Sunday, May 13, 2007

?

What should I call this posting? “Thank goodness for the Russian fellows”? “God Bless America”? “Moscow detests tourists”? Any of these sentiments would be appropriate to describe the last couple of days.

First, thank goodness for the Russian fellows. Their hospitality, especially that of those from Moscow, has been incredible. It is a true testament to the importance of the Humboldt fellowship in fostering not only German-American but also American-Russian relations. Sergej and Nicolai could not have been nicer, taking us on Moscow for tourists and Moscow for insider tours around the city!!

“God bless America” and “Moscow Detests Tourists” are a couple other thoughts that came to mind yesterday (along with some other choice words.) I am not suggesting that everything be written in English, but lack of signs written in Russian but with the Latin alphabet leads one to quickly wonder if Muscovites really want tourists in town. The fellows insist that Muscovites are dreadful, stuck up and not representative of the rest of Russia. (Perhaps I now understand why Peter the Great moved the capital to St. Petersberg!) Frustration extends beyond just signage. Take our trip to the State Armory (without a Russian fellow) yesterday. We were told to go to three separate lines yesterday before finally being allowed to buy a ticket, but were then forced to also buy the audio guide and given “three minutes, go, go” to get into the museum. (Different prices for tourists and Russians are also completely common.) But of course I had to deposit my backpack at another spot first and pay to do so. We hurried to make it to the museum, only to stand behind 40 other people in the rain who were also waiting to go through the security. Then we had no choice but to put our coats in the coat closet (stop #4 if you are counting). Then we were given the audio tour, but with the caveat that we only had an hour to use it and would be fined if we weren’t back in an hour. In security line #2 we were told that no cell phones or cameras were allowed so we needed to take them back downstairs to the coat closet (where big signs in English say they are not responsible for valuables.) Back upstairs we are pointed away from the security line and to an unlabeled staircase, which is the actual way to the State Armory (not the Diamond museum where we had been no electronics.)

The Armory itself is fantastic! Catherine the Great’s coronation dress, royal carriages, fabrage eggs and gifts from other countries are among the highlights! There actually were signs in English in some of the display cases, though they had clearly been written before 1989 because they mentioned “brilliant” military victories won by the Russians and that the Fabrage was a “capitalist workshop.” The audio tour was also good (until my battery stopped working halfway through…no refund!)

Let’s just say that I’ve also been struck with a bit of Stalin’s Revenge (must had consumed some of the water without realizing it.)

But alas, I am determined to make my last day here the best yet. I’m off to the art museum and then to do some shopping (Sergej has generously agreed to come with me!)

I promise the next posting will be much more positive!

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