Friday, June 17, 2011

Yonder! The Russian Frontier!

"And do you not rejoice in your soul too? This is our Russia - it is yours, Tsarévich; All your people's hearts await you there, your Moscow waits, your Kremlin, your dominion."

I thought this quote to be quite dramatically apropos as read on a transatlantic flight connecting Washington D.C. to the aforementioned megalopolis, Moscow. Never mind that it is an excerpt from Alexander Pushkin's very underrated play,Boris Godunov, and the people approaching the border are an army of Poles and Lithuanians led by a renegade monk masquerading as the heir to the throne of Ivan the Terrible in an attempt to overthrow the current Tsar, another murdering tyrant himself. I maintain the highest of hopes that I will experience an eventful but significantly more pacific entrance.

Everything has happened so fast, I have hardly planned a thing, though I suppose that does not differe much from my usual modus operandi. Just so that you can know as much about my trip as I seem to, humor me as I revert once more to a list format:

1. Upon my arrival in Moscow June 17, I have one night booked at Godzilla's Hostel, the "largest and most famed hostel in Moscow," which is a member of my favorite non-profit youth travel accommodation, Hostelling International. My goal in staying there is to compare the hospitality and amenities of the two capitals and construe wildly inappropriate and generalized judgments about the two respective societies as represented by what I find there. I tried to arrange a half-day shadowing work experience there in advance, but to no avail. Perhaps I shall convince them upon my arrival.

2. At some point in Moscow, the mother of a Russian contact of mine has promised to take me to an evening of theatre, which I am eagerly anticipating.

3. I hear Lenin is buried in Moscow, is this true?

4. I will, of course, take the train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. The express train takes four hours, but in order to spend as much time as possible drinking vodka with strangers** I plan to take the local train, which takes twice as long, at least one way. I of course will remark in great detail on the highlights, lowlights, and differences between the two state-owned rail systems and the passengers that fill them.

5. My desire to see more than just the two urban centers of Russia led me to drift across a Google map of the space between Moscow and SP until I saw something labelled with a name that struck my fancy. This happened at a place called Novgorod, which I found upon further internet searches to be described literally as the loveliest, most historic, and most charming town in the whole country. I want to go to there.

6. I have plans to surf the couches of some lovely people in Moscow and SP, but I will not offer their personal details until I meet them and glean from them what those details actually are.

7. I hope to attend a famous midnight music festival in SP on June 25, the night before I leave to fly back to the States, given I can manage to survive until then.

8. Does anyone know what the "Hermitage" is?

And I think that is about all that I have planned. If I have time, I hope to find some sort of monument to Mark Twain, or Russian fan club devoted to him, and perform a reading there, invited or otherwise. Also, I have been practicing my Russian skills with great vigor and enthusiasm, and have already been told by countless native speakers that my accent is impeccable. My ego burns with the fire of a thousand suns, and I am fairly certain I will be paying "the Russian price" for all major tourist attractions by sometime early next week. I am writing this from somewhere just beneath the southern tip of Greenland, surrounded on all sides by 53 adorable Russian exchange students in matching turquoise t-shirts***; each and every one completely acknowledges my supreme power over them until we get through customs in Moscow, at which point I will wander away to try to figure out exactly how one gets from the Domodedovo airport to the only hostel to be owned and operated by a giant fire-breathing Japanese lizard.

I see no kitschy oversize reptiles here.


*My poor starved readers, desperate for any crumb of information about my happenstance...

**I have memorized the phrase, "I have a bottle of vodka" in Russian. In English phonetics, it is, "Oo meenya bootlika votkee" in my case to be followed immediately after by some sort of ridiculous winking or miming gesticulation.

***I am their leader and therefore my t-shirt is red. I am drunk with power! It must be power, because it certainly is not wine, as United Airlines apparently charges for all decent beverages which would make me much angrier if I had actually paid for this plane ticket. Humph.


  1. :D have fun, looking forward to dialog and photos! -Kurtofurd

  2. Catherine the GreatJune 17, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    The Hermitage - or as I refer to it - Государственный Эрмитаж is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. One of the largest and oldest museums of the world, I founded it in 1764 and it has been open to the public since 1852

  3. hermitage - hermit heritage, obviously.

  4. Keep the stories coming girl, entertainment in this part of the world is amiss. x