Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Moscow Mania

Get comfortable, because I am in Moscow, completely overstimulated and about to ramble ad nauseum.

We just arrived a few hours ago and I am already blown away with this city. It is so beautiful that I am feeling a bit emotional (and I am not even PMS'd). Our hotel is right in the middle on town, directly across the street from the Moscow River, the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral. It is surreal. Red Square is closed today, but we're hoping for better luck today.

Last I wrote, we were in Irkutsk and about to board the famed Trans-Siberian for three days. Day 1 on the train, which was a half day, wasn't too bad. We had our champagne and caviar party and managed to cram 12 of us into one berth. Quite an impressive feat if you have any idea how small those berths are. Andrea told us in advance that our lives would be all the better if we made nice with the provenistas, who are essentially the stewardesses of the train, so we shared caviar with them and brought them chocolate, liquor, etc. They were nice to us.

Day 2 was the first full day and was spent reading and playing Scrabble. The highlight of the day was my dazzling 72-point move in Scrabble - P-E-R-S-O-N-A-L - 50 point bonus for using all 7 letters. I would have done a little tap dance if there was room. I was so excited, I took a picture of the board for all of you to admire. :-) Rob, however, remains the undisputed Scrabble champion of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The Coming Of The Third Reich was the better part of Day 3. I took a break to see the quickly passing obelisk that is erected at km 1777, which marks the arbitrary line between European and Asiatic Russia. Fascinating book. It is the first of 3 volumes and details the circumstances that allowed a monster like Hitler to control a nation.

There was another tour group on the train with us, the average age of whom was 69.5. They were crabby old Brits and Aussies who seemed to think that the whole world revolved around them. One of them indignantly declared that she intended to contact the Russian consulate upon her return to Melbourne to complain about the cold treatment from the Provenistas. Shortly after, I was having a great conversation with their tour leader and suggested that, perhaps, he explain to his passengers that the British Empire was defeated in 1945 and that the rest of the world does not consist of colonial subjects whose sole purpose is to kiss their asses. If they tried speaking a word or 2 in Russian instead of talking down to the Provenistas, maybe they would get a warmer reception. He seemed to take my comment with good humor although Andrea later told me that he was the worst offender. Oops. :-)

Our itinerary changed a bit, so we stopped for a night in Suzdal at the end of our three days. Suzdal is seriously the cutest, most charming town you can dream of. In the 12th century, it had a population of 10,000 and now the population is 12,000. Except for the two stop lights and Lenin Road being paved, it probably doesn't look much different than it did 800 years ago. It's a town of churches and meadows that is right out of a fairy tale.

A three hour bus ride took us through Vladimir -- which was once a big city and now is much like Philadelphia (a city that you can tell was once important, but is now an industrial shithole) on the way to Moscow. We're taking a tour of the Kremlin tomorrow. Even though the weather is a bit gloomy, the beauty of this city is striking. This place is a must see!

Oh yeah, I am almost literate in Russian.

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