Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Summarizing Travel Week...if I can

I really wish I'd had some sort of reliable internet access over travel week, because then I would have been able to summarize each day individually...instead, I'm stuck trying to summarize the entire ten days, lazy bastard that I am. I'll try my best not to fall into the temptingly-easy pattern of bullet-pointing everything I did, so in this post, I will just stick to what I did in Moscow for the first three days. In the next one, I'll talk about Kazan, and so on from there.


We took an overnight train from St. Petersburg's Moskovskii Station...of all the trains I rode on during travel week, this was probably the only one that I can say I actually enjoyed at all. We were in a four-person room on a sleeper car, and for once, I wasn't stuck with one of the numerous crazies or assholes (of which our program seems to have a near-unlimited supply). I also got to watch the movie "The Big Lebowski" for the first time, which was a further plus.

The next morning, around 6-7 am, we arrived, whereupon we headed straight for the hotel for breakfast...and only breakfast. Since we were running a little behind schedule, we didn't even have time to put our luggage in our rooms, but instead had to file back on the bus for a city tour. We drove around for a while, while our guide did his best to hold everyone's attention with interesting facts and anecdotes about Muscovite history and geography. Unfortunately, most of us were dog-tired from the late ride (a substantial number were also hungover), and so only two or three of us were awake to listen to our guide's awesomely corny jokes.

When we finally arrived at St. Basil's, we were given approximately 45 minutes to rush around Red Square and take photos...hardly enough time to properly do justice to one of the most history-rich locations in the entire Russian Federation. Still, I did manage to get some awesome shots of the cathedral, the kremlin towers, and the State History Museum (plus G.U.M., the largest shopping mall in Russia), before we were whisked back aboard the bus to continue our city tour.

The next stop was Novodevichy Convent, an old religious complex housing, among other things, the graves of numerous important Russians, as well as the lake which is said to have inspired Tchaikovsky while he composed Swan Lake. There were also some bronze duck statues donated by then-First Lady Barbara Bush, for some obscure reason that I've already forgotten. It's a very pretty setting, despite the cold and cloudy day, and I'll post pictures of it very soon...definitely a great place to take a relaxing walk on a fall afternoon.

After that, we drove around Moscow for a while longer, passing such varied sights as the Olympic ski jump, Sparrow Hill, Moscow State University, the White House (former house of Russia's parliament, and current office of Vladimir Putin), the Arbat district, the Bolshoi Theater, and the deceptively nonthreatening Lyubyanka, former headquarters of the KGB....

Man, is it already 3 am??? Crud, I'm supposed to wake up early to go to the Hermitage tomorrow morning.......aaaargggh, why do I DO this to myself? (Mom, don't answer that)

Okay, I'll just post this now and resume where I left off tomorrow evening. Night, everyone!

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