I'll write whatever I want, dammit

da svidaniya Moskva

Tomorrow we leave Moscow, and as fun as the place has been, and as nice as the weather has been, I am glad to be moving on.

Moskva is a wonderful huge city, and in the summer it is a great place to be (I can’t imagine it’s that great in the winter). The people are generally nice, the streets are reasonably safe, and the women wear less than American women do, which is a bonus. The old women begging on street corners because they lost their pensions and apartments when the old regime fell are a stark contrast to the rich and hip kids driving around in their Mercedes’ and BMWs. The average apartment here costs 5 - 8 thousand dollars a month, so most people live in undersized apartments with other families to make ends meet. Shopping malls are filled with overpriced clothes and jewelry that most people can’t afford, but they scrape and buy it anyway because they need to fit in. There is no middle class here. You are either very rich or very poor (kind of the way things are headed back in the states, thanks to the dullards in our government). There are 100 women to every 74 men here, so the women are desperate, and the men seem disinterested. Although there are large corporations with legitimate jobs here, most of the successful businesses are on the seedier side of society - “Gentlemen’s” Clubs, “escort services”, casinos... Kind of sad.


I’m not much into tourist attractions, but I did get out to see some stuff that interests me. The other day, I went to Dynamo Stadium to go see a Dynamo football match, but it was sold out. I did get into the team store though, and bought some nice loot.
The next evening, we went for a cruise along the Moskva River:
Looking forward to a change of pace in Vladivostok.


Cucumber Festival

Although the day started off all wet and dreary:
It soon cleared up and got nice an hot, which I enjoyed immensely. We got on a bus at 7:15 and headed out to Vladimir and Suzdal. There were about 18 of us on this trip.

It did not say anything on the flyer for this trip about it being a guided tour, but sure enough there was a tour guide on the bus telling us about all of the great places she would show us. Unfortunately, to a Russian tour guide old churches are the only thing that are considered “great places”.

After about three hours we got to Vladimir, and true to form, the guide herded us up to a 12th century church. I used a crowd to hide my getaway and went for a walk around the city:
I got back to the bus before everyone else did, but the tour guide yelled at me about missing the “sights” and all that rot. I figured that this would happen all day, so to nip it in the bud, I told her that if I had known that this was to be a guided tour, I would not have come, and I am going to go where I want and look at what I want and do what I want because I paid for it.

That kind of worked...

We got back on the bus and an hour or so later we were in Suzdal, and the smell of pickles was in the air. I went with the group to see the wooden architecture museum, which was pretty cool:
Then I went walking around the little town (Suzdal is in the middle of nowhere and only has about 11,000 inhabitants). Lots of old houses, and you can drink beer on the street (!):
Now that’s the Russia I wanted, Babushkas waking their goats.
There was lots of junk for sale, but nothing really worth buying:
Lance bought a spinning wheel for his wife. I can’t even imagine how he is going to get that back to the States.

Then they herded us back on the bus to go see another church. The tour guide said that we were lucky, because they play the bells at this time of day (5 pm). Everyone stood there in rapt awe listening, as if Jimi Hendrix was playing the Star Spangled Banner. I used the diversion to take off and go back into town.

There was a guy selling pickles and shots of vodka, so I bought 2 - one for me and one for a friendly looking chap standing nearby, then he returned the favor. We went into a shop and bought 3 beers and went to the park, where his buddy was hanging out. I don’t speak Russian and they don’t speak English, but they had spent some time in Cuba and knew a little Spanish. We hung out on a bench in the park drinking our beers, soaking up the sunshine, and chatting it up about Russia and America for about 20 minutes or so until the group came back and got on the bus. I don’t remember much about the conversation, but we all had a great time and it was a good little session of international outreach.

It was a really good day.

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