Thursday, July 11, 2013

Russia: Final Thoughts

So while writing a post that was initially supposed to combine final thoughts with travel tips, I realized that it was starting to become too long. As such, I decided to split them in two. One post for travel tips and this one for some final thoughts.

GUM (ГУМ), a shopping mall that borders Red Square

On my first day in Russia, I tripped and almost fell on my camera. When we were at the Kremlin, I was so intent on taking a photo that I kept inching my way to the left while trying to frame a shot properly. I didn't notice a small knee-high post on my left. I ended up falling over it. Only thought: don't let the camera hit the ground. Almost did. Thankfully, I managed to catch my fall with my free hand without injuring my wrist. It was extremely embarrassing though.

Golden domes inside the Moscow Kremlin

Surprisingly, learning the Russian alphabet is not as hard as you'd think. Don't get intimidated by it. Both my mom and I were able to read Russian well enough to get by and get around. My geekiness sort of came out though since I somehow remembered the greek letters, it might help you with a few letters. In the Greek alphabet, Г is Gamma (G), Д is Delta (D), Л looks like Lamdba (L), and П is Pi (P).

Inside the Tretyakov Gallery

Not a lot of people in Moscow speak English. When my mom and I tried purchasing overnight train tickets from Moscow to St. Petersburg, we were trying to get first class seats. The lady behind the counter couldn't understand us. She was telling us there were no seats available and was about to sell us the second class seats. Apparently, I figured out later on that she may have thought we wanted the cheapest seats and that she was trying to say was there were no third class seats left so she was giving us the next level up which was second class. Thankfully, a lady who could speak some English came up behind us and helped translate. She helped us get the correct tickets. Lucky for us!

Inside the Commandant's House at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg

Strange and slightly intimidating experience at the Izmailovo Market. We passed by a shop that was selling a shirt with the Sochi Winter Olympics logo that I was interested in getting. On our way into the market, I heard the guy manning the shop tell another patron that the shirt cost 300 rubles. I thought of getting it on the way out, but when we passed by again, the guy said 500 rubles. I was thinking about getting it but the guy then asked "how much?" I was still thinking if I still wanted to get it and then he said in a more forceful and confrontational way "how much?" I guess he was getting slightly impatient or maybe he thought I didn't understand him because before I knew it, he screamed at me "How much?!!" Okay, at that point I just had to step away.

The vibrantly colorful Kremlin in Izmailovo

McDonald's is relatively cheap in Russia. A Big Mac sandwich here costs about 87 rubles (or P100). I don't know how much a Big Mac meal costs though since I wasn't sure how do order the meal. :) Note however that because it is quite cheap, there are always very long lines at McDonald's.

Dining room in Catherine Palace just outside St. Petersburg

It was my first time to fly Aeroflot, Russia's largest airline and its flag carrier. It was pretty decent, with a good selection of movies, including some relatively new ones. I finally got to see Skyfall, The King's Speech, Rise of the Guardians, and Ocean's Thirteen.

Magnificent mosaic ceiling and interior of the Church of The Savior on Spilled Blood

I didn't realize until we were heading back to Manila that Aeroflot is part of Skyteam, with which I have a miles program. Thankfully, my miles were credited after the fact. Moral of the story: (1) know which airlines are part of your miles program and (2) always keep your boarding passes after your flight, just in case.

A beautifully sculpted grave in the Alexander Nevsky monastery

Next post: Travel Tips.

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