Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Russia

34,000 feet somewhere over Canada: has a bit of time and distance given me some perspective on Moscow? Maybe, let’s see…

The city is a fascinating mix of contrasts. On the one hand, the wealth in the city, as seen by London prices at restaurants and lots of fancy cars and shops, is shocking. You’ve come a long way baby! But on the other hand, bad roads, very dilapidated apartment buildings and a certain hardened look on the faces of many Muscovites show the toll that communism took. Interestingly though, many of the apartment owners have made the decision not to renovate, allow the value of the land to continue to increase and then sell and get rich! (Ah the joys of capitalism!)

Another thing I am still trying to get my head around is the police and military involvement in everyday life. On the one side, the police never stopped me and I even saw one soldier gladly taking a picture with a Japanese tourist. The other side, however, is that the police and military presence is overwhelming. Citizens also seemed very obedient when told certain parts of town (i.e. All of Red Square for weeks) were closed for no good reason. (NYers would go ballistic!)

On a more personal note, my biggest “wow, I’m in Moscow” moment came while discussing the city with Sergej. I often talk about the wonder of living in a unified Berlin last year. But as he pointed out, it was also not too long ago that an American would have only been allowed to visit as part of a special group, might have had a minder and would not have been able to freely shop at stores around town. (Though a minder would have been able to help with understanding street signs!)

In case my postings have been a bit scattered, here are some trip highlights:

Wed- arriving a speaking German for the first time in 7 months

Thurs- reception at the German Embassy

Fri- Nighttime tour of Moscow. We saw some of the oldest and most beautiful subway stops in the city. The subway was designed with “the people” in mind, both in terms of the art and its ability to double as a series of bunkers.

Sat- Cathedrals! I went into a church off of Red Square and the Cathedral of the Assumption and was awestruck. Orthodox churches are totally different from Catholic cathedrals in W. Europe. They are very, very colorful, lots of incense is used and male/female choirs sing songs that sound quite joyful (obviously didn’t understand the words.) I was also amazed that there are no pews so people stand throughout the services and to see that people throw their whole body into doing the station of the cross movement, kind of bowing as they make the sign (I think it’s called the station of the cross…can you tell I’m not catholic!)

Sun- Visiting the Tretkayov Russian art museum. Arkhip Kuinji is one of my new favorite artists. Trying Bulgarian food was also awesome! It reminds me vaguely of Greek food and I’ve already researched Bulgarian restaurants in NYC.

Mon- taxi to the airport—the driver ran red lights, drove between lanes of cars and my throat hurt after the 1.5 hour trip because the air was so toxic.

Now it’s time to get back to all my favorite things at home, but I return with many fun memories that I will not soon forget!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,

Glad your back in the US, but also glad you had the opportunity to visit Moscow. Places that are "different" are always so interesting. We will have to compare notes someday. My visits were back in the 70's in times of the cold war.

Love, G&G

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Lex said...

hi erin, can't wait to see you in sacramento! i think you mean "sign of the cross," since the "stations of the cross" are something that is at easter. but i haven't been in catholic school for sometimes, so i too might be mistaken...
see you soon!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Hi G&G, can't wait to compare notes. Grandpa, the Russians were most interested to hear that you travelled behind the Iron Curtain for work...but I couldn't remember everywhere you'd been.

Hi Lex, can't wait to see you too...can't believe we how long it's been since we've been in touch! I think you are absolutely right about the "sign of the cross." We Presbyterians don't know about such things...we don't even use real wine for communion:-)

1:29 PM  

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