I found myself dreaming in Russian last night. When I lived in Russia, this was a daily occurrence, but Russian dreaming only happens every once in a while these days (and no, contrary to popular movie culture, Russian doesn’t pop up in my subconsciousness only when I’m dreaming about a mysterious villain).
Anyway, it got me thinking about one of my favorite places on earth–Moscow. While I think everyone should visit Moscow, there are a few things you ought to know before spending $200 on a visa and hoping over to Moscow for the trip of a lifetime. Here goes:
1. Moscow really is as cold as they say it is. Really, it is. Take the coldest you’ve ever been and times it by a lot colder, and then get your head wet, and stick it in a freezer for 45 minutes. Only come out when your nose buggers and eyeballs start to freeze. That’s how cold it is. That being said, don’t go to Russia anytime from October-March, especially not January and February. Russia has lovely summers, so go to Russia in June. Unless, you feel like killing a bear, skinning it, and using its coat for protection against the elements.
2. To an outsider, Russian sounds like someone is talking about something really important, or like they are plotting your death. At least that’s how it sounded to me before I learned the language. Chances are, people are just talking about something trivial like their dog or cat. I don’t know why you should know this, but I think it’s helpful.
3. Eat Russian food. It’s best if you can make friends with a Russian babushka and trick her into thinking you are her grandchild. If so, your tummy will be full of deliciousness. If you do not have this luxury, don’t worry, you can find plenty of other delicious food there. If you eat at McDonald’s while in Russia, you are officially lame. Try borsch. Try pelmeni. Try verekni. Galuptsi. Pirozhki. Try it all. If you’re brave, try kvas (non-alcoholic wheat drink…or something like that) and kholodetz (jello-ed meat). I don’t recommend the later of the two, because, well…it’s jello-ed meat, folks.
4. Moscow is about culture, architecture and kick ass sightseeing. If you feel like going to the beach and lounging about, then head to the Bahamas, or maybe Sochi, or Yalta, but not Moscow. That being said, strap on your walking shoes, and check out the following: Red Square (obviously), Victory Park, Moscow University, Old Arbat Street, The Church of Christ Our Savior, and more. If you’re serious about going to Moscow, e-mail me, and I will give more info on where to go.
5. Remember how I said you have to spend $200 on a visa? Here’s the deal. You can get a double entry visa for the same price. That means, you can leave the country and come back in again all for the same price of one entry. If you have time, go to Kiev, or Lithuania, or Estonia, or Latvia, or Finland, or Belarus (you need a visa for Belarus), and see another great place.
6. Use the metro. It’s rad. Everything is written in Russian, so it’s like a fun puzzle to figure out. Even if you get lost, the metro is really beautiful, so you’ll still have fun.
7. If you need to speak English, find someone that looks like they are in college. Old people (I hope that’s not discrimination) don’t really speak English there.
8. If you speak any Russian, give it a whirl. Unlike the French, Russians think it’s awesome when people try to speak their language. If you throw in some innocent slang (nothing vulgar), they will think you are super cute, love you forever and take you home to their grandma, so you can accomplish #3 on this list.
9. Register your visa. If you stay in any one place for longer than 3 days, you must register your visa. You can do this at the hotel where you stay. The only person who should touch your passport are the people at the front desk registering your visa.If you plan to hop from city-to-city, you can do this, but keep all proof of travel. If you don’t have your visa registered, these tickets will show proof of consistent travel, and then you will be a-okay.
10. If military or police confiscate your camera, it’s code for they are stealing your camera. Act natural and run away with your camera. That’s a specific scenario, but it’s also kind of a metaphor. Don’t let people take advantage of you, or mess with you. If you feel weird about something, trust your gut.
Okay, enjoy your trip!