Friday, April 26, 2013

Russia, Day 1

As usual, I spent the night before my flight with Jesse and Andrew at their place in London.  They found a great, old cemetery down the road from their flat and have wanted to show it to me since I first visited them, but it has always been closed.  This time, however, it was open.  We spent the night watching From Russia with Love and eating cheese I brought them as a bribe to let me stay with them. 
I left the next morning for the airport. 
 As I was flying in over Moscow I took a few pictures on my iPhone (having an iPhone really helps when travelling, if for no other reason than the camera). 
Moscow from the air.
When I got off the plane and went thru security I had a strange moment at the immigration desk.  After checking my visa and stamping my passport, the man on the other side of the bulletproof glass handed me my passport and said, in a very thick, guttural accent ‘Good luck.’  My sphincter clenched instantly.  Having a Russian government official say that to you as his way of welcoming you into his country is, well, slightly unnerving, even if I am obviously reading more into it than was meant. 

Tom met me at the airport and we went back to his place.  Tom bought us some beers to drink on the train as we went into the city.  Later, when we were walking from the metro to his apartment, we had some more beer.  It was strange walking down the street and just drinking beer, but in Russia it is allowed (I guess). 

The metro in Moscow is beautiful.  The Soviets decorated the stations like each was a mini-museum, showing off Soviet propaganda in brass and marble.  The one thing I can say that is better in Moscow than London is the metro.  It is cleaner, bigger, the trains come more frequently and the decorations are full of history.  There is a circular metro line that creates a perfect circle right in the middle of the city.  Tom told me an apocryphal story of its creation: the builders of the metro were showing Stalin their plans for the various metro lines, when Stalin put his cup of coffee in the middle of the paper.  When he removed his cup the outline of a circle was stained onto the paper.  Too afraid what might happen if they questioned Stalin about the circle, they just built the circular metro line.
Tom lives in a Soviet apartment block near the centre of Moscow.  It was really cool to see it.  It consisted of a wide hallway with three bedrooms, a tiny storage room, a full bathroom, a half bathroom and a small kitchen, all off the hallway.  There is no living room, but if it were a family apartment (instead of having rooms let out) Tom's room would have been used for that, since it is the largest.  Tom said it is the nicest place he has lived in in all the times he has been to Russia.
Since I arrived so late that is all we did. 

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