Holy cow what a day it has been! My travels started on Wednesday afternoon from Dallas. After getting my boots shined I boarded the flight to Detriot and then Amsterdam then to Moscow. The flight from Dallas to Detriot was fairly routine and nothing out of the ordinary. I had a quick 20 mins layover in Detriot before they started the boarding process for the flight over the pond. The flight over consisted entirely of movies, almost 4 in total, with about an hour or so of sleep. I was surprised by the quality of the food and beverages. I started out the course with an old fashion, a chicken spinach pasta with a country club portion of red wine, only to finish the course off with a brownie and a little coffee with baileys.
Once I arrived in Amsterdam I was blown away by how prepared the airport was for foreign visitors. At each gate, there was a person with a spreadsheet of each passenger’s connecting flight. She was able to guide me to my gate and then the pub. What a wonderful lady she was! At this point it was about 9:30 local time and I decided it was time for a beer. After a couple of local ales, I found my way back to my gate and boarded the 3-hour flight to Moscow. I was very fortunate to have some younger people around me for this flight. After a quick nap, I joined their conversation. 3 of them were from England visiting family in Moscow, nice kids full of English humor. Next to me was a fellow from Moscow who gave me some great recommendations in Moscow. It also turned out he was a huge fisherman in the rivers around Moscow, the remainder of the flight was spent talking about fishing stories.
I had finally arrived Thursday 4 O’clock in the afternoon in Moscow! After making it thru customs or passport control, a brief encounter with the local authorities I hopped on the Aeroexpress to take me into the center of Moscow. The Aero Express takes you from the airport a local train depot and metro station. This is where things got interesting, to say the least. Let me also preface this with Moscow’s population is about 15-17 million including the suburbs. They are also incredibility efficient at public transportation. So walked off the Aero Express to what seemed like a normal size crowd. After communicating with some of the locals via my limited Russian, and an email from the hostel telling me where to go they pointed me in the right direction. I purchased a metro card for about $1usd and headed down the escalator. The escalator led me to some flights of granite stairs which opened up to the platform and about a thousand people. The architecture of the metro belongs in cathedrals honestly. I searched around the metro map trying to figure out which trains to take. Luckily the Russians color coded the lines like we do too. I scurried onto the crowded train with the other 1000 people to pack us in there tight like a tiger. Another fun fact I learned about Russians is their sense of personal space on public transportation is non-existent. After arriving at my destination walking back up the granite staircases thru the cathedral of a metro I myself finally in the city center of Moscow. I pulled up the email reading thru it, again and again, to find the markers only to not find them, anywhere. I pulled up the City2go app that I had pre-marked with the hostel’s location only to find out to my misfortune, that I was in the wrong spot. My best guess is I should have gotten off the metro about 3 stations ago. But looking on the bright side I figured this would give me more time to see Moscow.
As I walked along the streets I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of weather. Before arriving in Moscow, anytime someone talked about it I thought of the typical movie scenes taking place. Cold wet day, a bunch of bad guys huddled around a table chain-smoking cigarettes. As I turned the corner I saw a group of local policemen in that exact same situation and couldn’t help but laugh. They stared at me and yelled something to me in Russian waving to come over. I decided to play the part of the dumb American and turned the corner walking away from what I’m sure would’ve been a great story (you’re welcome mom). I arrived at my hostel about 7 pm local time, for those who forgot I arrived at 4 pm.
After unpacking I began to wonder around the nearby neighborhood until I found a local establishment that fancied me. The restaurant was an old air raid shelter that had beer and food, exactly what I was looking for. Now, one of the only phrases I can say perfectly in Russian is ‘I would like a mug of beer please.” I never thought to learn the follow up of what type of beer. After some back and forth I realized I had google translate on my phone with the conversation feature. After utilizing that amazing feature I had a couple beers on the way. For food, I decided to let fate decided and when the bartender came back with my beers I pointed at the menu to an item that looks good. Holy shit was fate on my side. Later using again google translate’s camera function which translated the menu’s description for me. It was a veal burger, with bacon, cheese, two sweet and tangy sauces, some type of local vegetables with fries. I know I told myself that I’d be eating Russian food but I’ve never had a burger like that in the States. I made it back to the hostel where a group was hanging out drinking and catching my second wind I joined them. They were going out to a bar around a corner and I figured let’s go. We jokingly called our new group NATO, because it consisted of a Norwegian, English, Israelian, German and American. The bar was fantastic with really good Russian beer and 80s/90s American classic blaring in the background. We stayed there till almost 4:30 am local time making it back to the hostel in time to see the sunrise before going to bed.
I hoped you enjoyed the stories from day 1. Today it’s sunny and beautiful 60 degrees out so I’m going to head to the Kremlin and Red square to have look around there.