My Russian Experience...
Highs: The armoury building in the Kremlin (where we saw the outfits, carriages, thrones, crowns,
Fabberge eggs, etc.); the Hermitage; the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (the majority was
Lows: How expensive it is out here; seeing how hard off the older people are without communism; a
close-up look at St. Basil's; regretting not buying a 15-piece matryoshka doll in Moscow.
Best Moment: This is really hard to answer. I loved venturing around Moscow. But I also loved
the comfort and warmth of our homestay in Listvyanka. And also the days and nights that seemed to
go way too quickly on the train.
Saddest Moment: There is a place outside of Red Square where people throw a coin (probably
for good luck). We saw several older women standing there literally pushing each other to get the
coins. That is how badly they need the money.
Smells: Smoked fish.
Sounds: Church bells ringing at the monastery (absolutely beautiful); the singing of priests inside
the church; cows 'moo'ing; the absence of cars honking (yes, I can now hear the absence of this).
Sights: Hermitage; St. Basil's Cathedral; Kremlin; Lenin's body in the mausoleum; Stalin's tomb;
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts; older women begging for money.
Tastes: Smoked fish; blinis with salmon; Red October chocolate; blintz-like things; pieroshkies;
vodka; Baltika beer.
Purchases: Matryoshka dolls.
Street Food: Ice cream; potatoes; savory pastries; apples; popcorn.
Fun Food Finds: Spreadable dark chocolate (same style as 'Laughing Cow' cheese); 'Twix-els' in
chocolate-orange flavor (instead of caramel); my much-adored Fazer chocolate mints; 'CCCP' ice
Things You Can Buy on a Train Platform: blinis; different kinds of pastries; roasted
chickens; boiled potatoes; pieroshkies; apples; newspapers; chocolate; cigarettes; beer; chandeliers;
stuffed eagles; fur hats; stuffed squirrels on sticks.
Surprising Things: How expensive it is out here; the amount of wealth out here (referring to
Moscow); the cleanliness; how manageable it is to get around; how easy it is to read Russian.
Western Companies Out Here: MacDonald's; Sbarro; Carl's Jr.; Baskin Robbins; just about
every designer store; Hard Rock Cafe.
Other General Info...
Visa needed? Yes. Don't even get me started on what it took to get this. Of course it would have
been quite simple to get it in San Francisco. But that wasn't an option (since I was leaving five months
before coming here and you can only obtain it up to three months in advance). After three trips to
Russian consulates and embassies, I finally emerged successful in New Delhi, India.
Type of currency? Russian Rubles. Approximately 27 equal $1 US.
Wallet Friendly? No. Moscow was one of the most expensive cities I have been to (next to
Reykjavik, Iceland and London). Dining out is expensive! I ended up eating in food courts and buying
groceries and self-catering.
Things Russia Is Known For: Caviar; former Communism; ballet; vodka; matryoshka dolls;
cold War; Trans-Siberian railroad.
Main Souvenir Items to Buy Here: Matryoshka dolls; fur hats; black, gold and red lacquer
bowls; things with Soviet emblems on them.
Religion: Russian Orthodox.
Costs: $700 (this includes the $300 local payment for my tour)