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Sunday, July 3, 2011

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Walked in Napoleon's Footsteps

I have been so exhausted the last few days, I could not muster enough strength to write a blog! Yesterday was quite an experience at Borodino, the site of the main battle between the French and Russian forces during the War of 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia. I woke up at 5:30 AM in order to meet friends at the train station at 7:30, and my host mom out of pure hospitality woke up and made me a huge breakfast (An omalette infused with pasta, toast with eggplant, tomato and cheese, and coffee). As we were buying tickets at the train station near school, a pair of elderly women in front of us were taking a while to receive their tickets. This prompted everyone behind us to start barking at them to hurry up, and I could not contain my laughter because that would never happen in America. People in line would just roll their eyes, look at their watch, and keep their angry thoughts to themselves. It was an hour and a half train ride west of Moscow to a town called Mojaisk, where we planned to take a shuttle to Borodino. To our dismay, the next bus was scheduled to leave at 12:30 and it was only 10:00 when we arrived. We killed time by wandering around the market there, filled with clothes venders, vegetable growers, and caged chickens and ducks waiting to be sold. After the long delay, we boarded the bus to Borodino with mostly elderly folk and Russian folk music playing. This made me feel like discovered a more authentic Russia, outside of Moscow. For some reason, there was a traffic jam in this tiny town, and I melted away in the bus, as the sun burned through the window onto my sweaty body. After an hour or so on the bus, we arrived at the museum in Borodino and I was impressed by the sheer natural beauty of my surroundings. The Russian country side is amazing, and it was great to escape the city. Ultimately we walked 6 or 7 miles (estimation) around the area of Borodino, (fields, meadows, forests, trails, the works) and arrived at the Borodino train station to catch a train back to Moscow. After discovering that the ticket office was closed on Saturdays, we became distraught and were planning to hop on a freight train back to Moscow :P. We eventually got on the 7 o'clock train to Moscow, but first we bought a brick of cheese, some very crispy bread, and beer for dinner at a store where all the refrigerators were turned off (except the one with cheese, thankfully). The ticket guy on the train ripped us off, but we only figured this out once back in Moscow. A group of drunk Russian guys sat in our train car, and threw empty beer bottles out of the windows once the train reached a stop. I def tried to keep my distance from that crowd. All in all, it was a great but tiring day, except for when we could not manage to exit the Belorusskaya train station in Moscow because the machine wouldn't read our tickets. That made me feel like a moron :P. Today, I ate lunch at the McDonald's by my apartment, and I was impressed. Their menu is specialized, and you can get items not available in America. I'm not sure what was on my burger, but it was delicious. It was called in Russian, Биф а ля Рус с беконом. (Класно), or basically glorifying old Russia haha. Pics to come in a separate post.

DG




Sunday, June 26, 2011

Journey around Moscow

On Saturday my friend Joe and I planned on going to the Pushkin art museum in the center of Moscow. For some reason, neither of us looked at a map to see where the museum is located! I remembered passing by it on our bus tour, so I felt confident in my sense of direction. I was soon to find out it was a misleading confidence. First, we visited the Church of Christ the Savior, which never gets old to look at with its beautiful gold domes. Then, we set out to the museum, which we could not find after an hour of walking. After doing a two mile loop around the surrounding area, we ended back up at the same church. Frustrated but determined to find the museum, I refused to ask for directions. This did not help because we ultimately did not find the museum! As both of us turned out to be indifferent to the idea of the museum, we decided to find a snack at Gastronom Number 1 in the massive mall, Guum or Гум, on Red Square. Upon entering, the aroma of freshly baked bread and piroshki made me forgot the day's previous disappointment. There is everything in this grocery store: baked goods, fish, meat, pasta, vegetables, drinks, alcohol, coffee, chocolate. I ended up buying one banana, to the confusion of the fruit lady, and a couple piroshki with meat. We then went to the history museum on red square and wandered around in there for an hour or so. We were both disappointed, however, that the museum lacked a Soviet exhibit.  
On Sunday, I woke up at 6:45 expecting to go on a walking excursion around one of the boleuvard rings of Moscow. It had rained the whole night, and it was still raining when I left home. After sitting on the metro at 8:00, I receive a text from our resident director that the excursion is canceled due to weather. The fact that Jon texted us only 30 mins before the determined meeting time really annoyed me. After a minute of silent frustration in the metro car, I decided to take my own walking tour of the city, despite the rain. First I went to Moscow State and took some great pictures of the impressive main building of the university, one of the seven stalinistic skyscrapers. After wandering around Moscow State, I wanted to see the stadium Luzhniki. However, I got off on the wrong metro stop and got lost. It was a blessing in disguise, as I stumbled across the Novedevichi Monastery. Here, there are some beautiful golden domed churches and outer walls, not to forget the pond next to the monastery. As I believe, here Tsaikovsky gazed on the swans and got his inspiration for Swan Lake. I proceeded to take many photos. Then, I decided to return to Red Square and the center of the city in order to take more photos. This time, I focused on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Bolshoi and Maly Theatres. Here are some pictures, enjoy.