Our trip to Moscow, Russia
May 22-27, 2007
This was a work-related trip for KC
that spouses were allowed to attend.
There were a total of 5 spouses and 2 children.
I would like to personally thank Deloitte for making the trip possible, and Jim and Kim Balashack for being such gracious hosts.
I would also like to thank Andy Konigsberg for sponsoring the spousal part of the trip.
This page is quite long and the pictures are high resolution. If you are not able to view all the pictures, let me know, and I will break it up into smaller pages. I create these pages so that we will not forget the details of the trip. Much of the commentary is personal, what we experienced and our perceptions, so feel free to skip it.
NOTE ABOUT MOVIE CLIPS:
Links below some of the pictures are movies taken with my small Lumix camera.
If you press the button for the clip, a new window will open.
It might take 5 MINUTES OR MORE for it to load.
They are worth watching because you hear as well as see what’s going on.
However, some of them are dark because the flash does not fire for a movie.
THE MOVIE LINKS HAVE A BIGGER FONT THAN THE OTHER LINKS.
Maps of where we were:
Moscow in relation to London and the rest of Russia:
Moscow in relation to Kabul, where I grew up:
The weekend before we left, we planted several hundred dollars worth of annuals in the front and back gardens and spent the 3 days before we left, giving them plenty of water so they wouldn’t die while we were gone. Our flight left at 8:15p.m. on Tuesday May 22nd and KC was, literally, watering when the car came for us at 5:30p.m.. I’m mentioning this because I worried about the plants the entire time we were gone and almost didn’t go because of them (I have been working on our landscaping for two years now)!
To get to Moscow, we had to fly through London, coming and going. Our outbound connection was the same day (4 hour layover) but we had to stay overnight on the return. The London-Moscow-London legs were on British Air, Chicago-London-Chicago was on American, so the car took us to the American Airlines terminal at O’Hare. We made good time and thought we be sitting around waiting for the flight to leave but, when we went to check in, the agent told us that she could see KC’s RESERVATION but there was no ticket! The travel agent had never booked it! KC offered to buy the ticket then and there but they told him it would cost too much so the agent contacted Carlson Travel and they finished the ticketing at the quoted price.
Because of this snafu, our seats were not together so we primed ourselves to switch with another passenger. The cabin never filled up though, at least half the seats were empty, and when they started closing the door we asked the cabin attendant what happened since they’d told us it was full. She said there had been bad weather somewhere and that they’d had fifty missed connections! Although we felt bad for the people affected, it sure made the trip nicer for us. I settled in with my glass of Sauvignon Blanc -- I LOVE the Seleni Estates they serve (Hawkes Bay, NZ) – KC plugged in his ‘tunes’ and we were off!
We had to change terminals at Heathrow and, boy, is that a nightmare! Up stairs, down stairs, up a ramp, down a ramp, a bus ride (wait for the next one, please), a queue where they ask you to consolidate your hand baggage into one carry-on (you can hear people complaining in several languages), and another huge queue to get your boarding pass. And then, the BA lounge was so full we had to sit upstairs where it was swelteringly hot (for me, KC didn’t seem to mind). The lounge never announced our flight and by the time we got to the gate there were, again, 100 people in front of us! We were SO glad when we finally got into our seats! The food on BA, however, is not what I remember. My chicken was bone dry and the noodles were so overcooked they were crusty!
We arrived in Moscow's Domodedovo Airport a little after 8:00p.m. on Wednesday, May 23rd, had no trouble going through immigration (surprisingly, KC said it took him two hours last year, at Sheremetyevo Airport), our bags were some of the first on the carousel, the car was waiting for us (with a sign that read Deloitte KC Healy), and there was very little traffic so we were at the hotel at a little after 10:00 p.m.
Our hotel, the Ararat Park Hyatt at 4 Neglinnaya St.:
Press here for link to the hotel’s website (a new window will open).
Neglinnaya Street, our hotel is on the right, half-way down, with the large awning:
The Ararat hotel is supposedly the best one in the city and we would have to agree. It was superb! The only things I would have changed would be a second toilet and a foot rest (for shaving) in the shower. The bathroom was marble, the sheets were the finest cotton, the furniture was wood, stylish and comfortable, and there was a large full-length mirror. The ONLY thing wrong with the place were the prices…a 6oz can of Coke was $10, a movie was $30, etc… Yes, the rooms were expensive too, but that was understandable as the service was impeccable, but the cost for everything else – especially the drinks in the restaurants -- was exorbitant.
According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting 2006 Cost of Living Survey, Moscow is the most expensive city for expatriate employees.
Press here for link to the Cost of Living Survey (a new window will open).
Interestingly, the layout and furnishings in the Ararat are similar to The Clarence in Dublin but the Ararat is what The Clarence is striving to be (or, once was). For about the same price, you really get your money’s worth at the Ararat.
The pictures below move around the room counter-clockwise.
Initial view of the room:
Large HD TV:
Beautiful wood desk and chair:
The king size bed:
The TV and minibar (minibar is to right of bed, with fruit on top, next to entryway) :
Entry way (2 closets, in-room safe, full-length mirror, door into bathroom on right):
The view from the HUGE window. Look how light it is at 10:00 p.m.! (The lights in the room are reflecting in the glass)
We got to the hotel a little after 10:00p.m.and were hungry but KC had work to catch up on so we ordered room service. One of the restaurants served Armenian food so we ordered from their menu, grilled eggplant salad, veal dolmades, and lamb kebob. It came with an unusual selection of breads: pistachio, black, and multi-grain (but not like the black/multi-grain bread we get here). Everything was delicious! It arrived on a huge cart that barely fit in the room (and was served on Bernardaud china, for those who are interested in that kind of minutia):
Clockwise from top, grilled eggplant salad, lamb kebob, veal dolmades:
THURSDAY, MAY 24.
Today, Thursday, was a full day of meetings for KC so he got up at 8:30. I had the day to myself so I got up when KC left and arranged to meet two local women I knew through my doll groups. They said they’d meet me at the hotel around 1:00pm and it took me that long to unpack and get ready. Elena, my doll buddy, didn’t speak English so she brought along a friend who did, also named Elena! I gave them the dolls I’d brought and Elena showed me her favorite, La Belle du Soir Kyori repainted by a friend and rerooted with white lamb’s wool. She was wearing Poesie’s dress and was really stunning.
Here is a photo of the nude doll. I’ll add one of the dress when I have one:
Elena was concerned that, given the scheduled activities planned by the hosting Deloitte office, I wouldn’t get to see some of the most important parts of Moscow right outside our door so we set off by foot to remedy this. I had checked the weather report before we left and the forecast was for unseasonably hot – upper 80s – weather so I had packed light summer clothes. It did not seem that hot though and I was glad I’d brought a sweater.
The hotel is centrally located as you can see in the map below. The Bolshoi Theatre (Bol’shoff Teatr) to the east, and the Kremlin (Kremli’), Red Square (Krasnaya ploshcha), GUM (shopping center) and the subway (Metropol’) to the south, are all within a few blocks :
Our hotel (red dot on Ararat Park) in relation to the Kremlin, the Bolshoi Theatre, etc:
Our first stop was outside the gate to Red Square where there is a bronze plaque embedded in the ground marking kilometer zero of the Russian highway system. People stand on the plate, make a wish, and throw a coin over their shoulder. You can see people of all ages waiting for their turn around the edge of the ring.
Here is a photo of Elena and me in front of the plaque:
We walked through the Iberian Gate (rebuilt in 1994-1996 to replace the original which was torn down in 1931 to allow military vehicles into the square) and discovered that Red Square had been cordoned off. Since I prefer pictures without tons of people in them, this gave me an opportunity to get some good shots of the Kremlin walls and St. Basil’s Cathedral. The name of the square, Krasnaya Ploshchad, can be seen on the map above just south of our hotel, next to GUM, the largest shopping mall in the city.
The wall surrounding the Kremlin
(Lenin’s tomb is the structure jutting out to the left of my head):
Saint Basil’s Cathedral at the end of Red Square (frequently confused with the Kremlin):
We walked around the square and onto the bridge over the Moscow River to get a look at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the tallest and largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world, on the bank of the Moscow River, a few blocks west of the Kremlin. The original was where Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuted in 1882. The current structure was built in 1990 to replace the original, which was built in 1860 and demolished by Stalin in 1931.
View of Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow River, and western wall of the Kremlin:
Picture Elena took of me with St Basil and the Kremlin in the background:
While we were on the bridge, Elena suddenly gasped and we all turned to see what had surprised her. Coming right at us was a large truck spewing water across the entire sidewalk! I took a quick picture and then ran out of the way. Apparently, they spray the sidewalks to keep the dust and heat down. The shopkeepers in Kabul used to do that too only they did it by hand, with a bucket of water, not a truck!
Water truck spraying the sidewalk:
We returned to Red Square and went into GUM, the city’s largest shopping center, for an ice cream. The structure is an entire block long (a Moscow block, which is huge) and three stories high with a domed glass roof. Both the inside and the outside are very ornate. GUM is the Russian language abbreviation for "Glavnyj Universalnyj Magazin" or Main Universal Store. It was built in 1890-1893 to replace the old building which burned down in 1825. There are currently about 200 stores in GUM, many of them high-end brand name stores like Dior, La Perla, etc… We had an ice cream (crème brulee!) from a kiosk on the ground floor and went on our way.
Rear view of St Basil’s Cathedral, with GUM behind it on the left:
Elena and me on the first balcony:
The two Elenas on the ground floor of GUM:
From GUM we went to another mall at the end of Tverskaya Street, this one underground and also three levels with a glass roof! I had looked all day for something to buy that was made in Russia and found nothing! Apparently, Russian-made goods are not popular. So, I bought a pair of jeweled turquoise flip-flops and some bangles, both made in India.
Underground mall with view of round domed glass skylight:
Underground mall with view of lower levels:
At this point, Elena had to leave because she has 2 small children and her babysitter (her mother) wanted to go home so we made our way back to the hotel, stopping at a music store in the pedestrian underpass to pick up a couple of CD’s.
After saying goodbye, I decided to have an early dinner in the hotel’s rooftop outdoor café, since I hadn’t eaten all day (except for the small ice cream in GUM) and KC was scheduled to have dinner with his colleagues. There weren’t many people up there and I had a seat with a view of the city. Both the Nicoise salad (with peppered salmon and poached egg for $21) and the iced frappuccino (served with sugar syrup for $23) were delicious. There was no line on the bill for me to add a tip, so I figured it was included. I found out later that tips can't be charged to your room and must be left in cash. Oops!
View of city from my table in the Conservatory:
Inside view of the Conservatory:
Looking down from the top floor:
It was getting cold out so I left the Conservatory and went down to the coffee shop on the ground floor for dessert (I figured I should try as many of the hotel’s restaurants as possible). The dessert was delicious, pistachio cheesecake with caramelized strawberries ($21), as was the café latte (served with 2 cookies and 2 pieces of dark chocolate fudge for $16).
View of the café from the hotel entrance:
Looking up from the ground floor:
While I was finishing my dessert, and catching up on my journal, who should appear but KC! His team was gathering in the lobby for the trip to the restaurant. He told me that Christina West was in the Conservatory and that Susan Potter and Sharee Fike were meeting for dinner at 6:30. I ran upstairs to see if Chris wanted to join us (she didn’t, she’d just arrived and was, understandably, too tired) so I went back down and met up with Susan and Sharee.
They weren’t going to dinner though; they were going to Zara, a store that supposedly offers copies of runway designs at reasonable prices. The temperature was perfect outside, sunny and mid-seventies, but inside, the store was like an oven! It was packed, mostly with young women, all of whom were scantily dressed (there doesn’t seem to be any inhibition about showing skin in Moscow!) and in shoes with towering heels. I don’t know how they walk on cobblestones with those heels but Susan noticed that many of them had Band-Aids on their feet so maybe they DO have trouble.
I looked Zara up on the Internet and discovered that it’s based in Spain where the first store opened in 1975. Since then, they have grown to over 1000 stores all over the world (16 in the US). Their unique business model enables them to design and produce an item in just under 2 weeks and have the item in the stores in less than 5 weeks from conception! Most of their production occurs at the beginning and during each season. They do not advertise (which is probably why I’d never heard of them). If a design does not sell in one week, it is pulled and all further orders are cancelled. No design stays on the floor for more than 4 weeks encouraging frequent visits.
Press here for link to Zara’s website (a new window will open).
But, I digress. In Zara, I looked around and found a few things but the since the line for the dressing room was 10 people deep I tried on one dress over my clothes and gave up. Sharee waited in the line for 20 minutes and then tried on one skirt over her clothes. It fit so she bought it and we left.
We walked back to the hotel, and then past it, to a restaurant which had been recommended as having, among other things, an excellent strawberry soup dessert. It was still early, I guess, and there was room in the restaurant (reservations had been recommended), so we decided to eat there. None of us were really hungry so we ordered appetizers (Caprese salad for Susan, chicken Caesar for Sharee, and cold beet soup for me). My soup was delicious – diced beets in a dark red broth with a touch of sour cream. We debated over dessert and decided to split the strawberry soup three ways. Why? Because it was $50! This meal, a glass of water, a bowl of soup and 1/3 of a dessert cost me $44.
The $50 wild strawberry soup with vanilla ice cream:
Back at the hotel again, I waited up until 12:30 for KC to return from his group dinner and then, when he didn’t, decided to hit the hay. Five minutes later KC rolls in and immediately flops down on the bed! It took me 10 minutes to persuade him to drink a glass of water and take his clothes off. He kept saying that the reason he’d come back early was that he’d had too much to drink and that he had NO ROOM for the water. I thought it would prevent a hangover the next day so I insisted and he choked down about 6 oz. repeating several times that we needed to be downstairs at 9:40 the following morning. I requested a wake-up call and we went to bed. The only detail I could get out of him about his day was that the restaurant they ate at was the Gudonov. The next morning there was an envelope shoved under our door: KC had left his glasses in the bar!
FRIDAY, MAY 25.
Today we took a group tour to Sergiev Posad, the most important Russian monastery and the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. We got up at 7:30 and went down for breakfast as they’d recommended we have a hearty meal before leaving. We ate in “The Park” restaurant on the second floor, another throw-back to The Clarence. I wonder who copied whom?
KC ordered an omelet with cheese, onions, potatoes and sausage, I ordered Russian blinis. He had 2 cups of coffee, I had one cappuccino. We both had juice (orange for him, carrot for me). The meal was good, although my blinis were really crepes, but it cost us over $100. KC’s coffee was $10 per cup! Needless to say, we didn’t eat there again.
We met the group on time and left at a little after 10:00a.m.. Our guide was very interesting and well informed although her commentary kept me from napping and I really needed to. Trying to sleep with KC zonked out in the middle of the bed was next to impossible and I couldn’t get him to budge. I’d roll him over onto his side and he’d roll right back! Anyway, the trip took about 1.5 hours in “Sputnik”, a Mercedes bus. Before entering the monastery, we made a bathroom stop as the ones inside the monastery were supposedly sub-par. We each paid 10 rubles to use the facilities.
Sergiev Posad in relation to Moscow:
Inside the bus (Vanessa Borchers peering over the seat):
Bennett and Christina West, sitting next to us:
The McDonald’s we passed on the way:
The bus, Sputnik, parked outside the first bathroom stop:
The ladies room:
The buildings inside the monastery were built over a period of about 400 years and each is an example of a different type of architecture. I DID listen to the guide but I don’t remember which were constructed when. We paid 100 rubles for a photo pass and were allowed to take pictures anywhere but inside the Trinity Cathedral where there was always a service in progress. They told us it was considered bad form to take a picture with of person in front of an icon as that, supposedly, defiled it. The group had to hire a monastery guide whose Russian commentary was translated by our guide. Here are some of the photos we took:
Sergiev Posad from the road:
Our guide, in front of the Refectory of St. Sergius which used to be the largest hall in Russia:
Interior of the Refectory of St. Sergius:
Barb defiling the woodwork:
Close up of intricately carved woodwork:
Trinity Cathedral, built of stone in 1422,
to replace the wooden one which burned down in 1408:
The 88 meter high bell tower built by Empress Elizabeth
42 bells are suspended in the tiers with the largest bell weighing 64 tons:
Assumption Cathedral, larger than its model and namesake in the Moscow Kremlin:
Interior of Assumption Cathedral:
Two ton candle chandelier inside Assumption Cathedral
(it looks fake, doesn’t it, like it was made of lace and superimposed on the photo):
At the end of the tour, we were given 30 minutes to look around but everyone was so thirsty we made a beeline for the coffee shop. We then went down to the souvenir vendors set up outside the monastery wall and bought some Christmas tree ornaments. The group reassembled outside the entrance and we then made our way back to Moscow.
Elena Engel and Christina West in front of the coffee shop:
The entrance to the monastery and exterior of the wall:
On the way back we stopped in Radonezh, the birthplace of Sergius Posad, the monastery’s founder, where there is a statue commemorating the fact that he grew up there. The countryside around this village was beautiful.
The countryside around Radonezh:
Some photos of the houses we passed on the way. The first three are examples of the highly decorated Russian style, the last are the weekend homes (dachas) of the Moscow elite.
Typical Russian houses:
Muscovite’s weekend/summer retreats:
On the way back we hit rush hour and were stuck in traffic so the inbound trip took an hour longer than the outbound one. Traffic in Moscow is horrendous and most expatriates have drivers. Some of the streets IN THE CITY (i.e. not a highway) are eight lanes wide! The photos below were taken through the bus window so they’re a bit blurry.
Stuck in traffic:
Eight lane road into the city:
Another view of the 8 lane road:
We got back to the room with just enough time to change for dinner and then rushed off to the Café des Artistes. The restaurant is on a pedestrian road, Kamergersky, lined on both sides with outdoor cafes. Our restaurant also had an outdoor café but we were ushered inside to a room on the second floor where there was a long table set for us. I was lucky enough to sit next to Jess Konigsberg, a young man about to enter college. He's the most well-adjusted, well-spoken, and gracious young adult I've ever met.
Café des Artistes (Janson Yap and Susan Potter in lower right):
The first course was a salad with asparagus, avocado and foie gras! Mine was not cooked as thoroughly as I would have liked but it tasted delicious. The second course was either turbot or veal (I had turbot, KC had the veal) both of which were very good, and dessert was an ethereal Toblerone mouse. After the meal, we walked down to Red Square where there was supposed to be a show put on by the school kids, whose last day of school was today, but by the time we got there, it was over. So we took a few pictures and then went back to the hotel for drinks in the Conservatory. You can’t see this in the picture but it was a perfect night – clear and cool.
In fact, the weather was very good the entire time we were there. It was sunny and warm during the day and cool in the evening. It rained some nights but was always clear in the morning. The sun was pretty hot on those days we were walking around in it for hours but it wasn’t humid. We actually couldn’t have asked for better weather.
Foie Gras salad with asparagus and avocado:
Andy, hamming it up next to the plaster bust:
KC and Barb in Manege Square, in front of the State Historical Museum:
KC and Barb in front of GUM, all lit up:
GUM all lit up at night:
Part of our group at the conservatory:
This was one LOOOOOONG day! Fortunately, there aren’t that many more pictures….
SATURDAY, MAY 26.
We slept until 10:00a.m.this morning and skipped breakfast. Actually, we were supposed to meet downstairs at 10:15 but the alarm didn’t go off so we scrambled to get ready and made it by the skin of our teeth! Today’s tour, to Izmaylovsky Park and Flea Market, started at 9:30, with Felix, our guide. To get there, we took the subway! I was apprehensive at first, since the Chicago subway is so dark and dirty, but Moscow’s subway is gorgeous. The stations are large, well lit, and pristine. There is no graffiti on or in the cars, which are wood paneled. Each station is different and the ones we saw were all marble.
Baumanskaya Metro Station, near Red Square, opened in 1944:
Station, designed by Boris Iofan and Yu.P. Zenkevich
Bronze sculptures by V.A. Andreev depicting Russian life:
KC petting the dog’s nose:
We got off the subway and walked 2 blocks to the market. At the entrance to the market were a huge iron gate and a soldier collecting an entry fee. Felix paid it so I don’t know how much it was but the fact that there was an entry fee meant that there wouldn’t be a huge crowd, which was good. The market was well organized with all the antiques, artwork, woodwork, and military memorabilia in their own areas.
We established a meeting place and agreed to return in 3 hours. KC and I walked the entire market and then went back to our favorite things and got the best price we could, in most cases, not much less than the asking price. We were both very thirsty and, around noon, KC was starving, so he followed his nose to the kebob stands and scarfed down a pork kebob.
Fur hats for sale (it was so hot, I couldn’t bear the thought of trying one on!):
(the ship in the background is a restaurant)
A shaded alley in the artwork section:
Typical wood kiosks in the souvenirs section:
KC waiting for his kebob (sorry, I cut off his head):
KC bought a soviet military tanker’s hat and a pair of goggles from the same era as when he was a tank commander in the US army (KC graduated from West Point). He’ll display the helmet with his own and plans to wear the goggles when he rides is motorcycle. They do look really cool! I bought a one-of-a-kind Christmas nutcracker. He is the most unusual nutcracker I own (a have almost 100 of them) and I am SO glad I found him! KC also bought a t-shirt that says “McLenin’s” on the front, and “the party’s over” on the back. I also bought a small Faberge egg for my charm bracelet. There were several tablecloth vendors there but I decided against them because we have so many already. I found out later that their quality is comparable to the French Jacquard for a fraction of the price so I resolved to try and find one the next day, closer to the hotel.
KC hamming it up in his new purchases:
My nutcracker (does anyone know who he’s supposed to be? George Washington?) I LOVE the fact that the artist used restraint in painting his costume, that his features are carved, not painted, and that his stance is unusual. I can't decide whether to call him Vladimir or Boris.
From the side. Notice how the lever is carved to look like it’s part of his jacket and aligns perfectly with the bottom edge?:
From the back. Isn’t his pigtail adorable? (Can you tell how much I love him?):
Even with his mouth open he’s got personality:
I normally display our nutcrackers at Christmas but I can’t bear to put this guy away so he’s going to keep me company for the rest of the year. Here is a link to the rest of our nutcracker collection (you will need to scroll down past the outside of the house):
Press here for link to 2006 Xmas decorations (a new window will open).
Ooops, I digressed again! Back to the market: On our way out, we passed a performing bear. He wasn’t performing but I took his picture anyway. I felt so sorry for him, he was pacing back and forth and didn’t look happy at all.
When we got back to the hotel we had two hours to get ready for the evening’s festivities, the Bolshoi Ballet, so I took an hour nap. I wore the same thing I’d worn for Christmas this year, a black petticoat and corset with black tights and lace-up boots, which looked very much like a tutu and, I thought, was appropriate given where we were going. Apparently, the outfit garnered a lot of attention, and more than one patron asked me for directions, assuming that I worked there.
While we were waiting in the hotel lobby for the rest of our party to come down, who should appear but Alice Cooper (Ozzie Osborne). Yes, really! He was staying in the hotel and was signing autographs on his way to a limo waiting in front. I asked if I could take his picture but he just ignored me and walked out. I know, I should have taken one without asking permission but I was trying to be considerate. I didn't see them but his family was with him and KC says his wife is gorgeous! KC got a picture of the car they were in (to remind us that we saw them).
Alice Cooper’s car and entourage:
The Bolshoi Theater, exterior:
The Bolshoi Theater, interior:
The ballet was La Fille Mal Gardee (Vain Precaution) and it was phenomenal! It was performed in the small theater as the large one was being renovated. The tickets were $75 apiece (a bargain, compared to the States) and ours were in the 8th row of the main floor next to Vanessa Borchers’ (THANK YOU, Jim Balaschak!) Although I’d seen it twice already, once with Mikhail Baryshnikov, this version created by Sir Fredrick Ashton was far, far better.
Among other things, there was a clog dance EN POINTE, a pas de deux where the principals created a cat’s cradle with the ribbon they were using as a prop, and lots of intricate footwork. Although the male dancer had some trouble with the lifts (you could see his legs shaking) and he might have muffed one of his landings, the prima ballerina was wonderful. At one point, she held an arabesque en pointe with eight ribbons grasped in her uplifted hand while eight ballerinas danced around her holding the other ends of the ribbons and using them to promenade (rotate) her. I was blown away – it was absolutely the highlight of the trip for me.
No cameras were allowed inside the theater and I could not find a photo of the small stage on the Internet so here is a link to their site where there is a virtual tour of the stage:
Press here for link to Bolshoi website (a new window will open).
And here are some shots I scanned in from the playbill:
The principals, Lise and Colas:
Simone (Lise’s mother, played by a man) doing the clog dance:
After the opera we went back at the hotel and piled into a van which took us to a Jazz club where one of the Deloitte partners, Omar Itcovici, played guitar in a band. The exterior reminded me of Vegas – really splashy with a plethora of multi-colored blinking lights. Inside, it was very subdued, sleek and elegant, like an old-time Jazz club.
Jazz Town, 12 Taganskaya Ploshchad:
Interior decorations – musicians suspended from the ceiling:
We sat down, ordered our dinner (salmon carpaccio and veal parmigiana), and then waited….service in Moscow can be very slow. We spent most of the evening talking to Elena, Andy Konigsberg’s wife, who sat opposite us, about her involvement in MercyCorps, the international aid organization she’s associated with. We were very impressed with the work they're doing, teaching people to "fish", rather than giving them fish. They support green practices so KC is hoping to get involved with them in conjunction with the alternate energy initiative he's spearheading at Deloitte. Elena is also, coincidentally, a doll collector!
Press here for link to MercyCorps website (a new window will open).
The band was playing when we arrived and, surprisingly, they were very good. They played a mixture of jazz and blues. Omar sang the blues as well as played guitar. I forgot that the camera took movies until the performance was half over so here are some clips of the instrumentals:
Press here for clip of Omar playing guitar (a new window will open).
Press here for clip of Omar playing guitar (a new window will open).
The other members of the band were equally good. Here are some clips of them:
Press here for clip of Omar’s band (a new window will open).
Press here for clip of the lead singer (a new window will open).
Press here for clip of the duet with the woman (a new window will open).
The music ended at around 11:30p.m. and we all went home. Knowing that we had to leave for the airport at 1:30p.m. the next day and there were things we wanted to do before then, we were up until 4:30a.m. packing. Can you believe it was light out when we went to bed? We really didn’t want to get up early tomorrow….
SUNDAY, MAY 27.
This morning’s tour of the Kremlin, Red Square, and Armory left at 10:20am. KC was anxious to go because he wanted to see the Armory but I had intended to skip it and look for a tablecloth. At 9:30, right after the alarm went off, the phone rang. It was Chris West. Did I want to go to Zara with her for some last-minute purchases before the tour departed? I really didn’t want to get up but I also really did want go back to Zara. Shopping trumped sleep as I would have time to catch up on that later. We left at 9:50 and by some miracle were back by 10:20! I bought a summer dress and a tiger-print tote bag. Many of the street corners were barricaded and there were police everywhere … we wondered why….
In the hotel, while we were waiting for the rest of the tour participants to arrive I asked the concierge where I could find a tablecloth and she recommended GUM. I mentioned this to Elena, who was responsible for my desire to get a tablecloth, and she invited me to come along with her to Arbat street, where she was sure we would find some (she wanted another one herself), or possibly even back to the market. I had intended to go along until I discovered that they were staying another day and were going after the tour, not instead of. I had to decline and find one on my own.
I left with the tour intending to split off when we got to Red Square. We took the long way and ended up at the entrance to the Kremlin, the intention being, I presume, to do the Kremlin first. I was SURE I wasn’t going to have enough time as it was, so I broke away as we approached the Kremlin and went tearing off towards Red Square. It was hot, the sun was beating down, and I was drenched. Someone had explained that there was a gay pride demonstration planned and they were expecting violence, hence the barricades and soldiers. Unfortunately, every way I knew of into Red Square was blocked! I finally followed some people through an alley that opened into the street behind GUM and I raced inside. The woman at the information booth said, “Tablecloths? We don’t got no stinkin’ tablecloths.” (Or, something to that effect.) Great. Now what?
I retraced my steps back to Manege Square, thankful that I was able to remember them – this was no time to get lost – and saw a row of red and yellow souvenir kiosks along one side. They were my only chance and, ignoring the rows of armored vehicles parked face-out on either side of them, and the mini-militias roaming the square, I practically ran over there. Yes! One of the booths DID have tablecloths! It took me almost an hour and the poor woman opened almost every cloth she had, but I did leave with two gorgeous large cloths (one dark aqua, the other light aqua and white) and 12 napkins that would match either one. All that for $100 when a tablecloth alone would have been twice that here in the states. Plus, they’re wider than the typical US tablecloth which works much better with our 48” table.
I raced home, ecstatic but smelly, and jumped in the shower. Meanwhile, KC was touring the Kremlin and the Armory. Here are the pictures he took, without commentary since I wasn’t there. I’ll add the commentary once KC gives it to me.
Into the Kremlin:
The President’s house, I think:
Is this the Assumption Cathedral that the one in Sergiev Posad was based on?:
When I was dressed again, I went downstairs and waited for the tour to return so I could say goodbye to the Konigsbergs. I’d forgotten that KC would be leaving the tour early, and he did, so I only got to say goodbye to Jesse, their son, who promised to pass my sentiments on to the rest of his family. Not only that, I discovered that I SHOULD have done the tour because the “Armory” didn’t contain weapons, it contained costumes, including Catherine’s wedding gown. KC was disappointed, I would have been ecstatic.
KC ran upstairs to finish packing and bring the bags down. Our car was waiting and the driver was not a patient man. Chris and Bennett were flying to London with us but the cabs were not big enough for us to share one so they left and we caught up with them at the airport.
Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow:
The ride to the airport was uneventful and we arrived with time to spare. We breezed up to the agent and checked ourselves in. Chris and Bennett, on the other hand, were having trouble. They had changed Chris’ reservation from the 26th to the 27th but there was no record of the change – she didn’t have a seat! And, of course, the agent in that line couldn’t help them, they had to get into the longer line “over there”. KC and I went up to the BA lounge and waited for them. I hadn’t eaten all day so I checked out the offerings in the lounge and snagged several chocolate bars. Not nutritious, I know, but they’d make good gifts, given that KC had refused to go to the Duty Free store. He was anxious to get home – he has so much work to do and couldn’t really afford to take the last few days “off” -- but when he saw me stashing the free chocolates in my bag, he capitulated and informed me of the stores outside the lounge. I ran off and picked up several big bars of chocolate not knowing whether I’d be able to get them home (British Air has a one bag limit on carry-ons and mine was already full.)
Chris and Bennett eventually joined us (they HAD stopped in the Duty Free store after straightening out Chris’s ticket) and we boarded the plane together. There were several empty seats and we all got to sit with our spouses. It was pretty hot in the plane and the air wasn’t on, for some reason.... Presently, the pilot (a woman) announced that the air compressor that starts the engines wasn’t functioning and without the engines, not only would there be no flight, but there could be no A/C while they tried to solve the problem. They had tried an external air compressor and that had failed, too, so they were towing the plane to a remote location where the mechanics could work on it. She would keep us informed.
While we waited, the fan I carry around for my hot flashes really came in handy. Even KC was using it! I think I was the only person on the plane who wasn’t suffering – the heat was not as bad as a hot flash and, since I dress for them, I was actually comfortable!
An hour later, with temperatures in the interior of the plane reaching dangerous levels, they announced that they were bussing us back to the terminal. Great. We still had plenty of time to make our 7:00 a.m. connection the following morning, so weren’t concerned yet, but we WERE irritated. We did not want to deal with spending the night in an airport hotel. Chris and Bennett, who had dinner reservations in London and were staying at a hotel in Mayfair, suspected they weren’t going to get there in time and changed their plans to stay at the hotel near Heathrow. That turned out to be a wise decision.
Chris and Me:
The lounge where we were waiting:
Planes on the tarmac near where the mechanic was working on the plane:
Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:15 p.m. After sitting in the lounge for over 5 hours, we finally boarded a larger plane which was sent from London to replace the one scheduled to depart after ours, at 9:00p.m., because that one had also developed mechanical problems and, we suspect, they knew they needed a larger plane to get the passengers from both flights over to London. I would imagine providing overnight accommodations for that many people would have been prohibitively expensive. At any rate, we departed at 11:45p.m. (6.5 hours late) and arrived in London at 1:15 a.m. We breezed through immigration, grabbed our bags and shared a cab to the hotel. At that time of night, the train wasn’t running.
Now that we were on western soil, I was reminded of a question my Russian friends had asked when I spent the day with them. They wondered whether I had been afraid to come to Russia. They sensed that many foreigners perceive it as a dangerous place. I have to say that I WAS apprehensive, although I couldn’t admit that to them; and, now that we were out of the country, I felt much more at ease. Nothing negative happened while we were there so I wonder why I felt that way.
The gay rally took place as planned (apparently, they applied for a parade permit and the request was denied so they decided to protest) and, as expected, there was violence. They showed it on the TV in the lounge while we were waiting to board and it looked like several people were attacked and beaten. The incidents seemed to be isolated, there didn’t appear to be widespread rioting. We meant to ask the Deloitte folks who’d stayed an extra day whether they’d been affected but forgot. I’m sure if something had happened, we’d have been told, but we’re curious whether they saw anything. I’m sure this was not the source of my discomfort, we have protest marches here, too, and they are frequently violent. So what could it have been?
Back to London. Even though we were only in it for 3 hours, the hotel room was a welcome respite from the previous day’s discomfort. We cracked open the mini bar, brushed our teeth, and hit the hay. The next morning, we were up at 5:30, took the train to Heathrow, and checked in. KC had gotten an automatic upgrade to first class (our tickets were in business class) and offered to let me have his seat but I’d rather sit next to him so, to his amazement, I declined.
The flight home was uneventful; we breezed through immigration and customs, and the limo arrived within minutes of our call. It was Memorial Day so there was little traffic and we made it home in record time, around 11:00am. The gardening we’d done before we left was intact and alive when we returned except for the petunias and hollyhock which the rabbits had devoured. I guess I need to invest in a bag of cayenne….
Some of the annuals we planted (the ones the rabbits didn't get):
Although I was dead tired, it was only 11:00a.m. so I forced myself to stay up, unpacking and processing the photos I’d taken. At 7:00p.m. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and fell into bed. I slept 12 hours uninterrupted which is something I rarely do.
Tuesday morning I was up at 5:30 so, after doing my “chores”, I started working on this web page. It took me the entire day and night but I did it up while everything was still fresh in my mind. If you can’t see all the pictures please let me know.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to send me your comments, corrections, and suggestions. You can
press here  to send me an email.
One last look:
View of Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow River, and western wall of the Kremlin:
Press here to return to personal picture menu.
Note to self: bring the following next time: extra charged batteries for phone and camera..
OOAKFolk, Inc., and artist Barbara Healy are not affiliated in any way with the original manufacturers of
the dolls pictured in this site. No photograph, text or graphic on this site may be copied without written
permission from Barbara Healy. Copyright © 2004 OOAKFolk, Inc.
Last Revised: May 31, 2007
Site Questions? Press   Tech Support  to send email.