Moscow, Russia: Expensive City

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Moscow is a city buzzing with excitement even during the cold, snowy weather. Due to my very busy life (watching tv series and stuff), i'll just make a list of the things I learned about Russia and its people.
colorful St. Basil's Cathedral
  1. They are not villains nor are they friendly. They have a very neutral, brooding aura. They neither smile nor frown at you. Living in the Philippines where most people smile at tourists, this fact can be intimidating and scary. Don't worry, it's just how they are.
  2. They are very proper. They stand on the train properly. Women sit with backs straight and legs closed.
  3. Russians read. They read actual books. They read on the train, in the bus, on the platform, at the cafe. They actually read. I've seen more people read there than inside my college classroom. 
  4. Russian bookstore.
  5. They are very mushy. I see the men waiting for their girlfriends with a bouquet of flowers on their hands. I'm not sure if they celebrate valentines on January but most men bring girls flowers whenever they see them.
  6. PDA is normal. They kiss with their gf/bf everywhere. All the couples kiss wherever. I guess it's their way of coping up with the cold. These are not making-out-get-a-room type of kisses. Just sweet kisses everywhere. Remember, they are very proper.
  7. Some women wear those high heeled boots with the really slim heels even when walking through the snow and some ice. They don't slip! They have some magic voodoo going on but if you're a foreigner, don't even try it. Walking on the snow is already a struggle. Walking with those heels plus with the wind pushing you will just make you fall down on your butt.
  8. Remember to buy warm boots, those with lining in them. 
  9. Moscow is best seen during the day and at night. haha! The view is spectacular and different. 
  10. It's best to walk around and take the Metro. A Metro ride only costs 26 rubles and you can take unlimited number of rides as long as you don't leave the gates. However, a cab would take you for a 15min ride and cost around 300 rubles. 15mins would be around just 5blocks because of the really bad traffic. 
  11. Moscow Metro.
  12. Bring a list of Russian phrases or learn a little Russian like what I did. It helps when you're lost. There are rarely signs in English and almost no English speakers. Either speak Russian or walk in circles.
  13. I learned that there are 12 Million people living in the city. It can get really crowded.
  14. Russians look like just any other European or American, not like what they are portrayed in movies. There are some Russians though that look like Asians. Know the Huns from the movie Mulan? Well, they look similar to that. Probably due to the history of Russia and it being beside China and Mongolia. Anyway, they are still Russians, just from the East.
  15. The big fur coats are the "in" thing there. Nevermind not owning one coz half of the people wear the big, fat coats too (the "Michelin" coat). The fur coats are expensive and can cost about 80,000pesos! :O
Visit:

  • The Red Square - It has red walls but it's not a square. The tomb of Lenin is there too. The souvenirs are just outside. The prices are not really high but there's little designs to choose from. St. Basil's Cathedral, the History Musuem and an ice skating rink can be found in this Red Square. The department store/mall "GUM" (гyм) is just beside it. Outside the mall are a lot of shops that usually go on sale come January. There are a lot of stores to raid. Take the green line, Tverskaya stop (тверская). The are other lines that have stops near Tverskaya also falls down there.
  • Matryoshka galore.
  • Old Arbat - The old arbat road filled with souvenir shops left and right. This is like Chinatown but it isn't. The Russian that sell here are mostly Chinese-looking as they came from the East. Haggle all you want but they rarely lower their prices. Good matryoshka dolls that can have up to 20 babies inside them can be seen here. Prices for the matryoshka range from 300-5000 rubles. Take the train stop Arbatskaya (арбатская).
  • St. Basil's Cathedral
    Red wall.
  • You can also visit the theater and the ballet but i didn't have time to do so anymore. You can buy tickets at the counter.

Remember:
Going where?
  1. Print out a map of the Moscow train system in BOTH Russian and English. Believe me it is very useful. The Metro doesn't have English translations so you have to look at the cyrillic characters and it can be confusing at times.
  2. Don't go out alone. They make up scams especially if you're a tourist and they can detain you for days for nothing.
  3. Bring Russian rubles. They rarely accept any other currency.
  4. For those finding the need to make a cash advance on their AMEX card, do it on the airport ATM already. Get as much as you need because it is difficult to find ATM or bankomats that accept Amex and spits out cash. In the city, there are just 2 ATMs that do that. In the province, there is almost none. So just to be sure, bring cash.
  5. You have to pay for everything, even for ketchup in Mcdo or KFC. haha! that's 16rubles already.
  6. Moscow is an expensive city. Very very very expensive. Never take the cab. From the hotel to the airport which is about a 40min cab ride costs 1300 rubles already! 
Russia is a big big big big big country. Learning about it and touring and seeing everything that there is to see can probably take a lifetime. For the experience though, it's probably best to tour the city then one of the smaller towns. It's a country that I would really love to explore ever since the animation movie "Anastacia" came out. haha! Back in college, I would even go to the Ateneo Library just to read books about the Tsar. It was a blessing and quite a coincidence that I was sent to visit that country. I'll be back when I have money to spend. I promise you that Russia!

Novomoskovsk, Russia: Little Industrial Town

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Russians are always the villains in movies. Probably because they are better known for their spies like KGB or maybe it's the intimidating accent. Now that I've met, dined, joked around, chatted with some Russian girls, I honestly wonder where we got our styreotypical mindset. Russians are the friendliest, happiest, easiest people to be around. They are very accommodating and hospitable much like how Filipinos are.
Novo at night.
One thing that really confused me is if Russians are classified as Asians or Europeans. In some websites, the country is under Asia and in some Europe. Although I think Russia is technically Asia,but since their capital and big cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow are closer to Europe, they consider themselves Europeans. Their accent and physical attributes very much are similar to Europeans.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Confusion aside, living in Novo is very much like living in a province in the Philippines. But instead of nipa huts, there are 4-5 story brick/concrete apartments with little square windows properly lined up when you look from outside. They said that, that is the typical Russian apartment. They rarely have stand-alone houses as they came from a communist regime so certain order and uniformity was imposed. Being that Russia is more of an industrialist country, apartments and factories were all that you can see. There is a supermarket, lots of trees and piles and piles of snow. Walking around the town is not advisable since the next sign of life is too far ahead. By the time you get there, you'd be freezing and shivering already from the cold.
Snowy walk home.
 We lived in the P&G housing compound, around 20mins away from the plant by cab and 20minute walk to the nearest market. The supermarket is just 300meters away from the gate of the compound however we walk a little slow because we are afraid of slipping in the ice and falling on our butts in the middle of the road.
Typical russian apartment
Our house is very very homey. I really like the layout and vowed to myself that I will build a house similar to it. We have 7 rooms and each person gets his/her own room with bathroom. There's a kitchen, pantry, laundry area and a living room. The living room can be a bit of a mess since my housemates just leave stuff anywhere like food, Mac laptops, iPad and DSLR. However, we do have a care-taker who cleans up after us everyday so by the time we get back from the office, everything is sparkly clean including our rooms.

FOOD

There are no fastfoods in the area so we buy groceries and cook at home. They say that the typical Russian women know how to cook. In fact, they even grow their own vegetables in their gardens in the summer. Wow! We, on the other hand, had a hard time cooking since, I for one, am not really used to it. Good thing I brought pancit canton and cup noodles. We just buy bread and cooked chicken then that's dinner.
Blini - thin pancakes more like crepe

Russians eat very healthy and light. Well the women eat light. The men on the otherhand eat straight from the stove (almost). They cook food good for 5 Filipinos then eat it all by themselves. haha! Their specialty is BLINI which is like crepe or thin pancakes. They put either jam or cheese or meat. I tasted the one with meat. It reminded me of an episode in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. where Rachel made desert and it had custard and meat in it and Ross kept saying "it taste like feet!" hehe I had the same reaction as Joey where he said, "What's not to like? Custard good. Meat good." :)

There's also BORSCH. It's soup that has some veggies in it mostly onions and radishes The color is slightly red. It tastes good too. I don't complain much when it comes to food. I just eat and eat.

TRANSPORTATION

Around Novo, we usually take a cab for fear that we might get lost in the middle of nowhere. The challenge with taking a cab is explaining to the driver where he should go and asking him how much we should pay. haha! We usually have a pen and paper for him to write down the amount. A cab which usually just costs P90 in the Philippines costs around 300Rubles there, which is P450 when converted. Pretty expensive. But I guess it's a little justified since the cab is warm and walking is really a pain in the snow.

There are shuttle-like buses but people rarely ride those. They call a cab instead. Here, it's very hard to just flag down a cab in the street coz you might already be frozen before an empty cab passes by. So they call before-hand to ask the cab to wait for them in the area.

The cars in Novo are mostly box-type cars. There are rarely new models in the streets. Most people still take the trains or the shuttle buses. The Russians said that only recently have they started buying cars. Most people still prefer to commute. This explains the old 80's retro car style.
Retro-car. Most Russian cars in Novo.
I guess things are a whole lot different in Novo because it is more like a province. It is more like the Philippines than we realize. It's nice to get a feel of real Russian living outside of the city. It is really an eye-opener.

Just a trivia, the driver in one of the shuttles tune in to LOVE RADIO every morning. hehe! They have love radio too. But it plays old school Russian love songs i think. 

Where I've Been

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