to a dance club, ironically or appropriately named “Propaghanda.” Despite reading about extensive ‘face control’ which sadly involves someone at the door deciding whether to let certain people in, the
club ended up letting all of us in without much difficulty and without paying a cover, which came as a pleasant surprise especially after we paid close to $30 to get into a club in the northern capital. The club itself turned out to be everything that an Eastern European dance club is so legendary for – loud music, hundreds of people packed in a small space, and naturally cheap drinks. Not being much of a club goer myself, the night turned out to be quite fun. We capped it off with shots of espresso at 5 in the morning.
As much fun as it was to stay out that late, the next morning proved quite difficult to get through especially since we had travel up to St. Petertsburg and then out to Tallinn, the famous Estonian capital. The main part of the trip was over but we still had Tallinn for dessert.
Tallinn was just a 7 hour bus ride from st. Petersburg, about the same time it takes to get from new york city to montreal. Despite thinking of Tallinn as an extension of former eastern bloc, it proved to be more western
european than eastern. The old town resembled a small midevil village and the people spoke a lot of estonian, and only the minority spoke Russian. The old town was very memorable especially the old church to the top of
which you had to take the stairs that were built at least 5 centuries ago. However, after that steep climb the reward was the panoramic view of the city which ended up quite memorable.
Nonethless, the best part of the trip came during lunch. As we were lounging around on the patio of the street cafe eating pea soup, we saw no other than the legendary PBS travel guru – Rick Steeves, whose book we
actually used to navigate through scandinavia. What were the chances that we saw the person that we kept joking about during the trip. Apparently, Rick Steeves happened to be there to top off our trip with a big hoorah.
After a brief stay in Tallinn, it was time to head back to our arrival point for the 8 hour journey back to New York for me at least.
To sum up, it was an incredible trip that I will defintely remember for the rest of my life. I became closer with my best friends, I experienced many cultures and in a way re-aquited myself with the culture that I grew up in for 14 years of my life, and for the sake of this blog, I drank a lot of great beer and liquor including shots of vodka it was almost customary to take when in Russia.