I am sitting here nursing a green tea and an upset stomach, after an afternoon of drunkenly wandering around a Soviet-style theme park. Yes, you read that correctly, Lucy-who-doesn’t-drink has again been bamboozled by this country and its bag of tricks which ended in very-not-sober midnight solo ramblings in St Petersburg last time I was here.
Let me explain.
Post-class today I decided to head to VVTs (Vserossiykiy Vystavochniy Tsentre) or the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, a huge sprawl of soviet-era pavilions, fountains and theme-park rides, thronging in the sunshine with tanned roller-bladers, BMX tricksters and your everyday Russian perusing the kite or balloon stalls and the pavilions themselves. First up I jumped on the 75-m high Ferris Wheel to check out the view, and ended up in a cabin with a lovely Russian couple, who I spent the ride stumbling through Russian/English conversation with- the boyfriend’s reply to everything was ‘Simply super!!’ and the girlfriend couldn’t believe that I actually had left Australia to come to Russia. By choice. (I think she secretly came to the conclusion I must have been exiled.) Post thrilling ride, (it actually was, I was in an open cabin and only had a very flimsy lap-bar to secure me) I was thirsty and hot- having tried kvas, a midly alcoholic soft-drink made from fermented rye bread and finding it wanting, I steered well clear and headed for a stall selling what looked like homemade lemonade- a cloudy, pale yellow drink which I had seen children and adults alike downing by the massive plastic cup. Following their lead and proud of my ability to order in Russian, I grabbed a cold cup and keep wandering around. Well. Tasted like sort of nutty-lemonade, and I can now say, whatever it was, it is definitely alcoholic. Whether it was because I was dehydrated, had an empty stomach, and haven’t had alcohol in years, or because it was quite alcoholic, (I am betting on the former), a mere three-quarters of a glass later a very tipsy Lucy was lurching her way down ‘Fountain Alley’, unable to take a straight photo and making eyes at all the roller-blading guys. I took many a giggling rest in the shade, gracefully (or not so gracefully) sprawled on the kerb, and was seriously considering swimming in the ‘Fountain for the Friendship’s of the People’. All this, at 4:30pm in the afternoon.
Here be photos from this excursion, hopefully all straight:
Straight out of the metro, you are overwhelmed by the enormity of the Space Obelisk, a rocket blasting nearly 100m high on a gleaming stream of titanium-clad ‘energy’.
The ‘Mosckva 850’, an awesome way to see the VVTs.
The ‘Fountain of the Friendships of Peoples’, backed by the ‘House of the Peoples of Russia’.
Another of the ridiculously lavish fountain, whose golden gals circle a golden wheat sheaf. Yup.
Vostok Rocket, of the sort that carried Yuri Gargarin into orbit.
The entrance to VVTs.
Statue of Lenin, around whom the BMX tricksters were doing their thang.
After two weeks away from my home-away-from-home (ie. a climbing wall), I could feel my callouses slowly breaking down into soft skin, my forearm muscles shrinking to a near normal size, and the clearly-not-permanent layer of chalk under my fingernails had finally come out in the wash. Time to venture into the Moscow climbing scene- I set my eyes on Skalatoria, a ‘climbing house’. After heading in (typically) the completely the wrong direction straight out of the metro, I eventually orientated myself – or so I thought. About ten minutes later I was in that awkwardly familiar position of I-may-have-gone-past-it or may-not-have-gone-far-enough, and was going through the go-on-go-back dilemma (also all too familiar) when I decided to through caution to the wind and follow my finely honed instincts. In this instance, my instincts were represented by a toned, tanned, shirtless man on a beautiful mountain bike, with climbing shoes slung over his shoulder. My instincts served me right, and after the routine guard-in-the-cloakroom I was pointed across a partially demolished parking lot and through a rusty door. Somewhat cautiously I headed into the corridor beyond- exposed electrical wires, humming pipes, dust everywhere- my imagination was having all sorts of fun freaking me out. However, as I reached the end of the corridor I was suddenly surrounded by climbing posters, gear stickers, my ears were filled with ridiculous Russian rap, and my fears were allayed. Managed the Russian to get in, but that seemed to be about all I could manage- I was the only girl surrounded by such toned and shirtless specimens as that I had followed to find the place, though I did feel better about my comparative lack of skills when I read the side of one of the gym bags casually tossed against a wall to find its owner was on the Russian national bouldering team. (!!)
The weather gods have been wreaking havoc lately, and I have been caught in many sudden downpours, which end as quickly as they begin, and leave me soaked, laughing, and with a brief respite from the heat. The rain appeared to interrupt my Sunday post-study stroll- but I was armed with my umbrella and wandering around Donskoy Monastery, so the dark clouds and spitting rain could only bolster the atmosphere of the higgledy-piddegly graveyard and the melancholy ringing of bells. The rain cleared up to allow an epic stroll through parks, over and up hills, over roadworks, under bridges, to surface to Ella Fitzgerald playing at the entrance to Gorky Park, the sounds of which drifted with me as I perused the art in the gallery that occupies the underpass, and continued to waft through the air as I wandered through the sculpture park museum- where lots of the no-longer-loved soviet statues live. Super hungry post intensive tourism, I decided to eat out- but suffered the usual frustration in trying to find a restaurant with even one dish I can eat. Defeated and starving, I headed back to Indian and had the best (but also out of control spicy) mushroom masala I have ever had. After dinner I found a gourmet supermarket, with fruits that I didn’t know the name of and a make your own pasta section, but with prices to match. Proceeded to get my bag stuck in the lockers, and had to be helped by the security guard- if my gasps at prices and hiking sandals hadn’t already ousted me as an anomaly in this gourmet world, my failure at locker operation sure did.
‘A Sunday smile, you wore it for a while…A Sunday mile we paused and sang…’ Photos from Sunday rambling.
Looking from Gorky park, past tired theme park rides, across to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
Enjoying the sunshine on a paddle boat.
Graffiti in the park outside Donsky Monastery.
One of the sculptures in the Art Muzeon Sculpture Park, where I experienced the typical flip-sided Russian hospitality- The cashier was entirely unwilling to give me a student pass until she saw my MGU student card, and once I told her I was studying Russian she forgot her frosty attitude and chatted with me gaily for a good 15 minutes. (Of which I probably understood 9 minutes of. It’s an improvement.)
Walking across a pedestrian bridge spanning the Moscow River, looking across to the Kremlin.
A break in the clouds illuminates the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which commemorates Russia’s victory over Napoleon.
English graffiti, looking to the cathedral and moody clouds.
A 24-hour flower shop, heading home later that evening. There are flower shops absolutely everywhere here, and while they aren’t any cheaper than in Australia couples strolling through the city are rarely without a floral accompaniment clutched by the female half.
I’ve been dreaming in (still completely garbled) Russian lately- when I wake there are still wisps of almost-clarity and half-formed sentences floating by, which soon disappear when I turn on the TV (thankfully not to more birthing scenes) and find that I understand as little as usual. However, the not-understanding is starting to feel comfortable rather than overwhelming, and the wonderful (though tongue twisting) sounds of this language are finally sounding familiar. My hand is constantly tattooed with new beautiful words I discover- to help myself fall asleep when still buzzed from a busy day, I run through my favorites to sooth my harried brain. Though I have tried to stop myself, the countdowns have begun- 8 classes, 11 balmy nights and 12 crackling-hot days, until I have to leave. However, there is also; 1 weekend showing a new British friend around Moscow, at least 2 more visits to the cinema, 4 more visits to Skalatoria, a week of marathon training, a famous souvenir market, a banya visit to beat Moscow out of me before I fly out, a book-shop crawl and more spicy mushroom masala on the horizon. There are still a few days of scrawling-words-on-my-hand yet. Though hopefully no more days of drunkenly wandering around parks.