From Russia With Love

{who saw that title coming?}

My third trimester Russian babymoon is over and done with, and I lived to tell the tale obviously. I have so much I could say about this, so I think I’ll break this post up into two parts. Today, I’ll show some highlights of the trip, and then next time I’ll cover what I did to prepare, what I packed, etc. Because trust me, “what to pack to Moscow in January” is remarkably undercovered here on the Internet. (Wonder why?)

We arrived in the afternoon on Monday at 3pm, after a remarkably smooth 9 hour flight. Monday turned out to be ‘Old New Years Eve’, a minor holiday in Russia. “New” New Years (Jan 1) is the biggest holiday in Russia, and that’s when Santa visits Russian children, rather than Christmas Eve. So this being effectively a minor version of New Years Eve, we found Russian Santa and his daughter in a holiday market set up in Red Square.  We busted up a bunch of kids to get this picture with Russian Santa and his daughter the Snow Girl (or something like that).

Santa and Daughter Frost

Santa and Daughter Frost, not your average mall santa costumes either

Tuesday we got up just in time to see the sunrise at approximately 10am. This side effect of Moscow’s latitude was not helpful for jet lag mitigation.  However, that was pretty much our schedule for the rest of our trip: staying up till midnight or 1am and then sleeping in till 9 or 10am. In some ways, this is just part of the life of Moscow, where life tends to happen a bit later in the day than we’re accustomed to over here in the US. And I never did kick that morning jet laggy feeling.

Late morning sunrise

Good morning sunshine! (Its 10am.)

We saw the biggest tourist stops – Red Square, the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral. Being the dead of winter, the tourist lines were minimal, and English speaking tourists were no where to be found. Even being the capital, Moscow (probably all of Russia) really doesn’t cater to foreign tourism as an industry.  There’s only English signage at the most touristy of locations, and none on the street signs, etc. I gather that the Russian attitude towards tourism is along the lines of ‘Hey don’t be an idiot and figure it out.’  Luckily we had Sarah to act as tour guide and translator. I do regret not versing myself in Cyrillic a bit better before the trip.  FYI “Щ” makes the “sh” sound but I never did learn all the letters. 😦

Hello Mr Putin! (at the Kremlin)

Hello Putin! (at the Kremlin)

Shiny gold domes at one of the Kremlin churches

Shiny gold domes at one of the Kremlin churches

Iphone panorama

Iphone panorama

We ate a lot of unusual foods, but nothing too shocking. Lots of beets, potatoes, buckwheat, meat, tea, and lots of cookies / tortes / candies (thank goodness! I do prefer cultures that emphasize dessert… )

Tasting an herbal tea made from a special Russian berry

Tasting an herbal tea made from a special Russian berry

We rode our fair share of subway trains, and I was often forced by a stern looking babushka to take her seat. Let me tell you, that is an unusual experience – switching places with an old woman on a subway train due to pregnancy. And let me tell you, there was no arguing with them – pregnant women have to sit or else they’ll go in to labor right there on the spot or something.

Believe this was the first of several times an old lady vacated her seat for me

Believe this was the first of several times an old lady vacated her seat for me

Oh, and the subway stations were endlessly fascinating to me – many were built during the height of the Soviet era and not at all bashful about it. The decor usually focused on happy Soviet citizens doing happy Soviet things.

Soviet era artwork in the rear

Soviet era artwork in the rear

We wrapped up the trip with an evening of outdoor ice skating at this trippy skate park, complete with special effect lights frozen under the ice and a Nivea warming hut. This was the coldest night of the trip, but we were prepared. I’m not a good ice skater (blaming it on the baby bump) but it was a great way to wrap up the trip. Well, that and the fabulous Georgian restaurant we visited right after. More on that later!

Trying desperately not to fall and break my phone or anything else...

Trying desperately not to fall and break my phone or anything else…

In general, you would think that Moscow and western Russia would be fairly European, and they are a bit. BUT, at the same time, the Russian culture is really all their own. Everything is just a little bit different than you might think. They have a fascinating and complex history that’s fairly separate from the Roman / Anglo history I’m more familiar with. Its not the easiest place to live, and as a people they’ve been through a lot and continue to struggle through hard times in many ways. You can see it on their faces in the metro… and as they roll their eyes at you for taking up too much space… as they push their grocery carts through a foot of snow.

All in all it was a great trip, pregnancy, time change, snow, and all.  Of course its always good to land back in the good ole US of A.


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About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer

2 responses to “From Russia With Love”

  1. bethanybordeaux says :

    I am so so glad your trip was amazing! Pretty sure you are the only person I know who would voluntarily go to Russia, in January, in your third trimester of pregnancy and have a wonderful time. It’s yet another reason that I love you.

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