Archive for Russia

The Moscow Metro – Those WWII POW’s really can work!

If you do make it to Moscow to see Red Square or……. well, Red Square, you definitely need to make a side trip just to cruise around on the metro. Basically, it’s the Soviet apology to its citizens for the fact that they had to live 4 families to a room. At least everyone could go to the metro to see chandeliers, statues, murals and pretend that they live in a palace instead of jammed into a tiny flat. Created using thousands of Nazi slaves, it is quite an achievement and a testament to what a dictatorship can do with the slaves from another dictatorship.

The Russian Banya. It has to be done.

The Russians invented the Banya because during a Russian winter one can feel as if he will never be warm again. It’s the kind of cold that seeps deep into your bones and holds on tight. Only the Banya can have victory over this kind of frost. Basically the Banya is a room (either a little log house or a more professional, spa-looking sauna) where they jack up the heat to unbearable levels. Sometimes dry, sometimes steam, one sits and sweats and sweats with periods of running out into the cold to regain your sanity. While these sweat rooms are fairly common in the colder countries, what makes it peculiarly Russian (other than the usual copious amounts of Vodka) are the “Veniki”. These are birch twigs with leaves attached, used to slap all over your body to “get the blood moving”. I think it adds just a touch of cruelty to make every Russian feel at home. Probably the best part of the Banya is that the Russians put so much effort into it. They get that gleam in their eye, kind of a dangerous gleam but you know it’s going to end up good.

The Secret to eating weird food

Eating nasty food is well…. nasty. I’ve known some who will pretend that something is tasty and eat it for the local experience but I don’t have that kind of stomach nor that ability to lie to myself. Some food is just stinking gross and that’s the way it is.

I will try things before I write them off, though, and some things really are an acquired taste. In answer to the question in your head, yes, there are times when we just need to suck it up and eat so as not to offend. As an example, I offer the following: red caviar that looks like it should be on the end of a fishing hook. This is served “tastily” on a slab of butter and a slice of white bread. Basically the bread and butter just prolong the suffering of the fish eggs.

Oh no.

Oh no.

THE SECRET: bite – swallow – say “thanks”. Don’t chew, just get it down as quickly as possible or your taste buds might have something to say about it. Let your host know how much you appreciate it but don’t be too enthusiastic or you might have to eat more.

Moscow Airport Security – Nicer…..Yet Not.

Yes, the Moscow airport, Sheremyetovo 2, is trying to put on a little bit of a better image as you enter and
He lives in their hearts
He lives in their hearts

exit through passport control. They have a saying over there, though: “After all the upgrades and changes, things are finally the same as they ever were.”

Intimidating stares, rude questioning, long lines are still the name of the game, don’t think that is going away.
There is a new transfer system, however. When transfering between airports to get to your in-country distinations, you are now supposed to take a shuttle bus to make it easier to bypass all the rude taxi drivers and such. You can also do your passport control while getting to this transfer bus. The catch is that while transfering by shuttle you must first find out where it is. Since there are no signs in English or Russian, this can be difficult as you go through the rat’s warren of hallways to get there. Next, just because you have tickets for your next flight doesn’t mean they have a record of them in THEIR computer or that they will be able to find your reservation. This means that the process will hold you at least long enough to miss your flight before they turn you back to go the same old taxi route. Ahh, Russian improvements…….new hoops to jump through….. for your convenience.