Saturday, May 3, 2014

Moscow Redux

I awoke to the smell of sausages.

Last time I rode platzkart it was mid-August,  and I was going from Moscow-St Petersburg. The train in fact started its journey somewhere in the south, I think Crimea. So when we boarded in Moscow the bunks were already crowded with hot, sweaty, post-beach vacation passengers who had been riding for 4 days. And my family thought our drive to Nags Head was bad...
But back to the sausages- when I boarded the train in St Peterburg, it smelled, dare I say it, clean! But by this morning I could sense the stench building, starting with a nice thick layer of breakfast sausage. 

Then we arrived in Moscow!
The SRAS  Moscow director met us at the train station and we went straight to our hostel. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we dropped our bags in the front hallway of the renovated apartment, quickly changed shoes and shirts from grungy train to Moscow chic (or American college student comfort), and set out into the city. First we ate- I wasn't very hungry since Tatiana sent me on the train with plenty of snacks, but I tried some pancake-looking "alinga"s, made extra thick and hardened with kefir, and they were delicious. After breakfast, we saw the Tretyakov Gallery, Bolshoi Theater, Christ the Savior church from a distance, several of the 7 Sisters were pointed out, and then we breezed through Red Square (full tour will come tomorrow), upscale shopping center GUM, and got some lunch at a very airport-esque sandwich restaurant. Afterwards, I decided my self esteem was too high, so I ate an entire, I'm not proud of that, yes I hated myself for the next few hours, yes I wanted to throw up all day, and yes it WAS delicious. 
When we got back to the hostel I took a shower (surprisingly nice) and we all veged out for a couple hours, exhausted from the train ride and walking tour. 

And then came the evening... what an adventure! After all the other peeps slept and I watched Game of Thrones we decided to go find some food. Nothing particular in mind, we wandered the city for a few blocks. Suddenly in the distance we saw lights swirling. As we approached, it became clear that there were several young people spinning fire. Yes, you read that right, FIRE. There were sticks with fire on both ends, swinging chains with fire on the end, fan-type things with fire on the was incredibly cool! One guy was breathing fire, and one girl was doing dance and acrobatic moves along her fire swinging. We watched for a while, cheering them on, then we found a really cool looking American style diner that the Moscow SRAS director had mentioned earlier. As soon as we saw it, we started dreaming of cheeseburgers and milkshakes and dove in! The food was delicious, and the milkshakes really hit the spot. Then we hit a snag- one of our students is allergic to peanuts, and one of our students ordered a peanut butter milkshake. Of course, there was a mix up...Tim, with the peanut allergy, took a sip of the milkshake and froze. His allergy isn't bad, so we finished our meal and then went in search of a pharmacy for some Benadryl. Armed with 3 or 4 translations and generic names, we began to look for a 24 hour pharmacy since it was past 11. 
All over the city we ran, here and there, back and forth, down streets and alleys and EVERY apteka we found was closed. After about half an hour of walking, we stumbled upon a bigger street lined with plenty of aptekas. Finally we found an open one, and gleefully ran inside. Here another problem arose- the pharmacist was not giving Tim what he wanted. We struggled for a while until finally a Russian  bystander decided to get involved. He asked me what the problem was, and then dragged Tim by the arm down the street to a different pharmacy. Once Tim's life was no longer in danger, this good-Samaritan asked us all to walk with him for a bit- so we did! Very spontaneously, we strolled through Moscow until around 1am with our new friend chatting about everything: Moscow vs Petersburg, Russian language, America, the metro! It was a great night.

The rest of our trip to Moscow was less eventful. We saw Lenin's tomb which was honestly very unsettling. I suppose it was good to see once but I wouldn't do it again, it was quite sad. We did the typical Red Square thing and then toured an old Soviet nuclear bunker and that was pretty cool! Then home to Piter for a few days before preparing for...GEORGIA! 

Actually I'm finishing this blog from Kazbegi, Georgia. Lots of great things happened between Moscow and Georgia including Easter, buying roller blades, seeing a camel in Kronstadt, and seeing the Ataman Cossack ensemble perform (might have to write a separate blog post for that- very weird). I wrote this 80% from Moscow and felt it needed to be finished, but now I'll post it and get it out of my system so I can go on and write about Georgia- coming soon! 

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