The overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow was fairly painless. Brendan and I were both so hungover from vodka overdoses the night before that I'd have probably slept in the bathroom without putting up much of a fuss. But we had our own little sleeping compartment in first class, so once the train got rolling at around midnight, it was lights out.
We arrived in the Moscow terminal at 8 a.m. the following morning to find that our pre-booked apartment was going to be inhabited by a Norwegian trio until noon. Rats. Thankfully, Russia has an abundance of Starbucks-type cafes, so we plopped down the backpacks, ordered some "filtered" coffee, praised the invention of wifi, and read our novels.
Speaking of novels, here's the book rundown so far:
"Skinny Dip"- Just okay. Didn't think it was all that funny or clever for murder mystery satire.
"Interview with the Vampire" - A little slow and flowery, but picked up about halfway in. Tried not to picture Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst as the main characters, but gave up eventually.
"A Map of the World" - Loved it! A true page turner. Highly recommended unless you don't like sad stories.
Ok, onto Moscow. I like it because it's big and jumbled and doesn't exactly know what it wants to be. St. Petersburg is world renowned as Russia's "beautiful" city, and while it certainly was, we had gotten used to a sense of structure and uniformity there that doesn't apply to Moscow one bit. Everything's under construction here. The old clashes with the new around every corner. I do love that Kremlin, though.
My uncle Edwin lives here in Moscow, and last Friday he treated B and I to authentic Russian cuisine at Pushkin, one of the nicest restaurants in town (thanks Edwin, you rock!). He also turned us onto the coolest supermarket on the planet. I mean, seriously... how can you NOT want to shop here?
Oh yeah, I dyed my hair today. The shocking truth is that I'm not a natural blonde, and we non-natural blondes can't go very long without touchups before the truth starts peeking out of our hairlines. Something had to be done, and in lieu of an expensive visit to "Red Square Hair", I decided on a box of Loreal Preference #6.23. I can't say I love my new look, but at least the roots are history.
I made up "Red Square Hair", by the way. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all year.
For some reason, Moscow puts me to sleep. And I don't mean that the city is boring or anything, it's that I've been sleeping 10 hours a night for the past week. At first I worried that I was sick or depressed or not having enough fun, but my body feels great. Constantly being on the move just wears this kid out. A two-hour trip to the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum practically had me napping on the metro.
Speaking of metros, I'm really impressed with Moscow's. Before I get into that, though, I should first explain my fondness for trains. When I was a little girl, my dad had a model train that he would set up at Christmas. It was an old Radio Flyer model that would smoke like a real train if you put special droplets inside the smokestack. There was a particular smell that smoke would give off, and to this day, all trains smell faintly reminiscent of that old Radio Flyer train that stood for presents and egg nog and Christmas cheer. I adore trains of all shapes and sizes, and I especially like a good metro system.
Moscow's metro is like an underground museum. What struck me was how far down under the city the lines actually lie. I've never been on a steeper escalator in my life. Every station has a unique style and decor, and those along the #5 circle line are so grand, you'd swear you weren't just trying to get across town. The trains themselves are retro and funky and propel me back to the Soviet era. I love having to change lines a few times and spending an hour hopping from train to train in what feels like a secret city hidden from the rest of civilization. B thinks the whole experience is hot and dirty and gross and can't see what my problem is.
The weather's really been cooperating with us lately. St. Petersburg was infinitely hotter and stickier, with a bigger mosquito problem. Besides the occasional rain shower, we've hovered around 65 degrees, partly cloudy, light breeze here in Moscow all week. From what I hear from friends and family back in California, it could be worse. My mom's hood hit 105 yesterday. Yikes.
So yeah, the Russian capital's been a hoot, but it's time to blow this place. Tonight we're boarding the Trans-Mongolian Express for a six-day railway journey into Beijing. Yep, six days without phone or email access on a non-stop train through Russia, Mongolia, and China. Hooray! I'm beside myself with excitement. B is already wondering if these will be the six longest days of his life. And they very well may be. We've stocked up on new novels, Russian instant soup packages, handi-wipes, and quite a bit of vodka for the road.
See you in the hutong!