Thursday, June 21, 2007

So What Does YOUR Rollerblade Route Look Like? (Pretty cool, huh?)

Today was one of those Moscow days when nothing I'd planned on accomplishing happened quite as I'd hoped... Here was the original list:

1. Go to Mega Mall, arriving at 10 a.m. Bring own skates and use rink in mall for free.
2. Eat lunch at IKEA. Get the bedding we need for our bed and a new mattress for Natalia. Bring mattress home with me.
3. Pick up Natalia at 3:00 for her session with the child psychologist/speech therapist.

Well... That's not exactly what ended up happening. The handle broke off the washing machine door (so you can't use it--and of course at around 3 a.m. Natalia had had an accident on her bed that officially put the mattress into "retirement." It had served us for only two years, but MAN OH MAN were those two years packed with service...) and it took a few hours to get through to the repair center. I thought I was "all set" by having the mobile number of the repairman who has come before, but his number was no longer in service... There was one other person I could have tried, but his number was saved in my mobile phone... and the phone had fallen into the bucket of hot soapy water I used yesterday afternoon to scrub the floor... and I didn't realize it was there until I reached for a rag and pulled out the phone... (I am JINXED! JINXED! NEVER will I get a fancy cell phone; I'm a serial mobile murderer ever since I got pregnant with Natalia! No matter how hard I try, I destroy them! And I'd finally figured out how to use this last one and had saved every number I needed into its memory--and all that information is now lost... Oh well, at least I never lose or hurt my kids...)

By the time I had arranged for a repairman to come here tomorrow, I got to IKEA an hour and a half later than planned. I rushed to the rink and got my skates on, only to find out that they had closed it due to humidity until later in the day (no specific time given). I rushed through the errands at IKEA, only to realize that the mattress wouldn't fit in the car w/o damaging it structurally. I was a little too scared to tie it onto the roof; I didn't want to scratch the car and/or have the mattress fly off on the highway... So I had to grin and bear it and pay for delivery. (Just a question--why on Earth are the prices at IKEA in Russia more expensive than those at IKEA in America? It's not as if the furniture had to CROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN or anything! Sweden is practically next door!)

I got to the rink--where people were skating--only to discover that they were ending the session in five minutes and the rink wouldn't open again until after I had to be at the girls' school to pick up Natalia. I tried to make lemons out of lemonade and used the free time I had to hunt for a plastic sheet to protect Talia's new mattress. I found one, but it cost $35!!! In my hardened Moscow mood, I simply bought it and was glad. It's worth it just to have it done! I also got a cup of coffee and drank it s-l-o-w-l-y. (Just think... Next time I'm there, it'll probably be September, and there will be a Starbucks!).

I really missed having gone skating, though. I got new custom Klingbeil figure skates this summer and am finally able to skate again! I used to skate competitively, and I have feet that simply do NOT fit in regular pre-made boots. (Come to think of it, they don't fit very well into any type of shoes... Extra wide around the ball of the foot, but extra narrow in the heel... with unusual arches, too...) My feet had grown during my first pregnancy, and I hadn't been able to fit in my skates since then... I've YEARNED to skate again and it's so much fun to go now... Once I got home with Natalia and she started her session with the therapist, I decided to continue with my "lemonade from lemons" attitude and I went rollerblading. (Julia--I listened to Shakira as I skated! Whoo hoo! And Dad--I LOVE my ipod!). I had a few hours, so I decided to go to the Moscow River and skate there. Here are some pictures from my route:

I noticed that Moscow Festival of Yachts was ready to begin... There are luxury boats all up and down the river... Beyond that pedestrian bridge is Gorky Park (on the right).
You can see Gorky Park across the river (where there's the Buran space shuttle and the tall Ferris Wheel). On the right is "Mama Zoya," one of the best Georgian restaurants (it's in the boat) in the city. Their shashliki (shishkabobs of meat/fish/veggies), pomegranate sauce and hachapouri (bread with cheese) are WONDERFUL. Here's a decorative detail at the top of one of the many "Stalin-era" apartment buildings that line the river; it's pretty typical of "wholesome" Soviet progaganda of healthy, happy, productive youth. These buildings were mostly built by German POWs after the war and they're among the most coveted apartments in the city--luckily Stalin was pretty obsessed with making his architectural mark and his buildings are throughout the city. We live in a Stalin-era building, too, and they're SO much nicer than the concrete rectangles built under Krushchev...

On my right, I then saw the monument to Peter the Great and the "Red October" Chocolate Factory. The Factory is going to relocate soon and the premises will be renovated into luxury apartments; I really hope I can get a tour of the factory before it closes!! (They're not that easy to get and I've been trying for half a year). This is what the whole view looks like there... Chocolate Factory, Peter the Great, in far, far distance a Stalin skyscraper I'll write about later in this entry (kind of neat to see how I made my way there) and the "President" Hotel (the red building on the right). When we first moved to Moscow in July 2004, my friend Julie (from when I taught in Michigan) was there with her adorable newly-adopted son, Peter... It was so exciting to meet him and to see her at that special time of her life!

On my left, I went by the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Stalin had ordered it blown up in 1931 and public swimming pools occupied the land until 1994, when the cathedral's reconstruction began. The marble from the destroyed cathedral was used to make many of the subway stations on the red line. I'll post more about the metro (subway) on another day. The other building pictured is famous for housing Communist party bigwigs. It contained shops that "regular" people couldn't shop at and was quite unlike other city accomodations... How fitting that there's now a Mercedes logo on the roof!
I went a little further and then was rewarded with this view of the Kremlin! Isn't it beautiful?!

Here you can see the path I followed as I skated. I could never take this route during the spring or fall; the traffic would be too thick and it would be very dangerous (not to mention how polluted the air would be). In the summer, however, as long as I don't go fast, it's ok. You can also make out domes of churches inside the Kremlin.

I included this close-up of one of the Kremlin towers so you can see the mosaiac effect; I think it's so pretty... Across the river was this old pink church... The mixture of old and new, restored and decaying is quite striking wherever you look in Moscow. I skated a little further and then this view appeared...
The famous Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral! The Kremlin ends on the left, and Red Square and the famous department store "GUM" are behind St. Basil's. I love driving by this area at night when everything is lit up. It is absolutely beautiful, even moreso at night when there has just been a fresh snowfall. I tried to take a picture with me in it, but it didn't come out very well. Oh, well, here it is to prove that these are my pictures! I then skated under the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge and had another view of St. Basil's... I had to include this picture, even though it came out so dark... Note the advertisement for Maybelline (Garnier) tanning cream--with a model's bikini-clad tush. OH HOW LENIN'S EMBALMING FLUID IS BUBBLING INSIDE THE MAUSOLEUM! I then skated further up the river and got to this famous "Seven Sisters" (Stalin had seven huge skyscrapers built throughout the city and they're called the Seven Sisters--among them are Moscow State University and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Stalinist Gothic building below.

This picture can't convey how HUGE the building is. That address was initially a very prestigious place to live--it was a reward to be given an apartment there, and only the most important people moved in... But many also disappeared from there during Stalin's famous purges. The building contains secret passageways for spying and bugs--of the eavesdropping kind--were EVERYWHERE. I included a close-up of the top spire; the proud and strong Soviet workers are omnipresent!

I then got on a riverboat and headed home. Traffic had picked up and there were too many cars parked on the sidewalk for it to be safe to skate. While on the boat, I met a really nice woman from Tennessee who is here with her sister's mission trip from North Carolina. It was fun to talk with her and point out all the sites as we rode along. Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I couldn't take pictures all the way to the end--but here's a picture of the Luzhniki Stadium where the 1980 Olympics were (next to it is the arena where we cheered on the USA during the 2006 World Figure Skating Championships).


Rachael said...

It looks like your rollerblade path follows right along the Moscow River. I felt like I was right back on that riverboat tour, taking pictures of all the same sights we saw in April!

Oh, and I have to laugh to think about you rollerblading with your big camera around your neck!

Tina in CT said...

It was fun seeing the pictures along your route as it reminds me of my trip there for Xmas 2004.

kate said...

I was at IKEA and Mega here on Thursday! It was abslutely deserted. I've never seen it so empty. I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that they were open 24 hours that day to celebrate the longest day... And I SO share your frustration on IKEA's pricing!!

Janet said...

Thanks for all your insights about Moscow - what a great experience for your daughters! Looking back, I wish we had raised our children in Europe, we did take them to Africa for a year when my husband was Fulbright prof., but the cultural divide was huge. The American School consisted of children from Embassy families from various countries, which was great, but there wasn't too much getting to know the citizens. Three of them did go on the Abroad programs from their universities, so there was a step. Americans unfortunately think the world stops at either ocean, but it's time to wake up and smell the coffee, it's a global world out there. Good luck to you! Your photos are fantastic.