My sister had been working with a charity organization in Moscow, Russia for several years. Throughout that time we had been corresponding with her by mail and were fascinated with her tales and interesting stories and experiences in Moscow! It was at that time, to our surprise, she sent a message to my mother inviting us to come and help with some of the projects she was working on.
After several months of preparation we were off to embark on an adventure we would never forget. An episode which would seem extraordinary in comparison to the routine vacations we had been accustomed to taking on holiday in our own country.
When I first arrived in Moscow the first thing I noticed at the airport terminal was how seemingly dull and aloof the Russian passengers seemed to be. However, upon leaving the airport I was immediately intrigued by all of the ancient sights. Going through Moscow was like a little tour because there was so much to see. I was later to learn that the people of Russia were not only interesting, but full of spirit and culture.
Our flat was a yellowish colored building from the late eighteen hundreds, it was nothing like anything I had ever seen before, the courtyard was spotted with colorful Russian babushkas chatting away, on the latest neighbor hood gossip, as I passed them by one of them looked at me with and owlish stare, as if to say “what are you doing here?”. The courtyard also had a little area with play equipment, and pick nick tables.
The first night I was in Moscow I couldn’t sleep due to jet lag, but late in the morning I woke up and was ready for my first adventure. I ran in the living room to waken my sister and mother but they were already up and about. I asked my sister to take me somewhere really unusual, someplace that would be breathtaking. She took my mother and I to the Kremlin and breath taking it was. It was the moment I had been waiting and I was soon to finally witness the beauty of the Kremlin. I remember how big it was and it took the rest of the day to tour the entire area of the Kremlin. Boris Yeltsin was president at the time so the Kremlin was his official residence, but he wasn’t there for the most part.
The first thing we saw that was in the Kremlin was the famous bridge that Napoleon Bonaparte and his great army had rode on during their mission to conquer Russia; and to be able to walk on that very bridge was like going back in time.
We walked by a snack area where some people were performing on the side walk, and kids were riding on their sleds. One of the kids let me borrow his sled and I experienced my first sled ride. After sledding down the hill a couple times we were off to visit the next sights.
When you walked into the main entrance of the Kremlin there was a quaint little church. The exterior was painted a light pink, and the interior had all sorts of beautiful sealing paintings, and Russian Orthodox art. In addition to the beautiful domed ceilings there was an enormous display of the tsar’s old jewelry. There were scepters made of gold with engraved rubies and stones from emeralds to sapphires, and even diamonds. There were also crowns laden with gems and stones, each one was unique, each one was a wonder.
After visiting that sight we headed off to Saint Basils Cathedral. Now there is a story behind Saint Basils Cathedral that I feel compelled to share. The church was originally built by Ivan the Terrible in 1555-61. It was called the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin (Pokrovsky Sobor) to commemorate the capture of Kazan, capital of the khanate of Kazan, on the festival of the Intercession of the Virgin in 1552. According to the chronicler, the architects of the cathedral, Postnik and Barma, were sent by God to Ivan the Terrible. There is a story that Ivan had them blinded after the building was completed, of course this story is only a myth for there was no evidence that any such event had occurred, “Ivan the terrible was a Virgo”.
Saint Basils Cathedral was a beautiful sight but only on the outside, the inside was very plain, and blase. According to my sister the inside used to be very beautiful, but it was never kept up due to the churches lack of finances, but later on it was restored, but not to its original state. A lot of the Russian Orthodox wall, and ceiling paintings had been painted over because there was no use in trying to repaint what was originally there.
We had spent almost the whole day at the Kremlin but there was one more sight I wanted to visit, this is the sight that I feel was of the greatest interest in my entire tour of the Kremlin. The sight was a burial grave of Vladimir Lenin, now this was no ordinary burial sight, it was a glass case which allowed you to see Vladimir Lenin preserved, So they had the real Lenin standing there before your very eyes dressed in a black suit. After we visited that sight We were getting achy and tired so we left.
When we came home we told all of our friends and family about our exciting visit to the Kremlin, and after that my sister treated us to some of her home made borsht. (This is a delicious, traditionally made soup.)
We went to bed and woke up at around two in the after noon the following day, we put our clothes on, drank some great Russian cream soda and we were off on our next trip. This time we were to see a ballet, I remember exactly what ballet it was too, it was Romeo & Juliet. I even cried because I was so taken by the performance. After we watched the Ballet and wept like babies, we went out to a nice Greek dinner.
The third day I was there I was playing on the playground, because we had a court yard with a play area, and I met this really interesting person named Timor he was from Uzbekistan, we automatically connected we started discussing the war in Bosnia because, America was at war with Yugoslavia during that time. We talked for hours and hours, and by the end of the day I made a friend.
Soon he started teaching me how to speak Russian, and in no time at all I was almost speaking Russian fluently. He was only one amongst the many people I met in Russia who were good genuine people. Its funny because Russians seem so cold and distant from first impression but when you got to know them they are the most amazing people. Traditionally Russians are also very polite and sociable; you will never lack a cup of tea or be forgotten on your Birthday by a Russian friend!
There are many Cities in Russia but Moscow is definitely
Russia’s land mark, St. Peters Burg, runs a good second. My mother and I actually considered going to St. Peters Burg but it wasn’t in the stars.
Winter passed quickly and it was time for us to take our visa.
The funny thing is, while visiting Moscow there were a variety of neighboring European countries we could have visited to renew our visa, but for some peculiar reason my mother chose Estonia.
I enjoyed the train ride there but the beds were small and uncomfortable and the train was noisy and irritating, but in the day time it was really fun to ride on.
When we got to Estonia it wasn’t much of a culture shock because in my opinion it reminded me of Russia, but it was cleaner. It was like a hybrid between Sweden and Moscow. It was part of the Soviet Union at one time but then it became it’s own country, but some of the buildings and monuments looked very similar to the ones in Moscow, but all and all we had a nice stay there. We went to the movies and saw Shakespeare In Love, and then we toured the capital of Estonia.
After we came back to Russia it had been a nearly been a six month stay, and we were starting to miss our family and friends in America, we stayed in Russia one more month before we decided to return to the States. Three weeks before we left it was my birthday, July 4th, Independence day. We hosted a nice birthday bash with all of our friends and family. It was a birthday party that will never be erased from my memory!
Of course the last couple of weeks we were there we tried to absorb as much time as possible doing fun things like going swimming at the lakes and going to all of the museums we could. You could get any where in Moscow by subway, trolley, or taxi. (very inexpensive)
Another enthralling place we visited in the summer timer was Victory Square. There was a huge roller-skating area there with several Russian orthodox cathedrals; there were also mosques. It was a very interesting place.
For some reason every person I have met that has not been to Moscow has been joined with the notion that Moscow is cold all year long, but that is a misconception because Moscow is scolding hot in the summer time, it even gets as hot as California for a short time. The lakes in northern California are nicer though because a lot of lakes in Moscow are rather polluted.
Well our three weeks were almost over and our flight was on the 21st of July so we had to start packing our things. Leaving Moscow was excruciatingly painful because we were so attached to Moscow and it was so rich in culture, and it was simply a very exciting place to visit, but we decided that it was time to go home! We left early in the morning. A friend drove us to the airport, and my best friend Timor accompanied us for our last couple hours of being in Moscow, When we arrived at the airport we cried as we said our final goodbyes. We boarded the plain and we were off, that was the last time I ever saw my dear Russian friend Timor.
On the way to the U.S. we stopped in Finland for seven hours, I didn’t get to see much of Finland but I got to take a little tour, Finland was just as I thought it would be, clean, orderly and beautiful, along with that however it was very expensive in Finland. A burger was seven dollars, a short bus ride was nine dollars, and by the time we had finished our tour, and our little lunch, we had spent over sixty dollars, and we barely did anything of much amusement. But I am sure that if I would have stayed there long enough I would have had more fun.
After our seven hour wait we boarded the plane once again, and that was the end of our European experience, it all seemed to come and go so quickly, and now I wish I would have done more while I was in Europe.
Over all I think traveling to Moscow was the most enriching experience, before I went to Moscow, I had also been to Japan, South Korea, and Mexico, I was actually born in Japan. I would never trade in my traveling experiences for the world, living in Moscow was very mind broadening.
I think that every one should get a chance to travel as it is a very rewarding and inspiring experience, because as the saying goes, the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know, and in my opinion that is the beauty of traveling to different countries. Many people get stuck in one place and they never get a chance to see the world, and I think that it is a very sad thing. My experience abroad made me a nicer person and I learned all sorts of things, good and bad, but most of all it taught me to appreciate life and enjoy life more than I did before. In Moscow it seemed as if something interesting happened every day, and Moscow definitely teaches you to embrace the novel and the unexpected.