A well dressed, white-haired man in trousers, swathed in a thick woolen scarf and grey beret, meets us at the tracks and leads us to a shadowy black car, barely visible in the moonlight.
The backseat window is drowning in condensation and Moscow rushes past, but I can’t see it. The man in the beret offers me a tissue. I smile – how did he know? – and vehemently blow my nose.
Incredulous laughter. Oops. That tissue was intended for the condensation, not for my snot. More laughter.
The man stops the car at an unmarked door at 4:30 in the morning, insisting this is where we are to stay, then smiles and drives away. Using a flashlight, we find the bell. Press it. Enter to a dark room completely devoid of lights behind an unmarked wooden door. Wires hanging from the ceiling. An employee in pyjamas. A broken staircase. Upstairs to an 8 bed dorm. Sleep.
“Lunchbox” coffees. Clean laundry. The longest shower of my life. Followed by the second longest shower of my life.
Yuri the Longarm. City tour with the knowledgeable intellectual Leana. The Kremlin. Red Square. St. Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin.
Can’t seem to shake that 5 day train stench. The third longest shower of my life.
Old, efficient, Cryillic-exclusive metro, stations and walkways built entirely out of marble.
Karaoke-sushi bar in downtown Moscow with glittery and scantily-clad Russian dancers in the smokey windows. Hookah. Sushi for dinner.
Night wanderings and roasted chestnut vendors. Military parades. Tanks. Unity Day celebrations. The thrill of the Red Square lit up at night.
The luxury of sleep on a bed that isn’t moving.
Morning, Russian coffee, Mikhail Bulgakov and enthralling Russian storytelling.
Walks around the high, red walls of the Kremlin. Gold spires towering from the other side of the wall.
Changing of the Guard and the eternal flame.
Chaos, elbows. Complete disorder. Finally, tickets. Inside the Kremlin. The biggest bell I’ve ever seen. Gold things. Big doorways. So much space. Exit over the moat.
Outside, underground. Underground shopping malls. Small kiosks selling goods through miniature windows. All windows. Everything on display but no door.
Exploring GUM, high class shopping on the Red Square. Brides.
Fur hats. Row upon row of vendors selling every variety of fur hat.
So many fur hats, it would mystify absolutely anyone.
Lamborghinis, Feraris, the most expensive cars I’ve seen in my life.
Expensive drinks. Tobacco cocktails.
Yury directing us home.
Skype calls over wifi from Moscow to Hanoi, to a Canadian friend, funded in South Korean won.
Cold. Winter. Wind chill. Snowflakes. Frozen nose hairs.
Starbucks. The thrill of a mint mocha,
and my name spelled “Кристина” on the side of my takeaway grande.
Topless newscasts from the restaurant. 200 roubles for a game of chess.
Moscow was brilliant. Extraordinary.
Farewell Yury, farewell your Long Arm, and farewell Moscow, to whom you founded and gave its name.
Onwards, to Saint Petersburg! :)