We arrived very tired but safely. Customs is a long wait and I was extremely anxious to meet our friend, Alexey. It is quite wonderful to see someone that you recognize (and who is just as excited as to see you) when you walk through the gate. I feel as though I have new family before even meeting our daughter!
Our translator, is a very nice woman - coincidentally named Masha - and has been very helpful. Our hotel (and staff) are excellent. Most of them speak perfect English. There are several restaurants here in the Hotel that serve all kinds of food. So much for Randy's plan to lose weight on this trip!
We had a lovely dinner with Masha and Alexey the first night and then stumbled up to our room. I should say something about the room. The bathroom floor is heated, it is big and quiet and it has an amazing view. The bed is comfortable and it has wonderful linens. This does feel like a pampered vacation. It is also WARM. (I remember the Hotel Izmayl being so chilly that I slept in my coat.) Ok, it's really warm...we sleep with the window open. Which brings me to the weather. It is REALLY REALLY COLD. Yes, we are Minnesotan and get these same temperatures but we also tend to drive everywhere when its this cold and plan indoor activities. We rarely spend a long time walking from place to place. Our second day in Moscow, we did.
You have to see the great sites in the world to appreciate how fantastic the world really is. Anyone coming to Russia needs to demand a visit to Red Square (which, by the way, is not a reference to communism but closer means, beautiful square). The forecast shows that the weather is going to be warmest on the Monday we are here and that is before we have official appointments to maintain, so this was the day to do the things that make communication here possible and the day to relax with old/new friends. A friend from high school for Randy and her boyfriend. Small world, huh?
Francesca was great. We walked ten minutes to the Metro (a marvel in transportation to be certain) and met her there. She bought us a pass to ride, showed us how to use said pass and took us to the heart of Moscow. It is an amazingly fast ride (she said she really didn't want to know how fast they actually were traveling) and it was warm. I will dwell on warm many times. Even for people who live in Moscow, it is really cold and short walks are an endurance test of sorts- even if you are wearing long underwear, heavy Minnesota coats and gloves and dressed in mummy layers.
We bought a SIM card to communicate with everyone and get internet (we do have it in our room but it is nice to have access while out and about) and then we got a short tour through the theatre district and finally into a great little Russian restaurant. I tried Russian beer (and liked it), several cheeses (loved those) and borsht. Randy, yes Mr Fussy eater himself, tried a pork "hotpot" which is kind of a stew. We did pass on the cold boiled beef tongue appetizer. Babysteps, know what I mean?
After catching up and having a wonderful time, we went to brave the elements and see Red Square. I wouldn't have missed seeing this place, especially the Cathedral for anything in the world. This should be one of the seven wonders and thanks to Caelia who dunked my camera into my cup of gingerale while I was packing, I have a wonderful new camera that takes great night photos.
This one is of Saint Basil Cathedral. I think that is how its spelled. The most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen. Ivan the Terrible thought so as well. He gouged out the architects' eyes after they designed it so that they could never make anything more beautiful. Russian stories are frequently this way.
This is Lenin's tomb. It is right in front of the Kremlin and there was a very cold guarding walking in front of it. He does get relieved frequently we were assured.
This is Russia's first shopping mall. The last Tsar took his children there (think 1910 or something like that) to shop. Now it is filled with super expensive shops that only the super rich can afford but they are beautiful.
This is also in Red Square. This is where they beheaded people during the revolution.
We then walked to a coffee house to meet Francesca's boyfriend Charles (also American) and warm up before we got back on the Metro to go back to our hotel. Thank you so much Francesca for the tour and for showing us the basics of functioning in Moscow.