Wow, I am in Moscow!

This post is part of my Russia travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

First impressions of Moscow

My flight landed at Moscow’s large Sheremetyevo-2 (Шереметьево शेरेमेत्येवो) airport at little past noon. Everything starts to look very different from the moment you land. Firstly, there are lots of Slavic people (obviously) and you suddenly feel like a foreigner. Secondly, there are lots of police and security people who will stare at you as if you are an object in a museum. Even while walking through the corridors, it feels that you are being watched. There was nobody carrying a backpack or wearing ‘american’ clothes except me. The airport is not swanky at all – everything is shushed, minimal and basic.

The queue (if you could call it one) at passport control was interesting too. There were 2 queues, but later I found that they were somehow merging into one because the other window was closed. My window closed for some reason and the people behind me started complaining loudly. The security people shouted back at them, but in the meanwhile the window reopened. And this time they opened the second window (for the second queue) too – Was I in India? 😀 My passport stamping was very swift.
“Where you come from?”
“Toronto”
“Ok”

Traffic chaos looked very common

I was in Russia! FINALLY! 🙂 My long standing dreams! The country where everyone smokes, drinks vodka and a speaks something that sounds like PRZFTPNZYSK..SKI. A country where nobody smiled and you could be in prison for a tiny thing… Haha! I’m happy to tell you that none of those stereotypes were even remotely true.

I waited at the arrivals lounge for a bit for my friend to pick me up. Meanwhile, numerous taxi drivers kept on asking me if I needed to go somewhere. I knew what to say to them: “Spasiba, ne nada” (स्पासीबा, नी नाद. Thanks, no need), and they left me alone – for a while. I think ‘Taxi drivers’ is a unique species of human beings that are the same all over the world. I spotted an ‘Information’ booth, so I thought of killing time and having a real conversation in Russian, probably my first. It was a rail information and booking desk.

Me: Dobri Den! (दोब्री दीन! Good day!) [A common greeting in Russian]
Me: Ya hachu nemnoga informachiya. (या खाचू नीमनोगा इन्फोर्माचीया. I want some information.)
She: [blank look, I wondered if I was saying it with the right accent]
Me: Я хотел бы купить Билет на завтра… Москва-Сочи… плацкарт. Сколько стоит? (या खातेल ब् कुपीच बील्येत ना झाफ्त्रा.. I would like to buy a ticket for tomorrow… Moscow-Sochi… platzkart. How much?) [Platzkart is the third class coach]
She: [she wrote the price on a piece of paper and handed it to me] вот. (here.)
Me: Я купить позже, не сейчас. Спасибо. (I buy later, not now. Thanks.)
I think she was annoyed. But I was selfishly delighted for being able to ask for a train schedule and price! 🙂

PS: I wonder how they write Russian in English (Latin) alphabet…

“Tsvet: 24 chasa” (Flowers: 24 hours) – Ubiquitous flower stores on a typical street

My first glimpse of Moscow was very interesting as my friend drew me from the airport to his apartment. The airport is at some suburb of Moscow and it very bland. The first thing I noticed was ubiquitous flower shops, called цветы ( त्स्वेत् ), meaning ‘flowers’. I also started reading all signboards and practicing my Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet that I learnt only few hours ago on the airplane. I felt like a baby who had just learned to read a language. I was literally reading everything I could! It was fun, you see a signboard which means nothing. Then, very slowly, you read it. And suddenly you know- р-е-с-т-о-р-а-н…. r-e-s-t-o-r-a-n! That’s a restaurant! I felt very victorious after being able to read and make sense of stuff – it was painfully slow but very satisfying.

I settled at my friend Evgeny’s place and spent the next five hours with his mother-in-law who spoke only Russian. I hear that its common in Russia for the mother to move-in with her daughter after marriage. She made some nice food for me and told me many stories and I responded by constructing little sentences. I, ofcourse, understood less than quarter of what she was saying but it was pleasant anyway.

Evgeny took care of me like a baby, right from my arrival to departure. The trip couldn’t have been smashing without his active involvement. 🙂

Kremlin and the Red Square from a distance. Yeah, Russians drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road too – like Americans, Germans, and uh, most of the world… (Picture from day 2)

So, yeah I was in Moscow finally. Pretty relaxed and interesting first day. Tomorrow I will visit the heart of Moscow: Red square and Kremlin besides seeing other sites. Can’t wait!

This post is part of my Russia travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery