Saturday, August 13, 2011

Moscow—It’s like Texas, but communist.

Moscow—It’s like Texas, but communist

The saying goes that everything is big in Texas.  If everything is big in Texas, everything is epic in the former soviet Russia.  Moscow takes the epic cake if you will and builds a giant statue of Lenin on top of it, then eats it all and has the nerve to ask if you liked the cake.  

Best Baba dolls ever:

First off, the hostel situation was not nearly as good as in Peter. Maybe that is because we had such a good time at the last one that the next was bound to fail.  The main problem with this one was getting that all too common guy that has a problem with Americans without actually knowing any.  Everybody is guilty of this at some point. Luckily for us we met a group of the French in St. Peter and had been hanging out with them in Peter and Moscow. So France’s image wasn’t ruined by the one douche.

Pretty horses statue:

Initial highlights have been the Stalin Skyscrapers, seven or eight different buildings done in similar styles as the Empire State Building. They are placed throughout the city and are beautiful communist relics. Gorky park was a strong highlight as well. We rented go kart type of bikes, fulfilling a strong desire of Chris’s, with our French friends and rode all throughout the park, which is quite large. It is a cool park that runs along side of the river.

It rained and that is one of Stalin's skyscrapers:
 KGB building:

Like I was saying before Russia is a pretty epic place and if there was a heart connecting to that epic pulse it would be Moscow, specifically Red Square.  Red Square has a powerful presence for many, many reasons: There is only one size in the Square and that is immense; all of the buildings are beautiful; the many statues always depict a powerful man giving a stern stare and/or crushing something like the Nazis under his heel. The most epic part of Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum. The room is stone silent, with dim lighting barely lighting the crimson and black walls.  In the middle of the room is a well-lit plexiglass box with Lenin’s embalmed body laying in it. He just seemingly rests there with his hands to his sides as thousands of visitors come to look at him four times a week.   It has a bit of a haunting feeling to it, but that is well worth and incredibly fascinating.

A bad ass:
 Typical Russia:

Both St. Peter and Moscow have great metro systems. Both of which you ride a 3-minute escalator deep under the cities. St. Peter seemed to have a bit better quality trains and was a bit more English friendly but Moscow wins by having essentially museums as metro stations. Moscow, if you look at the map below, consists of concentric circles that become huge as you go away from the center. One of the rings is known as the golden ring and each of its stations make for great poor man’s museum.  On paper Moscow has 10 million people, but the locals say that there are about 7-8 million people living there illegally and 2-3 million visiting or doing the tourist thing. So at any given moment the city has 20 million people there.  During out four days there, we saw the central ring only. It is surrounded by 8 or 9 other district of the same size.  Remember that if you travel there.


 Bill 6:
 More typical stuff:

Engrish.  We realized that this trip will become increasingly difficult as it goes on.  Starting in Petersburg was  easy. It seemed that almost every sign had the English translation below, and lots of people spoke English. Moscow seemed to have lost most English translations, but we still seemed to find some English speakers as we went.  The farther into Russia we get, we are assuming that English will probably become a bit rare.  Finally crossing over into Mongolia, the Russian will become less useful to us, although signs will still be written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Finally in China, we just won’t understand anything.  I am excited.

Anyhow, I need to get back to looking out the window of my train. The next stop in Yekaterinburg.



St. Peter— Who would have thought that we would find a pickled one?

St. Peter— Who would have thought that we would find a pickled one?

Ol’ St. Peter was awesome.  We had 5 days time there to take in the sites. Not nearly enough if you measure successful tourism by the percentage of museums seen.  Every day consisted of seeing a museum or two, a very long walk or two, a siesta and cervasas on the river beach and a good long night with other hostel folk.

 Good hostel folk:
 Us and Rasputin out on the town:

The Hermitage stands out, obviously, as a huge highlight. It awesomeness is only surpassed by its grandiosity.  Each subsequent room gives you another reason to say the word opulent. Whereas most of the art wouldn’t go well with the garden gnomes and flamingos of America there were plenty of beautiful art pieces/ rooms to keep a person occupied for a day or more.  Even if you sprinted through the museum you would still spend a couple hours of your life.  We suggest it.

The view from above:
 Some sort of sea monument that was awesome:

One of the next stops we made, thanks to our favorite little hostel lass, was the Museum of Erotica.  The big (pun intended) tourist attraction is the pickled penis of Rasputin. The museum really wasn’t much to write home about, it was made up of a vast amount of statues related to sex, penises and vaginas—heavy on the penises though.  The best part of the experience was the awkwardness of the museum being not just a museum but also an STD clinic. Throughout the small building there were waiting chairs and nervous looking patients waiting for their big checkup—an odd combination to say the least.

Deep subways, good folk:
 Chris with Rasputin's manhood:

 Propaganda museum:

Peter’s fortress was another highlight of everyday actually because it had a nice beach you could relax at and enjoy the few of numerous monuments like the hermitage.   Also, it proved to be quite humorous with the fact that eastern Europeans seem to love their banana hammocks.

More epic places:

Us and the STD nurse:

The hostel life seemed to be the best part of St. Peter for us though.  One of my favorite parts of doing trips like these is the culture you seem to find throughout all the different hostels in which you stay. It is always a crap shoot whether or not you end up with a good staff and good fellow travelers. St. Peters was one of those moments where the stars aligned and everyone was just awesome.  It is always a crap shoot like I said but we you get a hostel that is great it makes a crappy hostel or two worthwhile.  You find people from all over the world that are cut from the same cloth or from something entirely different that you weren’t expecting. Hotels (old people traveling) are outdated and anti social. They encourage you to hide from the new world around you.  If you want to travel and experience I believe the hostel way is the best.

Dostoevsky crew:
 Get learned time:

Anyhow, on to Moscow,


Last few days in Moldova…

Last few days in Moldova...

Saying goodbye to Moldova was awfully hard.  It consisted of cutting through the roll of red tape that is close of service (peace corps style), stopping by twenty people’s houses to say goodbye consistently thinking of who I have forgotten to say goodbye to and preparing food for my going away party.  My last night was a very special night in which ten of my closest friends/neighbors came over and we sat around and talked way too late for how much I had to do the next day.

 The owner of the gym I worked out at for two years:

Coworkers galore:

 Masha, my partner at the hospice. A great lady.

Natasha, probably talked to her more than anyone over the last two years:

I didn’t realize just how much I had ingratiated myself into a few relationships in my community until I was sitting around a table the following morning minutes before I left with the majority of those present crying and/or speechless. It was one of the most emotionally powerful moments of my time in Moldova. We raised our glasses of champagne to safe travels and said our “goodbyes” not our “farewell forevers”.  After sitting around in an awkward silence for 5 minutes I decided I couldn’t take it anymore.  Gathering my things half of us crammed into a car and soon after I was waiting on the usual hitchhiking corner for my last ride to the capital. It was a long, somber ride with undoubtedly the slowest rutiera driver in all of Moldova—most have a cruising speed of way too fast for the condition the roads are in.  

Hanging out at a winery saying goodbye to folk. Thanks to Daniela for arranging it:

 Last supper with Ryne and Katya:
 Katya and her family. I love them:

The last little bit of time in Moldova felt crazy. The hectic manner prevents you from actually letting the goodbyes sink in  or realizing that the see you soons exchanged between Peace Corps volunteers are mostly going to be light on the ‘soon’.  The moment really still hasn’t hit me that I have left Moldova for good.   I left the same day as two of my good friends Vince and Cailin and we had a small little entourage accompany us to the airport until our flights left at six in the morning. Needless to say, I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. Nor did I get any on the flight which I assumed I would, of course the contorted position that the airlines ask of me never works out in my sleeping favor.   

 That would be me with her:
 The great neighborhood posse:
 The old lady giving me hell:
 Sailor's day. I stayed in Taraclia an extra day for this. well worth it.

Sitting on the tarmac at the Chisinau airport was a mixture of exhaustion, excitement for the ensuing vacation (Trans-Mongolian Railway if you didn’t get that yet) as well as excitement for the next step in life (mostly likely teaching English in Kiev). More than anything though I could not help but think that this was not goodbye forever to Moldova this was merely a see you soon, maybe slightly prolonged but soon nonetheless.  


Thank you Moldova for a great last two years.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I guess this is farewell....

August 2nd, 2011--I guess this farewell....

This last week has flown by with a whirlwind of emotional goodbye and things I did last minute that shouldn't necessarily have been done last minute..... but I just finished them an hour ago with 12 hours to spare.  I just wanted to say that this ending was very bittersweet. It is awesome to think I will be flying on an airplane to St. Petersberg, Russia tomorrow to start my close-of-service trip--The Trans-Mongolian Railway. I intend to keep writing on this blog til the end of the trip. SO, please keep on reading. I will give a little more in-depth account of how my service closed up as well.

Thank you for following this blog for the one-month, 6-month or full two years of my service. I appreciate it and it is nice to know that some is reading this thing somewhere out there.

I hope all is well for all of you.

Peace, love and shot of champagne for a happy ending to all of you,


p.s. this is not прощайте this is до свидания