Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Moscow Trip: Final Days

My last couple of days in Moscow, Russia, were full of sight-seeing, adventures, and dancing! My pictures were from all over the place, so I hope you enjoy!

The last official tour we had in Russia was at the Moscow Aviation Institute. Professor Tolyarenko discussed his time working there, and some of the things he had seen. Russia is very interesting in that I can liken it to a cardboard box full of treasure. Many things to be seen in Russia are hidden behind dilapidated buildings, in terrible-looking neighbourhoods. Now, many areas of my undergraduate campus were not so pristine either, but the Institute's surroundings made what was inside that much more surprising.

We were only allowed a group photo at the end, but interestingly enough, I found many similar pictures online. Here is some of what we saw.

Some of that which can be seen in the above link was not in place while we were there, so I might not be able to comment on it all. Just like much of life, it may be behind my ability to describe. Located in a warehouse of sorts, we were able to see "education-ready" Russian lunar landers, Soyuz rocket/missile casings, and many other very cool things. While the Russians were not successful in sending people to the Moon, they had been preparing for it. They had designed and built them, but sadly they were never launched. Now it sat in a warehouse, serving an educational purpose. Students would take their classes, learning about design theory and techniques, and then they would have a chance to examine the designs themselves. Many of the spacecraft were cut in half, allowing a better perspective on the inner workings.

The instrumentation was, in itself, very interesting, but it was made even more amazing owing to the presence of Prof. Tolyarenko. He had worked on most of this equipment, and had been present during the exciting, if politically scary, years of the Cold War. He knew everything about every piece of technology in that room, from how it was made, why it was made in that manner, and interesting stories behind it. Usually, this kind of technology is behind glass, or behind closed doors. To be able to touch it, look inside, ask questions, it reminded me of a particular scene in the film, Star Trek: First Contact, when they come face to face with an historical piece of technology. It was one of the best parts of the trip, but owing to the nature of the equipment, we were not allowed to take pictures.

The last three days in Moscow, we had no official schedule. Deciding to relax, I spent most of that time with friends, following their schedule.

Friday evening was full of a lot of walking, and mostly at night. At one point, we made our way to Gorky Park. The park had an odd layout, but was brightly lit and colourful. At one point, I separated myself from the crowd to take some pictures.

After the light show, we followed the river...

Until we saw...
I promise better pictures later.
The Buran! Remember the Russian "space shuttle"? Well, it was quite exciting, and odd, to see it here in this park, at night. The story of the Buran, and this one in particular, is quite sad. The Buran program failed in the early 1990s, but by that time it had completed one orbital test flight, where it flew, performed two orbits, returned and landed on Earth, all automatically. Sadly, the program was shut down and this Buran, which never flew, was moved to this park. Initially, this Buran was set up to give simulations, food, an entire tourist suite to make you feel like a cosmonaut, however interest fell quickly. The simulation was made shorter, food was no longer served, and now it just sits, lonely, by the river. To some, this is just some oversized piece of technology, but all of us space-enthusiasts gave it our full attention and imagined a world where this program had continued.
Part of the Buran's view

After the Buran, we continued walking around the park and I, drawn by music, took some pictures of a skating rink. It reminded me of Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, or the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. There were pretty lights all around the park, some which changed to match the music. It just looked like a lot of fun, and reminded me that I haven't been skating in a decade.

Returning to the hotel, I took another picture of the escalator. The tunnels leading from ground level to the Metro are quite long, and the escalator ride between them is several minutes long. I just find it interesting, though my pictures never do it justice.
The next day, I accompanied some people who had not seen the Buran yet. We returned to the park, and I got some better pictures!
"And they gazed in wild wonder..."
My friend, Séverine, does not look too happy in this picture.
Afterward, we walked throughout the "tourist" part of the city. The financial building, featured below, reminded me of 55 Central Park West, otherwise known as the "Ghostbusters building".

"There is no Dana, only Zuul."
Taking a turn down another "tourist-y" street, we saw shops selling all kinds of "Russian" merchandise. Buttons, photos, t-shirts, mugs, and more Matryoshka dolls than you could count, the store was quite nice, but I didn't buy anything. It is difficult for me to buy "random" things, instead, I only buy something if I think someone will actually want it. I struggle with this on trips because sometimes it is nice to just do something for someone, but I always stop to think, "But will they really want that trinket?"
Oddly enough, we spent quite a lot of time in the Hard Rock Cafe. Located conveniently downtown, we stopped for food and drinks there on more than one occasion. While some of us weren't too excited about eating at a Hard Rock Cafe while in Russia, wishing to try more of the local cuisine, I for one was quite happy. I am not sure if I mentioned this before, but I found much of Russian food to be familiar. We stopped to eat at a few places on this trip, and I found it interesting how familiar the food seemed. I guess this is because my Mom's side of the family has strong eastern European ancestry and so much of the food I grew up on was also featured in the restaurants. Since I pursue much of this food on a daily basis, it wasn't all that different in Russia. Please don't misunderstand me; I really liked it! I enjoyed every meal I had in Russia, but I was not feeling too left out of the "Russian" experience by eating at the Hard Rock Cafe.

I also really enjoy the classic Rock musical genre, so hearing the music and seeing all the memorabilia was really exciting. Afterward, we took this lovely little photo.
Andrew, me, Alicia, Paul, Jeremy, Isaac, Georgina, with Séverine and Sissi in the front
The next day, I followed Alicia, Séverine, and Jeremy to a cathedral and a museum. 
An alternative view of pictures taken earlier.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Don't let my poor photography skills mislead you, this cathedral was incredibly beautiful. Standing alone on a hill, the exterior was stunning.

Understandably, and unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos of the interior. It was quite an impressive sight. Frescos everywhere, lining every wall, every vaulted and vaulted cathedral ceiling. Scenes depicting Christ, and many other religious figures, every image was breathtaking and I could have sat there, admiring the work and the significance, all day. Momentarily losing the group, I found a set of stairs leading down. Down, down, down I went, until arriving on what I have to assume is the lowest level. It felt like I had discovered another cathedral! It had smaller, more humble displays, but it was still beautiful, and there was still so much to see! I admired the view, and found a little shop which sold souvenirs. Contrary to my hesitation earlier, I was enthused to pick some up because they featured postcards and books about the cathedral. Grabbing a few of those, I found my way outside and found my friends once again. I was really glad to have found the book because I wanted to share this with my family but wasn't sure my words would be enough.

What's next?
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts!
It had been quite a while since I had visited an art museum, and I had a wonderful time! The art was mostly early Renaissance and, keeping with the theme of the day, religious and very beautiful. The colours were incredible and depicted scenes ranging from religious figures, market squares, to natural vistas. My friend Alicia and I found one thing curious and amusing; many of the paintings included a dog, a beagle to be exact. While this dog was likely just there to introduce a sense of familiarity and reality, and while beagles are pretty common, I started making the joke that it was a time-travelling dog, going from scene to scene. It was one of those jokes that started small, but by the end, Alicia and I were noticing him everywhere.

Later that night, many of the ISU students went out for a night of drinks and dancing! We had a lot of fun and I surprised a lot of my friends. Normally, I'm pretty reserved, holding back, always thinking, rarely letting loose. But, the music was good, so I got out on the dance floor! I danced for 7 hours, and had a wonderful time!

Coming from Canada, where most bars seem to close around 2am (depending on the province), it has been interesting to learn that most places in France, and Russia it seems, stay open much later. We left at 6am, taking a short tour before getting back on the metro.

Finally, we made it back to the hotel where several of us were hungry. Thankfully, the hotel was just starting to serve breakfast! I had a regular breakfast while my friend Paul had an entire plate of chicken wings. Getting back to my room, I hugged my bed and fell into a wonderfully peaceful sleep.

Taking another walk over to the Red Square, I captured some more photos of St. Basil's Cathedral.

And more photos of the Red Square.

And thus concluded my time in Moscow. It was a wonderful trip and I really enjoyed my time there. The sights were amazing, and the people were wonderful. The thing I enjoyed most about the trip was letting loose, making friends. I have been focused on school and really didn't let anyone into my life here at the school. This happens with me often; I tend to be very reserved and only let certain people into my life, but I took the time and opened up, and have been happier. The museums, the architecture, the late nights making silly jokes with my friends, watching Chuck at night in the hotel, and dancing my feet off, all these things and more I will remember and I'm thankful for the chance to see such history and culture.

By the way, the money in Russia is very interesting. The Russian Ruble is worth 3 Canadian cents, 2 European cents, or 1.7 British pounds, and since they have paper bills of small denominations, it can be weird at first. Whenever I see a bill with 50 or 100 printed on it, I think "Oh, don't spend it all at once", but 50 Rubles is $1.55 Canadian dollars, good luck not spending it all at once, haha.

Thanks for following my adventures! My blog has almost reached 20 000 (it might be over that by the time this is actually posted) and I am very happy to have kept sharing with everyone. I have some exciting news, which I've hinted at before, and involves my career. I'll be writing up this post as fast as possible and will be sharing the news soon.

Thanks again, and good luck in your travels!

No comments:

Post a Comment