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.
Dressed in Denmark gear for our very last game, we headed out this morning and took the metro to Новокузнецкая again just because we love the area. We had been wanting to eat at MEATless but it always had a long line, so we ate breakfast there since it wasn’t as busy.
It was amazing. So good. I had some sort of cucumber/avocado/salmon loaf that was really light and had a ton of taste. I ordered the cucumber and yogurt soup afterward just because I was apparently on a cucumber kick and it looked really good. Ron ordered a Jim Bean burger that was really good. The atmosphere there was really easy going and everyone who worked there was so attractive.
We left from there and went back to the metro station to figure out what line we needed to take to get to the stadium. We ended up having a long walk after the last stop. It was really hot and sunny today so we tried to walk in the shade as much as we could.
Finally, we arrived and walked amidst the crowd of French, Danish and Russian people. We went through security, and I had a little tuft with a female security guard who told me to throw away my tiny container of lotion. She called over a translator, and after I told the lady it was just lotion, she waved me on through.
We were not as fortunate with our seats as the last game. We were on the sixth level this time, and climbing all those stairs was exhausting after that long walk. We got two waters – with no lids, of course – from the concession stand once we reached the top, and we walked into the stadium to find our seats. We sat down, glad that we were in seats 1 and 2 and therefore had aisle seats. A minute or so later, a FIFA volunteer walked over to us and motioned for us to move to two seats in the middle of the row. We were confused for a minute before we realized that the numbers started over in the middle of the row for some reason.
We were early and watched as the crowd slowly filled in. I noticed that there were a lot of people at this game, I guess since it was in Moscow, that were from other countries. There were jerseys of all different colors.
The game was so disappointing. France had already made it to the next round, and all Denmark needed to do was tie to make it, so it was basically a long game of friendly keep away. No one ever tried to score. The stadium rang with boos toward the end, and people stood up, flipping off the players and giving them the thumbs down as they walked out.
The crowd was bottlenecked through the many gates as we tried to walk to the metro station, and we shuffled our feet with the crowd as we walked. We reached the station and boarded the metro, packed right against each other in the cars. We got off at Новокузнецкая and looked for a place to eat that was playing the Iceland/Croatia game.
We found a Czech restaurant that was laid out like a cafeteria, and we were sat at a table right next to three Russian men. There was a large projector screen set up toward the front of the restaurant, so Ron and I both sat on the same side. Two Russian teenage couples sat at the table in front of us, and one of the tables could not stop kissing and hanging on each other. They’re definitely not weird about PDA over here.
I ordered salmon with some sort of creamy cheese sauce, and Ron ordered a skillet of steak and chicken with new potatoes. We ordered ice cream afterward and couldn’t believe how good everything was. It was my favorite meal of the trip.
We left and headed back to the hotel for the last time to gather our things. As glad as we were to be leaving that hotel, I was sad at the same time. I was also dreading the serious lack of sleep we were about to have, and I’m not looking forward to the plane ride from Turkey to Canada.
Our Yandex Taxi driver pulled up and helped us put our bags in the trunk. He was extremely tall and had his seat very far back, so I had to turn as sideways as I could behind him. He drove terribly, alternating between going as fast as possible and slamming on the brakes every couple of minutes. Russian rap music played through the speakers, and I nodded my head to the beat while looking at parts of Moscow that we had never seen and probably will never see again.
“Forever Young” by Alphaville came on, and Ron and I sang to it together in the back seat. The driver reached his hand back, handing me four wrapped caramels. I took them telling him, “Спасибо,” and handed a couple of them to Ron. It took me forever to open the first one and heard the driver laughing at me. I put it in my mouth and about broke my teeth. He played The Fugees next, and I sang along to Lauryn Hill’s lines as we hit traffic.
We were right beside the airport but no cars were moving, so I grabbed the driver’s attention and made a walking motion with my fingers. He nodded and got out to help us get our bags out of the trunk. While we were putting on our backpacks, he ran back up to the driver seat and returned with another handful of candies, winking as he handed them to me.
We followed two small Asian girls into the airport simply because they seemed like they knew where they were going. We had to go through security as soon as we walked in. We walked to the check-in counter and dealt with a lady who quite clearly did not enjoy her job. Beside us, a Morrocan guy was very upset about having to check his bag. He was yelling at the lady telling her none of the other airports made him check his bag, and at the end of his tirade, he told her it was her fault because she didn’t know English.
We ended up having to check our backpacks too. After going through seemingly endless security, we found our gate and sat down next to a man who was from Virginia. We told him we couldn’t believe that after two weeks in Russia we meet another American at the very end of the trip. He was laid back to the point that I assumed he was a stoner, and he talked about his recent travels to Egypt. He told us not to ever go there.
I got up and went to the bathroom, and our gate changed while I was in there. Ron stood up when I returned and we said our goodbyes to the fellow American. As we walked away, Ron told me that the guy told him he was a stockbroker and that his girlfriend couldn’t get off work to come with him, so he just came by himself.
We watched as long lines were formed to board flights to cities we had never heard of. We watched the sunrise around 3 AM as we were getting ready to board our flight, and I felt that I had somehow skipped a night.