Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series written by Leah Catherine Turner, who was born and raised near Hazard, as she spends five weeks in Russia over the summer.
Literally a thousand things have happened since I’ve arrived, but I’m going to paraphrase much of it (as much as I love to ramble out stories like pollen erupting from a flower in spring), because otherwise I would be typing all night instead of working on some quite extensive Russian homework.
First of all, I would just like to point out that even though I read countless times before coming to Russia that there will be an excessive amount of walking, despite the excellent public transport system, I was still honestly surprised by how tired I get after walking for a couple hours. I exercise constantly back in the States, so I thought I would be fine, but that is not the case; your mind will be blown. So, before going abroad, for Lord’s sakes buy some sturdy shoes. And maybe consider buying some replacement knees beforehand.
Besides walking for hours on end, we have traveled via metro frequently as well. I purchased a 45 day/60 rides pass, which is about $40 (most expensive singular thing I will ever buy here, surely). I almost hope that I use all the rides before my five weeks here are up, because that would mean I had spent most of my time out and about instead of cooped up in my room not trying anything new. I am SUPER pumped to become more familiar with the city and just get out there, adventure, get lost, attempt (and fail) to get some directions from a Russian, and possibly spend way too much money buying drinks in Café Pushkin with all those other posh clientele.
This brings me to my next topic: fellow students! Essentially every person I have met on this trip has been legitimately awesome, open, and kind people. And bonus – my roommate is a Trekkie and loves Benedict Cumberbatch, too. We instantly bonded. A few that came from five weeks in St. Petersburg are rather clique-y and stand-offish, but the others, and especially my fellow TSU-ians, are great people. I am extremely grateful because half of me was scared that everyone would think I was a weirdly-humored freak, and ultimately I would end up creeping after them on excursions and otherwise hiding in my room piteously.
Although not everyone I have become acquainted with are in the same “group” per se, that just makes it better for me because if a couple people want to stay in and I want to go out, then chances are the other group will be down with it and so I won’t have to travel alone. A lady I met today, YaMila, was saying she and some others go out every day to somewhere new, so I anticipate joining them soon!
The only truly “touristy” place I’ve been so far is Red Square. Didn’t stay very long, however, because as I mentioned earlier, by the time I got there my legs were crying in agony and I was so tired I was falling asleep as I stood. But plenty of time to return and take pictures later!
Some places on my “must see” list currently includes: GUM (largest mall), Chistye Prudiy (park near Pushkin Square), Gorky Park, Moscow river boat ride, Tretyakov Gallery, and the Moscow Zoo. On Wednesday I orchestrated my very own mini trip to an atrium near the centre of Moscow on a mission to find some more shorts (it is HOT) and a dress to wear to the ballet Thursday. I looked up directions via metro, grabbed my slightly unwilling roommate, and headed off on the 43-minute odyssey to the shopping mall. We made it to the last metro stop safely, but then had no idea where the atrium actually is, so we ended up meandering some slightly questionable streets for a half hour or so before finally espying the place. Three floors of 4,000 ruble clothing and accessory items, along with some 1,500 ruble desserts, ice creams, and chocolates (which Mary did not allow me to buy); it was crazy. After some seriously long shopping, we returned to the dorm five and a half hours later, with new dress and shorts in tow.
Every Thursday and Saturday the entire group goes on an excursion to a well-known place in Moscow. This week’s are a ballet and the Kremlin Armory museum. The ballet was, expectedly, awesome. I had only ever attended amateur ballet, and so to see a professional performance in Russia was a fantastically appropriate place to view my first “real” ballet. Although the dancers look to be at the most 60 pounds, the amount of muscle control and energy they have at all times is truly awe-inspiring. Afterwards, Mary and I, as per usual, went exploring on our own, and I was very proud of myself for finding our way back to the Metro via unknowing homeless network, as I recognized several of the men that had been lying outside buildings we had passed earlier.
The Armory was not at all as I had expected, in a good way, as it was mainly highlighting treasures of the royal families in 16th through 18th century Russia; coronation gowns, specially crafted thrones (5,000 kg of silver!), and many gifts from other dynasties such as Persia, Germany, Poland and more. My personal favorite of all the tours were the gifts presented to Russia from other countries. One gift from Poland was a 3’ x 3’ incense burner in the shape of a mountain and castles made from pure silver; other stunning gifts included delicate tableware from Germany made from amber, mother of pearl, and silver; and of course, the Faberge eggs. The eggs were so stunning in their detail it literally took my breath away.
Sadly, today I did not get to explore because I have “come down” with an extremely vicious cold. I slept in until noon, but then Mary and I wanted to go visit the Cosmonaut museum and park, commemorating the flight of Sputnik and other Russian space accomplishments, but we exited the wrong metro station, and after walking an hour and not finding it, I was beginning to feel very weary and ill, so we turned back. We debated trying to find GUM, the largest department store in Moscow, since we couldn’t find it on Friday, but I was too sick. I very much hope, however, that if I rest for the remainder of today, and perhaps tomorrow, that I will soon recover and be scampering the streets of Moscow once more in my adventures!
Until next week! до свидания!