Friday, December 18, 2009

Better than nothing, I suppose...

Three days left in Russia. THREE DAYS. Holy Crap.

If I weren't so busy trying to get everything in order right now, I'd take this time to stop and reflect on all the memories from this semester, good and bad, and maybe on what I've learned as a result of living in a foreign country for the last four months.

Unfortunately, I have seven more pages to write about the Mongol Invasions, plus a hell of a lot of packing left to do. This introspective walk down Memory Road (or Memorii Prospekt) will have to be postponed for a later date.

Also, for some reason, I decided not to take a cab home last night, and instead walked all the way from Nevsky Prospekt down to Frunzenskaya, by way of Sennaya Ploshchad and Moskovskii Prospekt. I did this despite the temperature being close to 0 degrees (Fahrenheit), and also despite the rather heavily-falling hindsight, this seems a tad foolish. BUT I SAVED MONEY. And that is what counts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Apologies, Past and Future:

Hey again, everyone.

I know, I know...I've been more than remiss in posting, AGAIN. The thing is, I'm currently trapped in the middle of that hellish time of year known as finals week, and right now, I'm looking at a minimum of 3 essays, 2 finals, and 2 presentations, all of which are either scheduled or due at some point in the next THREE DAYS.

Suffice it to say, I will be pulling a couple of all-nighters, that's for damn sure.

This is still no excuse for me neglecting to keep all of you (well, those of you who still bother reading this, at any rate) updated on what I've been up soon as I am through with the rest of my "Hell Week", you have my deepest assurances that I will resume posting, and at greater frequency than I've previously been doing.

This is assuming that I don't choose to drown myself in the canal rather than finish this frigging essay for Civilization, I hate finals.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Moscow Concluded

So, I believe I left off with my visiting the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, yes? Well, shortly after that, I made what may have been the most stupid decision that I've made in all of Russia....that's right, I ate the shashlik. It was from a cheap kiosk next to the metro station, I was hungry, and it smelled REALLY good. Little did I know what sorts of agonies it would inflict on my digestive tract less than 24 hours later.

A Cheap, Delicious Mistake of Epic Proportions

Of course, I was not aware of this until much the time, it was tasty and affordable, which are my top criteria when it comes to food.

Anyway, getting back to my narrative...the next morning, I went with some friends to the Izmailovsky market located behind the hotel. I have never seen a more insane hodge-podge of stuff in my life. There were vendors selling just about everything...i saw mammoth ivory, tasers, chess sets, nesting dolls, wolf skins, icons, daggers, old Soviet medals, and even a guy who looked to be selling Kalashnikovs. (And NO, Mom, I didn't buy one.....although you'll probably have enough of a heart attack over what I did buy, hahaha)

Random souvenir-buying aside, the market was a very interesting place...later, I had lunch at the Moscow Hard Rock Cafe (not exactly my choice, but my friends wanted to go, so whatever). We took some silly photos with the monument to Alexander and Natalia Pushkin, and then Hillary and I made tracks for Kazansky Voksal (Kazan Station) to await our train.

Oh, except for one little problem: we didn't actually have our tickets yet (I'd purchased them online).

Yep, the one thing that we absolutely needed to get on the train, we did not have.

Fortunately, there was an E-ticket registration booth in the station, and the lady working there was EXTREMELY helpful...she managed to figure out what we were trying to do, despite ou mangled Russian, and after several minutes of searching through the station database, she found a way to print out our tickets, allowing us to embark on the Train Ride From Hell.

(The events of that train ride are in no way her fault, however, and I am still eternally grateful to her for being willing to put up with our shitty, shitty Russian and taking the time to check for our tickets despite my lack of a proper receipt)

This concludes Moscow....tomorrow, I will begin writing about Kazan.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Moscow

So, time to wrap up Moscow, if I can. The second day we spent here can be divided into two halves: the first, which I spent in the Kremlin with the rest of the group, and the second, where I went off on my own to do a little exploring.

Our Kremlin tour that morning was pretty cool...the weather was significantly less frigid than the prior evening. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had actually been able to get any sleep the night before. As such, I was in a bit of a mood when we started our tour, and it didn't really dissipate until much later in the day. Which is a shame, because there was some awesome stuff to see in the Kremlin, including Empress Elizabeth's ridiculous carriages, some of the more famous Faberge eggs, and Peter the Great's coronation throne. Oh, and this thing:

This thing is the so-called Tsar Cannon, built by Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich, son of Ivan the Terrible. At the time, it was the largest artillerypiece in the world, and still has the largest caliber for any cannon in history. According to our tour guide, when Boris Yeltsin came to power, he looked out the window of his office and saw the cannon was aimed directly at his window. Twenty minutes later, Yeltsin had moved to a new office.

After a lot of cathedral touring, during which I saw the tombs of some of the most illustrious rulers of Old Muscovy, including Dmitrii Donskoi and Tsar Alexei, everyone split up and went their separate ways...which, to be perfectly honest, I can't say particularly bothered me. There's nothing that's been more annoying in Russia for me than having to go through tours with some of my fellow students, many of whom couldn't give a damn about Russian history.

Anyway, I decided that with my free afternoon, I was going to go visit the reconstructed Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which had been demolished in the 1930's on the orders of Josef Stalin. In its place, after deciding that his 'Palace of the Soviets' was physically unbuildable, he built......wait for it......a giant swimming pool. (sigh)

...As you can see, this thing is both gorgeous and absolutely GIGANTIC. Once you get past the Kremlin, it absolutely dominates the skyline of central Moscow from all directions. It's lovely enough on the outside, but on the inside, the beauty and elegance are magnified by a factor of 10.....upon stepping inside, I honestly felt that I had somehow entered a purer, more spiritual place, as cliched as that may sound. The beauty was unquestionable, but not excessively so, and the decoration didn't constantly clamor for your attention like it does in other places, such as Westminster Abbey. Alas, as a working Orthodox cathedral, photography of the interior is strictly forbidden.

Tomorrow, I PROMISE that I will finish up with Moscow and then move on to more interesting crap. Cross my heart and hope to die.