Anyways, I get on the plane (which is late) and sleep for the first half of the two hour flight. When our snacks arrive and I wake up to eat. The guy who had been sitting next to me had been less than friendly up to this point, but I'm thinking he was a-hungry because after our meal he. would. not. shut. up.....for the next 6 hours!!
So this guy isn't from Elista, has a wife and a kid, speaks no English, works in construction and oil and all that. He was in Elista doing God knows what, but really enjoyed the Buddhist temples and meeting with the monks. This guy loves Buddhism. He also loves aikido, which means that he loves martial arts and Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van-Damme and of course Steven Seagal (who has, in this guy's view, the extra added bonus of being Buddhist). Since two of these aforementioned fellows have visited this fine town, I'm pretty sure this guy was on cloud nine here in Elista!
Well, we land and he, more or less, drags me out of the airport and we hop on a train for a 40 minute ride into the city (I am grateful for this. It was super cheap). But that also meant 40 minutes sitting next to him again. After some grueling conversation about what I can't remember, we arrive in Moscow where, much to my chagrin, he votes for the both of us that we do some hardcore sightseeing. All I really want to do is go to the hotel, check-in and get rid of my bag.
So carrying our bags (he had like 10 hours to kill before he went to his mother-in-law's place), we hopped the metro and, after him getting lost umpteen times, finally made our way to Red Square. We took all sorts of pictures around the Kremlin, Red Square, St. Basil's and just everywhere before finally settling down and getting us some McDonald's, which was packed of course and was a 30 minute wait.
|Me and my captor|
|An empty Red Square for Putin's bday|
After a few more pics, he finally let me go and make my way to the hotel where my orientation was to be held (that's why I was in Moscow; Fulbright had another orientation for us). We parted ways and he wasn't annoying like I make him out to be, he was a nice guy and fun to hang out with for a day, though I have to admit, I thought he had some big elaborate plan to kidnap me at first...
Anyways, the next few days were spent getting to know my fellow Fulbrighters better. We go to see the US Embassy in Moscow (pretty cool), had our digs at a swanky Moscow hotel (The Holiday Inn) and this time the orientation was really useful!
Aside from orientation, most of us did the touristy things. We went to Red Square. We went to stores and bought English books and whatever else American we couldn't get our hands on our own cities. We had spicy, delicious food (I had the spiciest thing ever...some beef Szechuan that was ridiculously spicy). We stopped in at ВДНХ (shout out to all you CIEE people out there and the good times at the Cosmos Hotel). We went to ГУМ (a super-expensive Russian mall at Red Square) and had ice cream. And we hung out in the hotel, had a few drinks and told war stories. I had a great time getting to know everyone better and it was fun!
|If you've ever seen a Soviet film, you know what this is|
|The infamous Cosmos Hotel|
|ВДНХ (or at least part)|
Since I opted to fly and our orientation ended on a Sunday, it meant I had Monday and some of Tuesday to do my own thing. So Monday I basically wandered around the city and got lost and saw some stuff! I saw The Cathedral of Christ the Savior seen here:
I saw some of Gorky Park, which was eerie beyond my comprehension and so I left without really getting to the cool part. They were, however, playing Christmas music there! On the last day there I tried to find the Fulbright office, but instead got horribly, horribly lost and had to abandon that plan before I missed my flight. No crazy talkative guy sitting next to me on the way back, just a nice quiet flight with some serious napping.
Oh I'd also like to note that when I studied in St. Petersburg in 2007, the first Starbucks in Russia opened in Moscow and many Russians didn't believe it would last due it not selling cigarettes or beer. Well, my friends, Starbucks is alive and strong in Moscow and there are approximately 15 or so in the city. Here's the proof:
So, Dear Readers , Moscow is just a hugely beautiful, absurdly expensive, abnormally crazy and unbelievably awesome place, but it was nice to get back to Elista. Here are some random pics of the city, please check out my link to my photo gallery with all my Moscow photos!!!!
|Can't remember what this is called, |
but there's a huge mall below it.
|The Kremlin &|
|Red Square, Gum (Гум) & St. Basil's|
|Moscow from my Hotel!|