Moscow Archives

August 10, 2007

Arriving In Russia

The flight to Russia was uneventful. It was a fairly full plane, but I was comfortable in an aisle seat for the nine-hour trip. The airport was similarly painless: no problems getting through customs and in the baggage claim.

I took the adventurous way to my hotel, via public transportation, specifically a bus and the Metro subway system. Though I was a bit unsure of where I would end up--NOTHING is written in English!--I managed to make it my hotel, the Novotel Moscow Centre, which is a business-oriented hotel with an English-speaking staff. My 12th floor room is spacious.

The 30-40 minutes on the bus gave me a good eyeful of the outskirts of Moscow. My first reaction was that my surroundings looked like a cross between Beijing and Madrid. Beijing for the foreign non-Roman alphabet writing everywhere as well as the functional-but-ugly Stalinist architecture on display. Madrid for the landscape and the endless advertisements for Western multinational companies everywhere: Toyota and Ford dealerships, Coca-Cola drink stands, McDonald's restaurants (of course all of these were in Beijing as well). I guess capitalism has arrived in full force here!

I am going to nap a bit before heading out to explore the city this evening.

Song Of The Day #222

Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again."

Willie Nelson - Willie Nelson - 16 Biggest Hits - On the Road Again

Greetings From The Workers' Paradise

Slept more than I had intended to and took the Metro into the city for some dinner at about 9pm, as I was famished. I ended up around Pushkin Square, where I settled on a T.G.I. Friday's as the safest alternative (shoot me for choosing the toursity least path of resistance!). The meal was fine, if unremarkable. I walked down the Tverskaya thoroughfare to the Kremlin and Red Square--beautifully illuminated at night--before heading back to the hotel.

August 11, 2007

Song Of The Day #223

On his first solo album, The Dream Of The Blue Turtles, Sting gave us "Russians."

Sting - The Dream of the Blue Turtles - Russians

Damn You, St. Cyril!

After a great hotel breakfast, I set off to one of the train stations to secure a ticket for my overnight trip to St. Petersburg on Monday. Nowhere in the entire train station was there a word written in English. And not one person who worked there that I approached spoke the language, either. I suppose I've been spoiled in much of my traveling, in that I've almost always been able to find someone who could speak my native tongue.

The trick with Russian is that the alphabet is different. The other places I've been that don't use the Roman alphabet (e.g., Japan, China, Thailand, India, Greece) have consistently posted signs with English translations when it comes to public transportation, sight-seeing venues, etc. Not so here. Thus I find myself comparing "word pictures" of the names of subway stations to the listings on my map to be sure I am in the right place. It's like a big game of Concentration.

Anyway, I had zero luck at the train station trying to get a ticket, and the Intourist travel agent across town was no help either. At the end of a day exploring Red Square and the Arbat district (and a decent sushi lunch), I finally resolved my problem at the Guest Relations desk at my hotel. So I have my ticket in hand now. I'd have saved myself a lot of time and frustration if I had started here!

Stalinist Architecture


The picture above doesn't do justice to the massive edifice I walked past today: the imposing Foreign Ministry building, finished in 1951. This is one of the Seven Sisters--Moscow skyscrapers built in the Soviet style, a amalgam of Gothic and Russian Baroque design principles intended to convey the enormous power of the state.

Making A Statement


Meanwhile, back in Montreal, Novak Djokovic has knocked off the world's #3 (Roddick) and #2 (Nadal) players in consecutive matches to advance to a final round appointment against Roger Federer on Sunday. An impressive run--and all the more if he should he win tomorrow!

August 12, 2007

Song Of The Day #224

From the James Bond movie of the same name, "From Russia With Love" was performed by Matt Monro.

Matt Monro - The Best of Matt Monro - From Russia With Love

Making Progress

Here is the world map with the color red indicating the countries I had been to when I wrote a blog entry on April 30, 2004:

Here is that map updated with country visits from the past three years:

There's far more red on the current map--it helps to have visited some BIG countries such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil--but there is still a lot left to see!

Make a map of your own travels by clicking here.



I actually found a place in Moscow that runs the occasional English language film--a new release, no less! The Moscow Times (the free English daily distributed at my hotel) alerted me to the fact that Stardust was being shown at one of the main multiplexes here in the city. After I arrived at the cinema and fumbled my way through a ticket purchase with a Russian-speaking clerk, I had to search long and hard for the actual theater in which the movie was playing. Turns out I had to head outside and around to the back of the place, in through a side door and up a back staircase to a small room with maybe 60 seats tucked away in the complex. No matter: I had arrived.

I really wanted to see this particular flick. I am an ardent fan of Neil Gaiman's work, and this movie was based on an illustrated prose piece that was later turned into a short novel, which is what I read maybe 6-7 years ago. I have a very clear memory of reading the prose version of Stardust in a little tea house that I think is called The Oven Door in Dingle, Ireland, while waiting for a group from Choate to arrive later in the day.

In any case, the movie was fresh to me, either because I forgot huge chunks of the book or because the film is sufficiently different from its source material (or maybe both!). There were a few elements in this fairy tale for adults that I remembered, but most of it seemed very new.

In short, this was an absolutely lovely, charming movie--spell-binding in all the ways a good story should be. The visuals in the film were wonderful, and the actors were all up to the task. Charlie Cox and Claire Danes were perfect as the leads. Peter O'Toole had an entertaining cameo, Robert DeNiro was terrific as a ship captain with a secret life, and Ricky Gervais showed provided comic relief playing . . . well, Ricky Gervais, and was very funny. And Sir Ian McKellen was an aptly-cast narrator (though I could not place his naggingly familiar voice until the final credits rolled).

This is a rare film that I'd actually pay to see again in the theater.

August 13, 2007

Song Of The Day #225

From Pete Townshend's solo repertoire, this is "Let My Love Open The Door."

Pete Townshend - Empty Glass - Let My Love Open the Door



I finished off the television series Undeclared this morning. This Judd Apatow-produced show never made it past its first season, like Apatow's Freaks And Geeks before it, but like its predecessor it contains compelling characters, thoughtful humor, and a great soundtrack. And the core of the Apatow ensemble seen in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up--people like Seth Rogen and Jason Segal--is present in this series as well. Moreover, these films clearly share the same sensibility with the two TV series (Freaks and Undeclared).

My portable DVD player has turned out to be be a great investment for travel: I use it during long flights and in the down time between sight-seeing and transit. And the DVD format is ideal for watching a television series like this one, that I missed. What it's REALLY perfect for is the serial show; this is how I got caught up on 24 and Alias, two programs I missed in the early part of their runs. (It would be similarly good for Lost and Heroes, but I was on board with those two from the start.)

The Kremlin


Today I visited the parts of the Kremlin open to the public (a portion of the complex functions as the official headquarters of the President of the Russian Federation). Most of what you can see are ornate Orthodox chapels in the typical architectural style.

The Moscow Metro


I've been traveling through the city on the excellent Metro system: it's fast, reliable, convenient, and cheap. There is a stop right outside my hotel that can take me pretty much anywhere in the city.

The Metro system was constructed starting in the 1930s and was intended to reflect the glory of the socialist state, and thus the oldest stations boast ornate and extravagant architectural designs, often with murals and sculpture in the official artictic style of Russian communism: Socialist Realism.

The escalators are among the longest I've ever been on--rivaling those at the Dupont Circle stop on the D.C. Metro or at Leicester Square station on the London Underground. They also move faster than others I've been on, though one gets used to this quickly.

A Storybook Church


I headed back to Red Square tonight to snap a few pics of the iconic St. Basil's illuminated at night.

August 17, 2007

Do Svidaniya, Russia!

I left my St. Petersburg hotel at 5:30 for the airport. I overpaid for the taxi--the driver charged me close to $50!--but since public transportation was not yet up and running and I had a 6:50 flight and the airport was entirely unfamiliar to me, I held my breath and paid up.

The Aeroflot flight wasn't bad, but the plane evoked all the horror stories I used to hear about Soviet aviation. The airplane had to be over 20 years old and I've seen better interiors in Greyhound buses. The rumbling sounds we were subjected to on the tarmac did not inspire confidence. But the short (1 hour, 20 minute) flight was uneventful.

At 12:15 I fly to New York.

About Moscow

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to As Far As You Know in the Moscow category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Montreal is the previous category.

Mumbai (Bombay) is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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