Can we suggest Russian Standard Imperial vodka for breakfast?
This morning we had to get up bright and early, because a group tour was scheduled. Today, the big event was a tour of the Kremlin. One advantage of using the Exeter tour guides, is that they arranged to enter the Kremlin early, which was especially important since this was a Saturday. The crowds later would be sizeable. Fortunately, the hotel was within easy walking distance of the Kremlin so we didn’t have to mess with cars or the Metro.
The Kremlin was originally built as a citadel (kremlin is Russian for fortress). It contains five palaces and lots of churches, cause when you’re oppressing and ruling (not necessarily in that order) the masses, you probably need to pray to God a lot. I’d like to think that the praying was mostly a lot of, “Oh, God, the Great and Merciful, please keep the serfs from revolting”. So, we saw a bunch of churches. The Orthodox churches are considerably different in their decorative concepts from the Western Catholic houses of worship. Lots less stained glass and marble, lots more plastered and painted surfaces. Also, on a one to one basis, the Orthodox cathedrals are significantly smaller than their Western counterparts. Continue reading
I think I should make a note here. The actual tour was scheduled to start today, in the afternoon, when most of the other people on this trip were scheduled to arrive. We came a day early to acclimate (Moscow is three hours ahead of London and eight hours ahead of New York). Behavior like this is usually totally unlike me, as I am a rock solid procrastinator of the first water. I blame the influence of my wife. For the record, she is one of those people who would get her school assignments done the day they were issued instead of waiting till the night before they were due. Yes, she’s one of those people.
Since we had an entire morning free, we decided before we arrived to add on something that wasn’t in the tour itinerary. We paid a little extra for it, but we thought it was well worth it. After a lot of research, we settled on the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. Essentially a museum devoted to the then Soviet and now Russian Federation space program. Unusual, and the museum is located in a non-central location so there isn’t that much tourist traffic. Great for us.
Welcome to Russia! We suggest you drink vodka! Useful as bear repellent!
Mary, one fine day last year, was surfing travel sites and looking for bargains. Lo and behold, she discovered that Conde Nast Traveler magazine was sponsoring a special Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Event. And the people (well, Mary anyway) saw it was good, and rejoiced! Money and time dictated that we could only reserve one Trip of a Lifetime, so now that we’ve completed it, we’ll just have to retire, maybe to someplace nice, like Tampa. Maybe have the kids down for a barbeque on the weekend. If we had any kids.
The particular Trip of a Lifetime that piqued Mary’s interest was a semi-private tour to Russia, which was offered through the World on Sale at a very substantial savings, over normal rates. The combination of a trip to a location that Mary has wanted to visit for a very long time, and heavily reduced rates, meant that I would soon be packing my bags, yet again.
May I tempt you with a nice bottle of vodka with your pancakes?
So to cap off this year’s travel season, the pièce de résistance (you have to say that with a bad French accent, and remember, roll your R’s!), was a ten-day trip to Russia. For the uninitiated, and anyone that didn’t read the FAQ*, travel season is that part of the year where the temperature here at home is below freezing and there’s a minimum of a half foot of snow on the ground. So, pretty much September through May.
Since we were going to be in the neighborhood anyhow, if one thinks of Russia and England as ‘in the neighborhood’, we decided to spend a quartet of days in jolly old London. Mary is a firm believer of getting in tune with the local time zone gradually. For instance, she feels it’s necessary to rest for a couple of days after arriving in LA before scheduling anything arduous, like walking, because it is after all a whole hour behind us. So four days in London would be great for acclimatization before moving on to Moscow. Plus there’s crumpets and scones. Why this is important escapes me, but it makes the wife happy and that’s what’s truly important.
Sure it LOOKS like an innocent shower, but is it?
On our recent swing through the brights lights of Europe, we landed, or I should say we trained, into St Petersburg, city of a thousand and one enchantments. And perils, of which this shower may or may not be one.
Maybe it’s me and a few hundred too many sci-fi movies, shows and books, but this thing looks suspiciously like a disintegrator chamber, doesn’t it? I let Mary go first.
Usually, not always, but quite often, the first response from a Russian to even the most innocuous of requests is ‘nyet’. I think it’s just a part of the Russian character. We observed the same situation over and over again while we were in Russia. One person makes a request of another person. Second person shakes head, no. First person then has a discussion with the second person which lasts anywhere from one to fifteen minutes. Sometimes the discussion veers into what sounds like argument territory. In many cases, the second person (the negator) eventually acquiesces and things proceed from there. Occasionally, the requestor is not able to budge Ms. Negativity of 1964 and alternatives have to be explored.
May I tempt you with a nice bottle of vodka for breakfast?
From Russia with Love.
Mary was enchanted with this bear. Seems in her youth, which was mere months ago, she used to go to a restaurant in her little Arizona town that had also had a stuffed bear holding a tray in the lobby. Though in her case, it was a Mexican restaurant so the tray probably was holding a bottle of tequila.
So sorry. Been running around Europe and environs like madpeople and are we allowed to call them madpeople or should we refer to them as the sanity challenged?
Anyway, we’ve been so busy that I have not been able to turn on the laptop, well except when I wanted to catch up on my webcomics, but that’s really the only thing I’ve had time for these past couple of weeks. It’s been fun but exhausting, and I’ll have lots to write about shortly.
In the meantime, this photo, from a typical street in a typical London neighborhood, if by typical, you mean one that costs approximately the same as a small business jet to live in. Actually, now that I think about it, that is pretty typical. I like the advertising here. It sounds warm and inviting. Come on in, the food is something I myself, the proprietor would eat with little or no fear of gastro-intenstinal distress. So much better than those three star Michelin star restaurants, where the owner only shows up once a week or so to berate the dishwashers and collect the takings.
Ahh, the day can’t come a moment too soon when I can get my membership card in the Crotchety Old Guys Club. The Club has all kinds of benefits for Crotchety Old Guys, known hereafter as COG’s, because who doesn’t like acronyms? Anyway, one benefit is that you can get ten percent off your bill in any restaurant. As a COG you can leave only a 5% tip instead of the customary 15%, because you’re a crotchety old guy, and people just expect that kind of behavior. You also get to go to the front of any line, because dammit, you’re too damn old to be spending all day standing in line, and people will let you move to the front so they don’t have to listen to your grousing and bitching.
I think a cane comes with the membership card, too. Not because all COG’s need canes, but because it gives you something to wave irritably at young folk and their ilk. Or trip up running children, which is one way I plan to spend the afternoons till the Early Bird specials start at Perkins. Got my sights set on a nice antique ironwood cane with a heavy metal knob end perfect for putting dents in doors when I hammer on them, instead of knocking.
Last but certainly not least is the fact that as a card carrying COG, you can say senseless or silly things, and people will just have to take it because there’s no way to win an argument with a COG. It’s in the Club’s bylaws, I’m pretty sure. Case in point, our observations on a recent visit to a local restaurant that is a favorite with the COG set, as they have easily masticated food. COG and his wife (or caregiver, but then that’s pretty much the same thing) sat down beside us and proceeded to peruse the menu. When the waitress came by for their drink orders, the COG proceeded to tell her that they wanted “two ice teas, each.” The server was disconcerted and asked if they each wanted two ice teas, to which he replied, that of course they didn’t each want two ice teas. They each wanted an ice tea, so they wanted two ice teas.
An understandable error since the server probably wasn’t fully conversant in COG speak, which according to the handy COG manual means ‘anything I damn well want it to mean, dammit!’ So you can see why I look forward to the day when I can throw all social conventions to the winds and just be as grouchy and irritable as I want to be.
Welcome to this week’s Hero of the Week, which would be the first Hero of the Week, since I’ve never had a hero of the week before. And it should probably be Heroine of the Week, since after all she is a lady. Which of course, just makes her that much more awesome. Or so Mary tells me.
Anyway, whether Hero or Heroine, this woman is humbling. She attributes every one of her hundred and five years on this Earth to bacon, which I think I can safely say is a claim you rarely hear anyone making. Instead it’s a eulogy about poor old Marv, who died of a massive coronary at the age of thirty two, who only had bacon, and then only two strips every fourth Sunday, but only during the winter months.