From Moscow

July 18, 2008 
Well, I've made it to Moscow! It's a little hard to imagine that just a few days ago I was still in Ann Arbor. It's been a tiring trip, but really exciting. On Thursday afternoon I flew from Istanbul to Moscow--the first time I'd flown into Moscow since 1998. A lot has changed. Indeed, the last several times I've flown to Russia I've arrived in St. Petersburg and (more frequently) Kazan, and my waiting time in customs and passport control has always ranged between one and three hours. This time, in contrast to my last arrival at Sheremetyevo airport in 1998 (when I waited three hours and didn't get out of the airport until five am), I breezed through passport control in just a couple of minutes. Then, I boarded Sheremetyevo's brand new airport train, which goes from the airport to the Savyolovskaia train & metro station in about twenty minutes. Here is a shot of the inside of the train, and here is a photo of some of the scenery that I passed through en route into town.
Even though I was complimenting myself on my brilliance in taking the train into town instead of a taxi, it was, in fact, a difficult trip from Savyolovskaia onwards. In fact, I should have known better but, as usual, ended up making the same old mistakes anyway. Getting off the train I immediately regretted my cavalier decision to leave my train ticket in the trash bin on the train. Of course, I was asked to produce it upon exiting the station (I felt like an idiot, especially as I always bring a little zippered bag to hold all of the slips of paper that I'm inevitably asked to produce to authorities in Russia--I guess the intoxication of the easy trainride from the airport had clouded my judgment). Anyway, the folks at the train station were nice, and allowed me to leave without incident.

Taking the metro was a lot harder than boarding the train at the airport. Again, I should have remembered the stairs, the packed metro stations, the general hassle, but again--I can be an idiot at times. In any case, I made it to the hostel where I'm staying, and the fact that it only cost about $13 from the airport to my hotel eased the pain and made all of the blood, sweat, and tears seem worthwhile. It was, after all, mid-afternoon, and it felt really, really great to be back in Moscow again.

After arriving at the hostel, I had some tea, showered, and then headed out into the city. My hostel is on Arbat street, just a few minutes away from the old Hotel Belgrade (I think it has a different name name), where I stayed during my first visit to Russia fifteen years ago. It is, of course, very crowded and not the most comfortable environment, but the price is right and the location is terrific. There's also a view of the Kremlin from the hostel's kitchen, which is nice.
I walked up Arbat, then over to the Kremlin and Red Square, then up Tverskaia, then down some streets and up some others. After having dinner and a couple of beers on Tverskaia, I saw to my amazement that it was almost midnight. Nevertheless, there were people everywhere. The weather was great, the skies were clear, and everybody seemed so happy. I walked around until one am, then headed back to the hostel to get some sleep (fat chance).
Today was spent running around dealing with registration issues, one of the less enjoyable aspects of spending time in Russia. I won't go into details, but it took a few hours. I also had a really gross breakfast at the Starlight Diner--I'd remembered that place as being halfway decent, but I think these judgments depend a lot on where you're coming from and where you've recently been.
The highlight for today was going to the Lev Tolstoy house-museum. I'd already been there a couple of times, but it had been ten years. The first time I'd visited Tolstoy's winter house (his summer residence was in Yasnaia Polania, which I really hope to visit sometime during this trip), the entrance had been just a few pennies. Now it cost more than four dollars. Of course, part of the cost increase has to do with the falling dollar--today there are 23 rubles to the dollar, while it was 30 to the dollar just a few years ago.
Indeed, the falling dollar is a bummer that I won't be able to shake during this trip. Spending billions of dollars a month occupying Iraq has a way of degrading your currency.
Here is a shot of Tolstoy's house from the outside, and here is a shot of Tolstoy's study. I also enjoyed seeing Tolstoy's bicycle and was intrigued by his "Chinese billiards" table, an early form of pinball. As an avid cyclist and pinball player, it felt nice to feel connected to one of my favorite authors in two more ways.

On Sunday morning I'm flying to Ufa, and hopefully I'll be able to get set up at the archives on Monday. I don't know how often I'll be able to post from Russia, but I'll write when I can. For now, I've got some stuff to do.
To see more photos from the Caucacus journey, go to the photos page of  
More links, analysis and photographs can be found at the Borderlands Lounge


No comments:

Post a Comment