This picture summarizes most of our day in Moscow. Well, maybe all of it. First, the fact that we are carrying umbrellas is a clear indication of a very rainy day. Second, the fact that my mother is doing a poor, poor imitation of the Morton’s Salt Girl is a clear indication of a very windy day.
Remember: Rain + Wind = Sideways Rain. So essentially, Moscow was exactly how I pictured it….very gray.
We started this day at the CRACK of dawn as we had to catch an hour long flight from St. Petersburg Airport to Moscow at 7am or something stupid like that.
Once we landed in Moscow – we then had a two hour drive from the airport to officially start our tour. Then we were suddenly standing right smack in the middle of what I think is one of the most historical pictures from my high school years – Red Square across from Lenin’s Tomb.
Sans the tanks, soldiers and missiles trekking across the parade route sending images of the USSR’s military punch to the rest of the world.
Signing up for the Moscow Tour meant signing up for a very long day. You go into it knowing that you’ll be dead on your feet by lunchtime and on total auto-pilot by dinner. You hope that you’ll remember to snap enough pictures and ingest enough information to appreciate the day further down the road.
In the beginning, you hope that everyone on the tour makes it back to the ship – we had multiple ship escorts and guides to ensure our we made it from point to point.
By the end, you have a mental list of folks you now hope do NOT make it back to the ship because you’re tired of listening to them bitch and moan about the weather, the length of the tour, the amount of walking on the tour and whatever else they can think of to say out loud.
First sign of potential trouble: When our guide (who looked an awful lot like Peter Pan) grouped us up for ten minutes to teach us how to pronounce the Metro Stop we would need to hop off on after our short ride on the Metro. And yes, we would need to quickly hop on and quickly hop off.
Metro? Really? You’re going to put 30 or so white bread Americans on a metro in downtown Moscow, expect them to quickly dash through the doors both on and off – oh, and if you messed up and got stuck, just repeat this word that has 42 letters in a totally non-sensical order.
PS: No pictures on the very steep escalator because it’s dangerous.
The other place in Moscow that can recreate fear from my childhood is the Kremlin. The place where the Cold War was plotted and maintained. Today, it still houses the business aspect of running Russia, but in a much friendlier environment. Well, aside from the tight security going in.
The most beautiful part of ‘inside the Kremlin,’ I think, is the square of churches. I guess I never really thought of Russia as a very religious country – I guess growing up, I assumed that anyplace that could instill such fear in the world would not be a place where pews and pulpits could be found.
Definitely wrong. Within the Kremlin, and within spitting distance of each other, there are four small churches.
I guess I wasn’t paying attention to why there were four – but I’d guess it’s because they are so small that there would be no way to fit too many people in any of them.
We visited a couple of them – always a terrible idea when you are nine or so hours into a long, cold day…yeah, sit us all down in a few churches and update us on the history of the practices.
Our next stop was to the Kremlin Museum – another place where cameras weren’t necessary. Or allowed. By this point, I was actually becoming thrilled to see “No Photos” signs. My brain was about fried and trying to focus, snap, focus, snap was really just too much for me.
So a museum didn’t help – but still was pretty wild. All sorts of Faberge Eggs, jewels, clothing from various royal events and a whole roomful of the various carriages and sleds the Tsars had used.
From the Kremlin, we moved on to a ‘typical’ Russian dinner – which basically consisted of vodka and beef stroganoff. Our goal was to be back at the airport by 9.00pm for an 10.30pm flight – we’d land in St. Petersburg at 11.30pm and be back on the ship by midnight.
Remember this girl?
The rains came DOWN. We sat and sat in the Moscow airport. Here’s the difference between our airports and, say, Russian airports.
In Moscow – there were no check in folks or status boards (well, there were boards, they just don’t update them). So basically, our group is parked on plastic chairs, physically holding our eyes open, with no clue as to when we’d be flying out.
We were hardly worried – yes, the draw bridges around St. Petersburg were all raised from 1.00am to 5.00am which would theoretically mean we wouldn’t be able to get to our ship after 1.00am…but still, as long as we took off before 11.30pm, we’d be fine.
So that didn’t happen. What did happen was a very late flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg and an actual bus race from the airport to the draw bridges. We were well past the 1.00am deadline with only a glimmer of hope in the form of one bridge that was lowered from 2.30am to 2.45am. If we missed it, we’d be sleeping on the bus.
Finally – we caught a break. We made the bridge – and as a reward were able to see the line of open drawbridges raised over the Neva River.
Something that I’d imagine nobody gets to see on a normal visit.
To really ‘get it’ – imagine a row of raised bridges for as far as you can see. You can also imagine me taking that picture if I’d been awake enough to pull out my camera.
Back on the ship – we were served early morning pizza and soda. Possible the best ever. Upon crawling into bed, we decided to bail on our second day of touring in St. Petersburg and catch up on some much needed sleep.
Still. All worth it.