Kade kneels next to a stream formed by the San Francisco Glacier, about two hours outside Santiago, Chile.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Russia, Day 3














  
 
Day Three  

Today was a big day.  It was the day to meet Jon, a guy from Albany, GA, whom I had been corresponding with for several weeks.  He’s an American expat now living in Moscow.  In the morning, in order to be on time, we jumped on the metro and headed for Pushkin Square.  The weather was very lousy – rainy and cool.  We waited for Jon on a park bench near the famed Pushkin statue.  About 10 after 9 AM, up walks Jon.  Jon is a very Southern guy.  He had just had his teeth knocked out after hitting a railing while attempting to get on a bus.  The whole moment of meeting him and “sizing him up” was very entertaining.  I just knew the day was going to be interesting.  Before setting off on one of our long walks, we stopped and had some coffee at a fairly swanky coffee bar in the area.  The bill for three coffees totaled about $20!   

Jon wanted to take us down Tverskaya, all the way down to the Kremlin.  We contemplated telling him we had already done this, and finally gave in and did just that.   As we walked down Tverskaya it was obviously less chaotic and bustling as the first time.  It was just a different time of the day.  We stopped and took photos at the statue of the founder of Moscow and posed in front of the mayor’s office, a gorgeous piece of architecture that is rosy pink.  Once we made it down to the Kremlin, Jon took us into Alexander Park, where we saw the Changing of the Guard for the first time.  We were impressed with the ritual all the pomp that went along with it.  When we in the garden we noticed a long line of people waiting to see Lenin’s body.  Jon explained a bit about the horse stable that the Czar maintained.  It was as long and wide as a football field! 

We walked out onto Red Square and Jon took some photos. The weather was still not cooperating, but we had to endure.  Jon then took us between St. Basil’s and GUM, to an area known as Kitai Gorod.  He pointed the modest home of the first Czar and the headquarters of the Romanov Court, which was genesis of the ruling dynasty.  We then made our way around a huge construction site (the former Russiya Hotel) and to a spot on the Moska River embankment.  This was truly impressive.  Beautifully-painted buildings lined both embankments and there was a huge fountain at a spit where the river divides into two parts.  In the distance, the goliath “seven sisters” towers could be seen, along with other city landmarks such as the TV tower and new gleaming office skyscrapers. 

Jon then walked us past the famous Tretyakov Gallery Museum.  The gallery’s design is extraordinary and represents a purely Russian style.  The streets and neighborhoods in the adjacent area were also very unique.  This whole area would have been worth revisiting a few times.  There was a lot of history in the area and the buildings and churches themselves were very pleasing to the eye.   

For lunch, we ate at an Uzbek restaurant.  It was a chain restaurant designed to resemble the now independent country of Uzbekistan.  There was a fabulous salad bar along with a host of Uzbek specialties.  I was in heaven!  It was here that Kade got her first taste of shaslik.  Shaslik means barbecue or a skewer of meat.  Kade ordered a chicken shaslik.  Out of this world!  The salad bar was as delicious as it looked.  I loved the layout of it and the overall cleanliness.  Our waitress was also very nice. 

After lunch, Jon took us to Dom Knigi, the largest bookstore in Moscow.  He also pointed out a Seven Continents supermarket.  He even took us inside of one of the Orthodox churches.  It had all the symbols of a centuries-old faith, including some very impressive murals of biblical scenes. 

We jumped on the metro and followed Jon back to the station where his home is.  He took us to a farmers market just near the station.  We bought some delicious dried apricots from Tajikistan.  We also bought some pickled garlic, some apples, some plums and a very sweet fruit with a name that escapes me.  All purchasing was done by bargaining – a bit challenging but fun. 

After saying goodbye to Jon, we were back on the metro for the long ride to our hostel.  After exiting our metro station, we walked next door to check on circus tickets.  Tickets were sold out for that evening, so we walked across the street to the boulevard park.  We sat among families and children who were obviously excited about the circus they were going to attend that night.  There were unique statues in the park depicting circus acts and performers.  These statues were in the middle of fountains and in spots where kids could play with the water and pose for images.  This was a real cultural treat to see.  By the way, I do remember looking up and seeing this hulk of a man, dressed in an oversized shirt and some jean shorts.  He was waddling rather than walking.  I told Kade that he looked like an American.  Sure enough, when he talked, the obvious became the more obvious.

We ended our day by having a late afternoon coffee and by picking some pastries to take back to the room.  This could have been the day that the pastry shop owner snapped at us.  We broke some shop etiquette by using tongs meant for fruit turnovers to grab hold of some meat pies.  The lady didn’t like it.  I stood my ground, in English! 

In the evening, just before bed, we got out the Muscle Rub and rubbed massive amounts into our extremely sore and fatigued legs.  Then, as with the previous night, we conked out.

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