The journey to Russia was pretty uneventful. My flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam departed on time and actually arrived earlier than anticipated with an actual flying time of 7 hours 15 minutes. That is the fastest I have ever flown this route. Schiphol was Schiphol. They should name a terminal after me with the number of times I have flown to or thru this airport.
Landing in Moscow on the other hand was a whole different story and this is where the fun begins. After landing and pulling up to the gate at Sheremetyevo-2 International Airport we were told we had to wait 20 minutes before they would connect the jet-bridge with the aircraft because they did not have any customs & immigrations officials ready to help us yet. One Russian muttered something in Russian that was later translated as “Why can’t they just treat us like human beings.” So the story goes. Once we were allowed off the plane they were doing thermal readings on everyone to take their “temperature” because of the recent rise of H1N1 flu. The arrivals hall (customs & immigration) was a joke. They had about 10 stalls, but only 3 were open trying to process not just our plane but also 2 or 3 other planes at the same time. What makes this story even funnier was the point that only 1 line was for non-Russian tourists. The 2nd line was for Russians and the 3rd line was for those traveling with diplomatic passports. It took anywhere between 10-15 minutes to process 1 person. Luckily I was seated in the front of the aircraft which meant I was one of the first to be processed. But I still waited in line for almost 1-½ hours. Te gek!!!
Welcome to Russia. It was very exciting riding in the car from the airport to the hotel. I was even more impressed that when it came right down to it, I could read the signs. Thank you for that semester of Russian I took back in 2003. But unfortunately that’s about all I really remember. I’m sad to admit that I can’t really speak any of the Russian aside from hello, how are you, what is your name?, do you speak English?, take me to some vodka. You know the really important phrases. I’m even sadder to say that very few people here actually speak English.
Moscow is a very busy city of 10,524,400 people, it is currently the 3rd most expensive city in the world to live in and on Saturday September 5th celebrated its 862nd birthday. To celebrate its birthday the city hosts a 7-day event extending from the 4th thru the 10th. This, of course, means that Red Square is blocked off. Naturally they heard I was coming and decided it best to close something down, so why not the one place I really wanted to visit!!! But I was not deterred I did get some good glimpses of St. Basil’s Cathedral. SBC is a riot of colors which would make Walt Disney proud. From rich, vibrant blues, greens, reds and white it stands out like a not-so-sore thumb and is the most iconic photo of Moscow.
After wandering around the grounds of the Kremlin and Cathedral Square I found myself heading in the direction of the sound of some dance music and right into the thick crowd of an open air concert featuring 50 of Russia’s best singers/groups. It was great. Finally after 3 hours I was almost to the front of the party and enjoying myself. But who wouldn’t with the sound of the beat dancing inside your body. Who cares that I didn’t understand a damn word, except the occasional spasiba’s, menya’s, moskva’s, etcera’s.
Today is the day it decided to start getting bad weather wise. The morning was sun, the afternoon was cloudy and the evening is rainy. It was the perfect day to spend visiting the museums. After running through the Armory Chamber – one of the museums that offers a glimpse into the bling from Imperial Russia. It has a very impressive collection of silver and gold bedazzled relics – and the highlight in my opinion were the Faberge eggs, hands down. I tried to get into the Diamond Room but it was closed for another 2 hours and I wasn’t going to wait around. I will try Monday or Tuesday to do that. I’d also like to go to the historical museum and I have yet to see some of the famous metro stops. There is just way too much to do and see. I did manage to see the changing of the guard outside of the Kremlin at the point of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Not as impressive as some places, but still didn’t disappoint.