I slept absolutely terribly on my second and final night in Moscow. I think that was partly due to my body not adjusting to the time zone but mostly I think it was the road work that was taking place in the next street. At about 10 pm the jack hammering started and it continued for the entire night. There was nothing I could do to drown out the sound and it wasn’t the hotel’s fault so I couldn’t complain because they couldn’t do anything about it anyway. When I went out the next morning, I saw why it had gone on for so long, and was still going on. They dug up the entire street and re-paved most of it overnight. I have no idea why but I was impressed at the amount of work that they got done over the ten hours from when they started to when I saw for myself what they were up to, even though it caused me to sleep for less than four hours.
After breakfast on Sunday morning, I started out for the Cathedral of Christ Our Saviour, another Moscow must-see. My map app said it was thirty-five minutes away but it took me almost an hour to get there because I kept stopping to take pictures and I had to double back a couple of times where other roadwork was taking place and the sidewalk was blocked off.
Along the way, I passed this impressive statue.
I got to the cathedral on the dot of 9 am and it was already packed with people. Entry was free so I covered my head with the scarf I had brought (a requirement for women since it’s still a working church) and entered. There was more overwhelming iconostasis and lots of tourists walking around, some worshippers sitting in corners and reading from what looked like prayer books and other worshippers kneeling in obvious prayer. I was disappointed because I had hoped for a church service or something organised and formal like that, even if it wasn’t in English. So after ten minutes or so, I wandered back outside and sat on a bench, admiring the beautiful detailing of the exterior of the building.
After a while, I decided that my time would be better spent walking back to my hotel so I could take a nap, since I had started feeling sleepy sitting in the shade. I left by a different route than I had taken on the walk to the cathedral. Happily and quite by accident, I stumbled across the cathedral’s gardens, which I believe are far more beautiful than all I had seen inside.
I enjoyed the scenery for a while then wandered into the metro station that was by the cathedral. Moscow metro stations are said to be the most beautiful in the world because of how they’re designed and decorated. Since I wasn’t actually getting on a train, I couldn’t go past the turnstiles so I can’t vouch for that claim myself.
I continued my meandering walk back to the hotel, going a bit off the route on which my map was sending me because I couldn’t figure out where to cross some of the broader streets. Still, I didn’t mind because I stumbled across an unexpected statue or two; there seem to be statues around every corner in Russian cities because I’ve noticed the same here in Yakutsk.
Eventually, I got back to my hotel where I relaxed for a bit (sleep still wouldn’t come) then checked out, left my luggage with the concierge and went walkabout again, this time to find lunch/dinner.
Then I walked some more towards Pushkinskaya Square, where I hoped to find a must-see statue of Alexander Pushkin. I didn’t see it because it was closed off from view for what appeared to be renovation work. So instead, I sat on a bench in the park by (yet another) fountain and people-watched.
Deeee-licious lunch/dinner of grilled pork and potatoes with veggies
As I sat there and let my mind wander, I identified a strange feeling of displacement, like I didn’t belong anywhere. I imagine it’s that in-between feeling you get when one chapter of your life has ended but the next one hasn’t quite begun. I figured the feeling would be with me for at least the next couple of days, so I didn’t let it bother me too much. Upon further reflection, I also found myself feeling unexpectedly confident as I traversed the city centre and its environs, even though I don’t yet speak Russian. This was partially due to my map app, which helped me feel like I knew exactly where I was going. But I also believe that some of it was my growing confidence in myself as I travel more and more to unfamiliar places.
After about an hour in the park, I walked back to my hotel where I refreshed myself (a drink, a splash of water on my face, a brush of my teeth) and waited for my ride to a different airport from the one at which I had arrived. By this point I had walked about 13 km for the day.
My airport transfer driver made me a bit nervous for the first half of the one and a half hours that it took to get there because he kept glancing at his phone trying to find photos and videos of Yakutsk to show me. Thankfully, he finally put it away and allowed me to just be quiet and watch the scenery we were passing.
At the airport, I dropped off my bags at the check-in desk and proceeded to my gate to wait. The place was crammed with people waiting to get on domestic flights and when my flight was finally called, it seemed like straight up confusion; it vaguely reminded me of Indonesian domestic flights. To be fair, the people didn’t push and shove like Indonesians tend to do but the line was all over the place and there didn’t seem to be much order. Also similar to many Indonesian domestic flights, we were bussed across the tarmac to our plane.
When I entered the aircraft, I was surprised at how old it seemed (I couldn’t take a picture because I didn’t want to freak anyone out…”Why is the foreign lady taking pictures of the plane?”). It was a wide-bodied plane with no video consoles in the seat backs or above the seats and no USB connections. None. There went my plan to watch movies for the next six and a half hours but, thankfully, I had charged my phone at the hotel while I waited for my ride. The plane was so old and the flight attendants so much less polished-looking than the Aeroflot flight attendants had been just two days before that I wondered if we would even have meal service. At that thought, I was briefly grateful for the apple I had stashed away in my backpack.
Thankfully, we were served a meal, after which I slept poorly for about three hours (my seat was near the bathroom and I woke up every time the door opened and sometimes the smell wasn’t good depending on what went on in there) then read a manual on teaching techniques until we arrived in Yakutsk. By the time we got there my butt hurt from sitting and all I wanted to do was get out of my clothes, shower and go to bed.
After I found my luggage and exited the baggage claim area, I found three of my local colleagues awaiting me, along with two other international colleagues who arrived on the same flight. Then it was off to our respective apartments, and you know the rest about my arrival here.
Overall, Moscow didn’t dazzle me. Most of the architecture is either beautiful or eye-catching and interesting, there’s no doubt about that, but there really wasn’t much to hold my interest, and I didn’t find the people outside of the staff at my hotel particularly warm or friendly. Still, I had two good days of walkabout and I was happy with that.