Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, April 18, 2016


I spent all of last week in Russia, mostly in Moscow, but there was also a jaunt out into the countryside for a day or two.  I didn't really have any expectations for the week - coming after the UK, US, India, Poland, etc, it was just one more trip abroad amongst many. 

I actually ended up really enjoying Moscow.  The people we met with were overall much friendlier than I was expecting, and the hotel receptionists rivaled the Thais in niceness.  It may have helped too that I blended in much more than some of the other places I've been lately, so I could just go about my daily business without people giving me some serious side-eye.  I often even had people trying to speak to me in Russian, even though my vocabulary is limited to four words: hello, thank you, goodbye and cheers.  One day, I should count how many languages I can say those four words in now...

As far as English goes, it was pretty much all or nothing - people either spoke fantastic English or not a word. A lot of restaurants didn't have English menus, so we (tried) to rely on my phone for translations, with some pretty hilarious results. I put a few of them on Facebook, and they still make me crack up:

The city itself is beautiful - extremely clean and well-maintained, with lots of lovely pastel-colored buildings. 
The sheer size of some of them was also impressive - this is one of "Seven Sisters", or one of the seven absolutely massive buildings dotted across the city:
I found the food delicious as well - it's probably the only place I've been to outside of the US (and Bulgaria) where I could easily eat my normal diet - lots of soups and fresh veggies. Most of the hotels had gyms too, which was useful for helping work off the vodka calories. ;)

And of course there's the famous Red Square - something I never thought I'd see again:
You see, I've actually been to Russia before. 16 years ago when I was living in Finland, a fellow student organized a bus trip to St Petersburg and Moscow, and I thought "Why the hell not?  When will I ever have a chance to go to Russia gain?".  Little did I know....

The dollar was king back then, and it was a great trip, though a lot of my memories are seen through a vodka-induced haze. It was also only a few short months after my father died, and I think a lot of my memories from that time have been made cloudy by grief.  I do remember snippets here and there though, and last week's trip has amazingly brought some of the back.  I'd see a building, or a familiar monument, and all of the sudden a memory would break through the fog.  Like "Hey!  That's where we got chased out of the Russian biker bar".

It's funny though how much things have changed in such a short time.  Back then (at least in Minnesota), besides those who made one-off 'pilgrimages' to Scandinavia to see where their family came from, I didn't really know anyone who traveled abroad, and I was a bit of an odd-duck going to all these far-off places at such a young age.  Nowadays, it seems to be quite common for young-uns to travel to Europe or elsewhere even in high school.  I've been a bit disgusted as of late to see how so many countries (US, UK, France, etc) seem to be turning inwards, and I can only hope that the early exposure to other cultures will turn the tide in future generations.

And now I'm off to pack for my trip to Italy tomorrow...

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