Thursday, 27 October 2011

Москва (Moskva)

First of all: Apologies for whatever the hell I am actually writing, I don't check it. My new medication is making me a little...woozy. I am incapable of condensing anything also, excuse the length. My brain extends its sincere thanks to you for your understanding.

Whilst I can't be certain that my Russian is improving, my procrastination skills are surely of Masters level at least by now. The year abroad project is on my mind. 6000 words on Soviet cartoons seems kind of slightly impossible and scary at the moment, so I have been keeping busy doing anything to avoid it. Ill most of the week, I managed to legitimately sleep away most of the worry, but yesterday I needed to get a little more creative. So, I bought a Toy Story 3 drawing pad. And some felt tips. This is to accompany my Winnie the Pooh jigsaw puzzle and Sims 3. I actually bought the puzzle quite a while ago, but I forgot that being colour blind hinders me somewhat and it's proving a little difficult to get all the pieces with straight edges grouped...

 We also visited a church, mainly to get in from the cold, but it was pretty all the same. Lots of gold sparkly things. And a coffin. With somebody in it. Having seen the gold casket shaped thing with the lid open from the other side of the room, I probably should have known better than to go and look, but there you go. Was in such a rush to back off that I didn't even glance at the sign next to it to decipher who this poor person was. Unpleasant. Thankfully, you can swear without people understanding, so I wasn't kicked out for insulting the Russian Orthodoxy people. I'd made the effort to bundle my hair into my hat, even it made me resemble an egg, so I would have been a bit put out if I had been thrown out for being a bit taken aback by the corpse just chilling in the corner.

Looks more like a casket now...
The Assumption Cathedral (New)
Originally built in the 17th century, destroyed
by the Soviets in the 1930s (what noobs). Apparently
12 metres higher than the previous building.

Yaroslavl has felt much smaller since we got back from Moscow. Admittedly, the place is fairly gargantuan, everywhere feels massive regardless of where you are there, so it is a poor comparison, but the weekend of everything being so Western spoiled us.
This weekend was rather impromptu, due to a sudden doctor's appointment being needed at an American hospital there (thanks very much drug addicts of Russia for landing my medication on the illegal list) and the train I needed to get being the next day. Deciding to make an outing of it, Hannah joined me and Firdaus walked us to the bus stop to get to the station the next morning. Just after making a comment over me being the reason Hannah wasn't taking part in the competition (again), the bus came. Fortunate timing.

Boarded the train and found ourselves sitting in the same section as a lovely gentleman still in his pyjamas from the overnight journey, eating a hunk of tuna directly from the tin. With his hands.  Thank god it wasn't as hot as the train last year in Petersburg, would have been disgusting. He turned out to be quite nice, in fairness, and gave us both the bottom benches for the entire journey, while taking the upper for himself.

4 and a half hours of listening to small children singing the Krokodil Gena song 'Goloboy Vagon' later (not grating on the ears at all, in fact that one tone deaf boy's yelling really added to the pure torture cultural experience),  we found our way to the metro. This is massive (I think most things in Moscow are) and took some navigation thanks to the many perekhodi (like station interchanges you walk) but the stations are ornate, so the trip wasn't too bad. Needed a sleep but after a couple of hours in the hostel I dragged myself out with Hannah to meet up with our friend from uni who is currently in Moscow, who said she'd show us the big touristy spots in central Moscow.

Bolshoi Theatre. Before we realised what it was.
 We managed to accidentally find the Bolshoi Theatre on our quest to get to the right metro. Standing by a very big white building, I commented on the ticket office for the theatre. Then wondered aloud where the theatre could possibly be. Had Hannah take a picture of me outside the pretty white building. Saw the metro stop was 'Teatralnaya'. Realised I am quite blonde. Sad times.
Down the train wagon

We saw Stalin and Lenin and wandering around in the metro...

 Turns out that our friend doesn't know Moscow too well. But it was ok, detours only served as opportunities for weird Russians to ask for photos with her. Am quite sure that, in the eyes of Russians, all black people have just been washed up on their shores in their hollowed out canoes, ready to perform native tribal dances and be amazed at the advanced and great nation that is Russia. Drunks holding philosophical Dostoyevsky centred conversations with statues of clowns (I wish I'd taken a photo), electricity outside and even their own special form of democracy...ish-elections and all.
What happens when it rains?

She takes it very well. I don't know anybody else who would turn the semi racist attention into a lucrative business opportunity. Although apparently she hasn't been asked for photos since Petrozavodsk, when I spent much time dragging her away from abusive drunks, in the short time we were there, twice people approached asking for photos. And twice, she attempted to charge for them. Made somewhat less successful due to actually asking 'skolko stoit?', which actually means 'how much does it cost?', but did lead to entertainingly confused Russians. The gap in the market is most definitely there. 70 roubles per photo seemed a potentially extremely profitable gap, from last year's experience.
It's ok so long as the interest is genuine. Russians are curious people, asking more questions than perhaps would be deemed polite at home, but there is, without a doubt, much genuinely racist feeling here too, from observing people's reactions. Dear Russia, there are other countries in the world that are not you, with people who are foreign. Sometimes these foreigners are even quite educated. Go learn. I don't get abuse for walking down the road. Only when I open my mouth at the supermarket...   (Massive generalisation. ish. Most young people are pretty open to us being long as you're skin tone matches theirs...)

Standard trip around GUM (Massive and very expensive shopping mall in Red Square), grumbling over the masses of scaffolding and barriers around the Kremlin and St Basils Cathedral which ruined photo opportunities. All this followe by a trip to Burger King. We're so cultured.
Slightly ironical that Lenin is lying by a rather extreme form of capitalism*, McDonalds, anyone? GUM had nothing in it during Soviet shortages. Doesn't have that issue now...

Just by the Kremlin


*He's still in his mausoleum...not like, just having a little lie down amongst the tourists on Red Square. Poor guy wanted to be buried next to his Mother. What a smack in the face.

It should maybe have seemed a little stranger that we were all meeting up in Russia after not seeing eachother for at least 6 weeks (and since the end of last term for me), but nope. Sat around discussing our respective hosts and their bizarre habits, felt grateful to Firdaus for not presenting me with a cheese sandwich and exactly 8 pieces of pelmeni every morning. It feels a bit like they're our pets our something.

We found ourselves wandering round looking for shampoo that night at about 11, and had to settle on an apteka (chemist) which, while open at night, required you to knock at the little hatch window and explain what you want. Pre-conversation briefing to figure out what to say naturally went to pot when the chemist asked something unexpected, but got the shampoo in the end. I have now conquered the scary windows. Success! And it meant I wasn't too manky for the hospital the next day. People who pay stupid money for an appointment do not have greasy hair.

Skimming over the apointment (which lasted over 2 hours, thanks very much extreme stress and initial blood pressure over 185/130-surely I should have been dead?), we went to Park Pobedy and found an awesome war museum which had free entry for students. Score. Totally recommend this place, the monument outside was huuuuuge, the park has to be beautiful in Summer (we were freezing so I'm not sure I appreciated it quite so much-first snow that day) and the museum is full of lovely old babs who actually want you to be there and don't bark at you when ask where the toilets are. (Don't use them though. I'm not entirely sure why they were asian style...).

Archway by park Pobedy
Museum of the Great Patriotic War
Hall of glory, with names of Russia's war heroes.

The usual eternally burning flame

We found an ad for an Indian restaurant in the Moscow Times. No metro stop info though, just a vague area and 'opposite the Belarussian embassy'. We wanted curry. Quite a lot. Therefore, we decided to just roll on up at Kitai-Gorod metro stop and wander around, in the dark, until we found it.
It took some time, but we got our curry.
Slightly bizarre being greeted in Russian and switching between English and Russian to order and speak to the waiters, but the food was amazing. Full of expats, very expensive, totally worth it.
I have considered that it might be a little wrong that an Indian restaurant can feel so much like England. But then I dismissed it, because I freaking LOVE curry.

There were a couple of blokes from Scotland behind us and
a table full of Americans and English to the right.
At least one token Russian family, too.

Oh, and they had real hot towels at the end. I needed a flannel. I normally 'borrow' a glass from restaurants. I borrowed the towel this time. Score.


Kleptomaniac tendencies satisfied and it being the last day, we went to a shopping mall called MEGA. The name might give it away-it was big. And Western! M&S, anybody? We spent all day there - I will never buy leggings from anywhere but Berska, now; new discovery - until it was time to get the train back (where we were total celebrities just for being English), arrived back at Yaroslavl Glavniy Station, waited for a bus that never came and got a taxi home by midnight.

I should explain that I am not yearning to go home, at all (but I wouldn't say no to a Sunday Roast). However, Russia is very....Russian. And sometimes, it's nice to take a break from it. Which takes us right back to the start of this iliad of an entry. Moscow is great for a break, but I'm not sure what the value of the constant Westernisation would be to me. Waitresses tend to practise their English on us here in Yaro, but otherwise, nobody speaks it. We are forced into the culture. Moscow just seems too vast for me, I wouldn't know where to start with it and it would be oh so very easy to opt out of Russian entirely. The year abroad tutor likes Moscow a lot, but I'm glad I didn't listen to her. Yaroslavl was definitely the right choice for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment