Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What I Saw In Russia — Day 8

At the convent, we said our last good-byes to Nicky, Alix, and Nastia. It would be the last time I would see any of them until perhaps after summer. And the last time I would see Nicky as a bachelor. Nastia said, “John! You are a REAL bass!” After everything that happened that week, I took it as high praise.

We left our bags at the convent and changed into street clothes. The girls were relieved because they were finally able to get out of their long concert dresses. “It’s so hot! How can you walk around in black dresses all day?!?” Natalia had said to me more than once on Saturday.

Everyone’s flight (except mine) was relatively early in the morning, so the idea was to say out all night and enjoy Moscow before taking off. As for me, I wanted to fly standby to be with everyone else. Besides, I wanted to enjoy some free time after all the hustle and bustle.

Photo: Irene. All others by Alika (except when noted).

Our initial goal was Gorky Park. We were led by Irene, an American acquaintance of mine from San Francisco. We walked from the convent, going in the direction of Christ the Savior Cathedral, and went over a bridge to a park. On the metal trees on the bridge there were quite a few locks, some of them heart-shaped. Apparently there arose a superstition that if you put your names on a lock and put it on a tree, your marriage would last.

Alika is a pretty good photographer.

In the park we saw some people playing with fire. To be exact, they were fire-dancing, something more likely to be seen in Polynesia than in Moscow. Some of them were pretty good, others looked like they were just starting out.

David: “Have you touched the water? It feels like a base!”

We walked through the streets of Moscow. It wasn’t exactly New York, but it did have a gritty, big-city feel to it. There were several large nightclubs which seemed to be competing on how many decibels they could produce (I imagine people had to sign waivers at the door). We also passed by probably the ugliest statue we had ever seen, one of Peter the Great atop a bunch of stacked ships reminding me of the game Jenga. Rumor has it that the statue used to be one of Christopher Columbus, until the original client refused the sculptor’s offer. The sculptor then switched heads and said it was Peter.

From Wikipedia. Yep. Kinda looks like Columbus.

Just hanging out, with a giant church in the background. Photo: Irene

When we made it to Gorky Park through a rather ambling path, we found most everything closed and the area not very hospitable to a group of eight young American tourists. We took leave of our guide. And then we tried to think of what to do next. Thankfully we found the nearest Shokoladnitsa, an all-night café-bar. I ordered a mojito, and we had time to think out what to do next. Poor Matthew kept looking for wi-fi, which everyone seemed to be able to connect to except for him.

The Kremlin at night.

We then did a bit more wandering about, and it seemed that ever fifty paces or so we would walk by a church. We went to another café and went back to the Kremlin. There we found a 24-hour Planet Sushi. Planet Sushi happened to be one of those restaurants at which we could eat for free, so we (the ones who were still awake) jumped at the chance to eat there.

By this time most of our party was pretty tired and collapsing in their seats, so for the most part the sushi was split between Cooley and me. We got several platters of sushi and sashimi. I also had a bowl of chicken ramen, which was so-so.

“Hey Meri, there’s a lox and cream cheese roll,” I said.

“Really!?” Meri perked up at the mention of her favorite food. She took a bite, and her eyes sparkled.

4 am sushi!

Overall, the food was actually really good, especially considering that Moscow is nowhere near the ocean. It certainly beat any sushi joint near Jordanville! To be honest I was getting a little grumpy but the sushi made up for everything.

By the time we finished it was approaching sunrise. We paid our bill with the gift card we had and set out for Red Square, which was almost completely empty. As we walked past Lenin’s Mausoleum, I sang “God Save the Tsar.” We stopped by St. Basil’s Cathedral to take pictures, of course.

David: “There, I made the river cleaner.”

We finally arrived back at the convent, a little more than six hours later and pretty exhausted. I was surprised, given my lack of sleep over the past week, that I was still standing. We got our bags, piled them into the van, and went to Sheremetyevo. It took us a mere twenty minutes to get there, much shorter than the hellishly long time it took to go *from* the airport in the beginning.

Getting one last nap in at the convent.

We checked in our flights, but unfortunately I couldn’t get on everyone else’s flight and had to wait until the afternoon to take my original plane. Even still I went with everyone to the gate to see them off. We had one last (free!) meal at TGIFriday’s, where a man wearing cat ears and lots of “flair” took our order. It was adequately American.

Ten o’clock came, and I said good-bye to my traveling companions. I then waited, on the cold floor of Sheremetyevo, writing my first blog entry.

Five hours later, the plane came, and I met with Fr. Andrei at the gate; he was taking the same flight. “I’ll make sure you get back to Jordanville,” he said. On the plane, I watched a Russian romantic comedy (pretty lame) and The Artist (pretty good) and dozed off a bit. When I got off the plane, I went through customs easily, got my checked luggage, and took a taxi with Fr. Andrei to the Synod building in Manhattan, where I stayed the night on a cot in the conference room. I ran into Bishop Peter, who was also staying at Synod, in his own room. That night, when I washed up to go to sleep, I drank some fresh New York City tap water.

It was delicious.

But wait…there’s more!

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