Today, Friday, was truly a lazy day. Woke up after 10:00 a.m. as did my brother. Barry is up every day at 6:00 a.m. We had breakfast and lounged around the apartment. Around 1:30 p.m. we decided to take naps. How pathetic is that?
But it underscores the result of nearly five weeks of non-stop travel and activity. We’ve seen so much, done so much, experienced and eaten so much that we’re beat. I think five weeks is probably the maximum amount of time I could ever take off, not that I will ever have the chance to do it again.
Tonight we went to Katia’s for dinner. She cooked us a Georgian meal that eclipsed the Georgian restaurant last night. It was fantastic. She was thrilled that I went back for seconds and thirds. Katia is a sensational cook; in Dubai she made a seafood pasta that was to die for. Once again, at this meal, we were eating with our hands. There’s something eschewing utensils that’s liberating in a Neanderthal kind of way.
Katia and her boyfriend, Valera hosted us in Katia’s $4 million apartment. One side overlooks the Moscow River. The other side overlooks New Moscow City. As a matter of fact, our river boat passed her penthouse last night. Katia has spent two-and-a-half years remodeling what was a dump into a state of the art showplace worthy of Moscow’s version of Architectural Digest. Picture a $20,000 faux antique Italian stove, crystal chandeliers, cloth wallpaper and $200 throw pillows. The economy has turned here and she is having trouble getting the proper documentation which is preventing her from selling. Regarding the documentation, let’s just say that it’s Russian politics.
Afterward, Katia wanted to take me and Barry on a tour of the Metro subway. Now this might sound kinda dumb. Who wants to tour a subway system, right? Let me tell you, if you ever get to Moscow, tour the subway system. You won’t believe your eyes.
The Metro is a wonder. Once you step off a train, you would swear you were in a museum. Statuary adorn the walls, marble is everywhere. There are chandeliers, mosaics and paintings. These pieces of art depict scenes from Soviet history or reflect different Soviet republics that have now become independent. Many extol the rights of workers and the hard work of the Soviet people.
There are dozens of Metro stations throughout Moscow and its suburbs. It would take you weeks to visit them all. Katia showed us her favorites and some of them took our breath away. It was amazing to see something so opulent as a subway station.
And there was no graffiti. None. Anywhere. I don’t know if it reflects a respect for culture and art or if taggers are deathly afraid of prosecution. If it’s the latter, I wish we could get the punks in America to be a bit more afraid.
One of the stations was built in 1946. The Soviet Union was desperately poor. They had won a war but lost twenty million people. It’s cities had been bombed out. Yet they built a magnificent subway station that stands today.
I thought it fascinating that the old Soviet Union believed enough in art that it would incorporate it into something as humdrum and every day as a Metro station. I asked Katia if she remembered the old Soviet system and she did (she’s thirty-four). I asked what she preferred, the new Russia or the old Soviet Union. Even though she’s affluent, well-traveled and a member of the intelligentsia, she felt the old way was better.
She said that, even though their clothes were monotonous, everyone was paid the same and, while there weren’t many creature comforts, parents spent time with their children, took them to the park at the end of the day, went to the theatre, museums and concerts. There was time for culture and family get togethers. Now, she said, everyone is obsessed with money and the heart of the people is being destroyed.
I found her comments interesting. After all, we won the ideological war. Or did we? Is capitalism better? If it destroys your heart so that your biggest desire is the latest fashions or watching shit like Dancing With the Stars rather than appreciating art, religion, culture or educating ourselves beyond our immediate community are we better off? Or are we being dumbed down, lulled into a false sense of security while our nation is destroyed before our very eyes because we are too fat and stupid to see it? As long as we have our sugar fix, our iPad fix, as long as politicians and financiers pay lip service to our needs, are we that better off?
Food for thought. How do I get so philosophical over a subway?
On Saturday, we had another lazy day. Tony took us to an outdoor bazaar on the other side of Moscow. It was something akin to Portland’s Saturday Market, only on steroids. It was kinda cool. There were actual buildings housing the booths of the artisans. There were some food booths and an area full of Russian antiques that were fascinating. I saw a million matryoshka dolls–you know, the ones that open up and have smaller dolls inside the larger ones. And they keep getting smaller and smaller. They were everywhere as were the Faberge’ eggs. Of course, these weren’t real Faberge’ eggs otherwise they’d cost $65,000 apiece, literally. But they were beautiful.
For me, I was looking for a sleeveless t-shirt that said “CCCP” (“USSR in Cyrillic) with a hammer and sickle in the upper right corner. Tony had purchased one for me about ten years ago but it became too small from washing and weightlifting due to my massive chest. I wanted to replace it but couldn’t find what I wanted. No matter. I will only be living three hours away from Moscow so I’ll be back relatively soon.
In the evening we were invited to dinner again at the home of my brother’s friends, Alex and Lena. We had had a wonderful time a few nights ago and I was flattered they wanted us to come back. Alex grilled rib eye steaks and sea bass. We were also treated to dried olives in oil, grilled vegetables, breads and croissants, salad, guacamole and a wonderful red wine Tony found in Tuscany. Alex also brought out Poiully Fouisse, a French white wine.
Regarding the three hour difference, I didn’t get to Lenin’s Tomb, either. Knowing that I’m going to be so near to Moscow and flying back occasionally caused me to realize that I don’t have to do everything this trip. I can do it next time. And there will be a next time.
Tomorrow we leave. I fly out of Sheremetyevo Airport to New York at noon. Barry flies out of Domodedovo Airport at 4:00 p.m. to Brussels. There might not be a posting for awhile due to travel and jet lag. I am attempting to change my itinerary so I can meet Tony and his girlfriend in New York for a couple of days, but I’m not sure if it will work out. Who knows? This travel blog might last an extra couple of days. If not, Oregon, here I come!