i have adventures (sometimes)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

In Soviet Russia, Sights See You

And I'm back! With my assignments in and my exams done, I've finally left the library and crawled out from under my pile of flashcards, and I'm back in the blogosphere.

I stopped reading ages ago. This is just a dead-eyed stare.
Good old Gor...ge...chov? I'm pretty sure I failed this section of the exam.

And back to RUSSIA!

(In the sense that I'm writing about it, not the sense that I'm going back to - oh, you know what I mean.)

So, remember how I was trying to have a secret cold? As it turns out, it's practically impossible to have a secret cold. The coughing was hard enough to hide, but then the sneezing started, and it was all over. Fortunately, once Emily's grandfather had been convinced that he didn't need to call the doctor at once (or, indeed, at all), we were still allowed to open windows and leave the house. But only at the cost of a lot of dark muttering of the "on your own heads be it" variety.

It probably helped in our being-allowed-out that the sun came out. And everyone knows that you can't die of consumption in the sunshine. Also, Moscow looks much better for it.

The sunshine, not the not-dying. Although probably also that.

No consumption or sad Soviet grimness here.

We started off an epic few days of epic tourism at the Kremlin, where apparently  you have to choose a slot to contact the spirits of the deceased. I mean, visit the armoury.

This is not what I signed up for.
The armoury was like an attic, but for Tsars, so it was full of shiny things given to Russia by other countries. Our silverware attention span was short (it's why I never managed to read Les Mis), but we chose our favourite dresses and carriages and swords, and then it was much more fun. We arrived late in the day, so we had to speed around the various churches and cathedrals inside the Kremlin before the grumpy ladies threw us out.

Being unfriendly to the point of rudeness seems to be a Russian museum thing. I feel like they haven't quite got the point of tourism there yet.

The Kremlin.
One of the cathedrals.
This is a famous cannon. I don't remember why.

Then we went to Gondor! Or the Andrei Rublev museum. Or something.

Andrei Rublev is one of the most famous Russian icon painters. I soon learned that Em wasn't exaggerating when she said all old Russian art was the same. She really meant literally the same. As in, there are only like three paintings, and everyone else just copied them over and over.

LOL snow!

God and Jesus look disapproving because the Holy Spirit licked all the cookies Jesus just baked. (Source)
Unsurprisingly, it didn't take us long to run out of interest in the same three paintings, even our favourite, the one of the Holy Spirit/cookies incident.

But then we put on our fanciest clothes and went to the opera.

I feel like that word should have sparkles. But posh, classy sparkles.

Classy sparkly times!
We saw Nabucco, which is about Abigaille, who is much cooler than her boring sister and her boring sister's boring boyfriend, but who still dies at the end because powerful women need to be symbolically punished. Whatever. (Disclaimer: here.)

It was in Italian and the subtitles were in Russian, but luckily I've seen enough opera to know that understanding the words is actually counterproductive when it comes to taking an opera seriously ("I made a hat!" "You made a hat!" "I made a hat!" "You made a hat!"). My strategy is to just read the programme and get the gist. And then imagine that the singers are singing the lines from the programme with incredible drama. Opera drama. Which is the most dramatic drama.

The weather was nice, so we walked most of the way home, so I had a chance to see Moscow by night.

The Kremlin.

The Bolshoi Theatre.
We spent a morning shopping (I found pumps that stay on my funny-shaped feet! Foot five! ...Anyone? No, please don't leave.), and couldn't resist heading for the book shop to laugh at funny Russian book covers.

Handsome, Rich, and Unmarried.

Fantasy covers are the best (this is a Terry Goodkind).

We convinced Emily's grandpa to take us to the Darwin Museum, although he kept dropping hints about all the art we were missing out on by not going to another gallery.

"Or, if you want to, we could go the gallery instead..."
We encountered the famous Russian museum rudeness taken to an extreme ("Don't come here with your fake student cards.") and we arrived late, so we had to whizz through, but the museum was great. And what's more exciting than evolution?

I don't know what this is.
Family photo. Emily's grandpa pointedly referred to "YOUR ancestors".  We're not sure who exactly Russian Orthodox people are supposed to have evolved from.

Our ancestors: the Vikings, the '90s people, and the cosmonauts.

This hippo looks like me. Alarmingly so.

This guy looks like Emily.

On our last night in Moscow, I was struck down with the most persistent headache I've ever had, and spent several hours lying feebly in the dark. Luckily, I had the whole of the next day to pack up my very few things, because we weren't allowed out. Presumably in case we got abducted, got wet, and/or were late for our flight. (But we left for the airport 4 hours early, so that was ok.)

And that was Russia! It was a great experience, and I'm very glad I went. I was excellently fed and looked after (at all times. AT ALL TIMES), I loved the museums and the snow and the sights, and I got a kick out of transliterating Cyrillic and convincing myself I could read Russian.

Still, it was a relief to be back in the English world, where every puddle does not signify instant death, eating only one course at a meal doesn't mean we're going to starve, and we're allowed to take the subway wherever we like.

But if one of Em's relatives asks, we didn't do any of those things. This is just between you and me, internet. Shhhh.


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