This post is copied from the journal I kept while traveling in Russia with the intention of being able to look back at it years later and be able to remember small, long-since forgotten memories of my first international trip and dream come true.
It is raw and unedited with the exception of changing my husband’s name. Some posts in this series may be very short, some may be too detailed and some may be flat out unentertaining. I may interchange past and present tenses, have run-on sentences, have strange wording and just generally not meet my usual writing standards.
The experiences and thoughts I share are those of a sheltered, small-town southern girl, and what I mean to relay by this statement is that my observations while traveling to, in and from Russia may not be specific to the cities, countries, cultures and/or people I mention.
The FIFA World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world and therefore brings together people of different races, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. I may reference these races, nationalities and cultures when talking about people and situations I witnessed and do not intend to stereotype or offend anyone.
We woke up well before our arrival time back in Moscow this morning. I looked out the window for a while, noticing how each house we passed looked so different from the one next to it.
Our breakfast consisted of more of the small peach-like fruits that Vladimir so graciously shared with us. As we ate, he pulled out his Fan ID, showing us that his lanyard had Samara printed on it where ours were blank.
We stepped onto the platform and took a selfie with our very last train. I had mixed emotions as we walked away from it – happy that we were finally in one place for a few days with a home base, sad that we wouldn’t be rooming with more interesting people, and even more sad that it meant our trip was almost over.
We had a while until we could check into our hotel, so we walked to the park we had gone to on our first day. There weren’t many people there yet, so we were able to snag a bench and sit down. About 15 minutes later, a drunk man wearing filthy clothes came walking toward us speaking Russian. Ron shook his head and shrugged his shoulders to try to let the guy know we didn’t know what he was saying, and the man started pointing at me then to Ron. He pulled out his phone and started trying to take a selfie of himself with me, and I waved my hand and shook my head, saying, “нет, спасибо,” and finally, “стоп!” when he sat down on top of us as he tried to sit in between us. Ron yelled every variation of no that he could think of as we both jumped up to leave, and the guy finally walked off. We later saw him bumming cigarettes off a tourist and then approaching a single woman on a bench.
We walked for a little while in the general direction of our hotel and arranged a Yandex Taxi. As usual, it was a struggle trying to find our driver. We walked back and forth and finally found a car that matched the description. Ron checked the first three letters of the license plate and said, “That’s him,” and I walked around to the passenger side. The guy got out of his car and looked up at Ron in confusion. He was not our driver – he was just a guy trying to get to work.
We stood for a minute looking around, and a woman came up to us asking if we needed help, and we showed her where our hotel was. She said our hotel was a ways away and that it would definitely be a good idea to schedule another taxi. We did, and fortunately the driver was right across the street.
We got in the backseat and rode through Moscow until we reached a very commercial part of the city. The driver pulled up to a barricade beside a guard shack and stopped the car. We looked around, a little confused, and got out of the car to get our bags. A few other people were being dropped off beside us. We pulled our backpacks on and walked around the barricade and through the very large and very empty, blocked off parking lot to the warehouse that appeared to be our hotel.
A security guard in a black suit looked up at us as we opened the glass front door. I heard Ron say, “Wow,” as we walked into the large, open lobby. Extravagent glass chandeliers hang from the high ceiling. The floors were covered with brightly colored couches, armchairs and tables, and there was a bar to the right.
We walked to the desk on the left to check in. The young woman helping us had an intricate braid in her hair, and I was just trying to imagine waking up early enough before work to even try to do something like that with my hair. As she was scanning our passports and Fan IDs, a woman with dark curly hair walked down the stairs and stopped beside me, pulling her hair back and waving her face with her hand. She told the clerk that she can’t get the hot water to come on in the shower. The clerk apologized to her and turned back to us, leaving the woman standing there until she went back upstairs.
To our right, two men were in distress. They had reserved and paid for the room through a third party website, and they were being told that they didn’t have a reservation. I felt so bad for them, especially since there is nothing else available in Moscow right now.
Room keys in hand, we walked up the stairs to the loft and turned left down the hall to our room. We walked in, looking at the large paintings printed on the wallpaper. Ron commented on how hot it was in the room, and I told him I thought we were just hot from carrying our bags. I was so wrong. There is an air conditioner unit in this room, but the hoses don’t seem to lead anywhere. There is absolutely no ventilation, and it is extremely hot in Moscow today.
After we got settled in, I went to the bathroom to take a shower. There is no tub or enclosed area for a shower built into the bathroom; instead, there is some weird shower unit that has been installed. I turned on the water and waited. And waited. After about 20 minutes of freezing water, Ron went downstairs to tell the clerk we had no hot water, and when he came back in, he said he was told to wait about 15 minutes.
The water warmed up in about 10, and I washed quickly, not knowing how long the hot water would last. I left it on for Ron, who got in as soon as I stepped out of the small enclosure.
As hot as the room was and as hot as I was from being in the shower, drying my hair was a torturous process, and I was covered in sweat by the time I was done. I did my makeup quickly, and Ron and I got the hell out of that room. Ron didn’t want to, but we left the window open when we left, hoping to return to a cooler room. We’re on the second floor, and I told him that unless someone comes through here with a huge ladder and climbs up here to steal all of our stuff, it’ll be fine.
There was a shuttle that left from the hotel to the metro every 15 minutes, so we walked outside and waited. The breeze felt so good after being in our stuffy hotel room. A few men walked out as we waited, all of them wearing Fan IDs. I wondered if this warehouse had just been converted to a hotel for the World Cup and if it would remain a hotel after it was all over. Two Danish guys walked out of the hotel, each wearing Eriksen’s jersey, and took off walking, entering the woods beside the road.
The van pulled up, and we all got in. I was excited to head to the Metro for the first time. The driver pulled onto the road, turned left, drove about a minute and came to a stop to let us all out. It was completely pointless. As we stepped onto the sidewalk, we could see the two Danish guys up ahead and understood now why they hadn’t bothered with the shuttle.
We walked along the sidewalk until we came to the doors of the metro station, Технопарк. After a few minutes of Google Translating back and forth with the attendant at the window, we came away with two red cards that covered us for the next three days. We scanned our tickets as we walked through the barriers, went up the steps and came out on the platform.
Ron figured out how many stops until we needed to get off, and we boarded the metro a few minutes later. I pulled out my kindle and read as I stood and held onto the bar above me. Three stops later, we stepped off in Новокузнецкая and walked around the bustling station trying to figure out how to get out. We passed a band playing for tips and went up the long escalator. The people next to us who were going down seemed the be leaning so far back. It was windy as we neared the top and stepped off, going through the doors and out onto the street.
There was a small lover’s bridge encased in a heart made of flowers right outside the door to our right. To our left, another band was playing. The area was trendy, and the energy was invigorating.
We walked on the crowded street until we found the Irish pub we were searching for and got a good table in a small room in the back with good views of TVs so that we could watch Germany vs. Sweden. The room was packed with fans of both teams. I ordered baked cod with bouillabaisse sauce, simply because that word is in the fourth Harry Potter book, and I was surprised at how good it was. Ron ordered wings, as well as some sort of weird meringue for dessert, while I ordered a tiramisu cheesecake.
We left after the game and came back to the hotel. We walked instead of waiting in the dark for the shuttle, and I handed Ron my tactical pen just in case. Almost all of the windows to the hotel rooms were open as we came up to it, and we saw a fat Asian man in his boxers lying on his bed eating candy.
The hotel lobby was full of people lounging on the couches, and we assumed it’s because it’s so much cooler out there than it is in here. We walked in our room, and I pulled a chair up in front of the window in an attempt to cool down before I started taking my makeup off. I’m excited to be sleeping in a bed next to Ron again, but it’s loud outside, and I’m not sure how much sleep we’ll manage to get with the window open, especially as early as the sun comes up over here.