Monday, August 20, 2007

Trains, Wedding Cakes, and Balalaikas

After lunch, the bus dropped us off at a Metro station (truthfully, I don’t remember which one now). Our guide had explained to us on the way the number one rule for the afternoon: Push and shove your way onto the train once it stops so you don't get left behind. So for the next hour or so, the thirty of us hopped on and off trains at five or so Metro stations, and believe me – it’s a miracle that none of us ducklings got lost. It was like being in Istanbul again. At each station, perfectly nice and decent people appeared to lose their minds when those doors opened.

Beyond this, our mission was two-fold – first, to become acquainted with the Metro system so we would feel comfortable going out on our own to explore Moscow, and secondly, to observe the “beauty” of the Metro stations. On the first count, I would recommend to anyone wanting to ride the Metro in Moscow that they learn Cyrillic first. There is no way a non-Cyrillic reader could find his or her way around on that system; the trains and their riders just move too fast. On the second, while the Moscow Metro stations are unlike any others in the world – clean, graffiti-free, and filled with cool art, they’re still kinda dark and musty – well - subway stations. Here are some pics:

The whole system is old but efficient. First opened in 1935, there are eleven lines and 170 or so stations. Trains arrive every two minutes. Everyone rides the Metro in Moscow.

When our guide had had enough, we re-emerged into the afternoon sunlight to find our bus waiting to take us to Arbat Street. No cars are allowed on Arbat, so we strolled along and looked in windows and listened to street musicians. I swear – from what we saw, every Russian plays an instrument or sings. Well.

We returned to our meeting place and sat down on a windowsill to chat with our co-cruisers and look at the souvenirs they had bought. It was a little on the warm side, so I tried to squeeze myself into a little sliver of shade cast by the window frame, but couldn’t keep the sun off the left side of my face. Across the street was a McDonald’s.

Waiting for the bus, we snapped these shots of the Ministry of Defense building. Yup, it’s another of Stalin’s skyscrapers. Cool, huh? I guess no one wanted to climb up there and blast off that hammer and sickle...

Back on board the Litvinov that evening, we attended a concert in the Rakhmaninov Theater on the fifth deck. The “world famous orchestra of folk instruments” consisted of about twenty people dressed in traditional Russian costumes - young and old, males and females. Some played little hand-made pipes, while others played balalaikas and other stringed instruments (that most Westerners wouldn’t recognize). To our surprise, we really enjoyed the music, especially when a former soloist from the Soviet Army Chorus sang with the little orchestra. Wow, his voice filled that room to overflowing. Beautiful.

Can’t wait for tomorrow – we're going into the Kremlin!


Katharine said...

I missed the musty part of the subway. I thought it was pure art, very cool, and beyond imagination.

Yeah!! I'm waiting for the Kremlin!

Pat said...

OK, so musty is the wrong word. It had that weird sweet smell like other subways I've been on.

Hey, how about you publish one of those mountain stories you've got sitting in the queue whilst I get my head around the Kremlin post?

Sonnjea B said...

I'm thoroughly enjoying your vacation! And the photos are lovely (okay, so the ones with the power lines are a little less lovely, but still quite nice!).

My mother-in-law went to Russia during the dissolution of the USSR (or CCCP, depending on whom you ask) and brought back caviar for her sons and daughters-in-law. Except me. I don't like caviar, so I got a beautiful hand-painted egg. The caviar's long gone, but I still have my egg.

Pat said...

Wise choice! We tried the caviar, and it was a tad too fishy tasting for me. I would prefer the egg, too!

Kappa no He said...

I can't believe I've been missing these, dratted summer vacation has my schedule all thrown off.

Now THAT'S a! How difficult is Cyrillic to learn? My head swooned at the McDonalds sign.

Oh, what do you think of all the shirtless pictures of Putin ciculating the net recently? I've had a huge crush on that man for years. I've always been afraid to tell anyone. But I do!

Pat said...

You probably wouldn't have too hard a time learning Cyrillic, but if you do, Kathie and I'll meet you over there to guide you through the Metro!

I haven't seen the shirtless photos of Putin. Does he look good?

Kappa no He said...

That would be awesome!! Oh, and as for Vlad...I think he looks lovely!