Saturday, April 17, 2010

To Russia (with love)

One of my dreams has been to travel to Russia...and I did it! I'm in Moscow visiting my cousins!

We almost didn't make it here. First, bureaucracy: the Russian consulate sent our applications BACK to us saying we hadn't calculated the fee appropriately (grrrr...we followed the instructions on their website to the LETTER), then they took their sweet time to process the "corrected" application, and our passports arrived at our house THE DAY OUR FLIGHT WAS SCHEDULED to take off! So we packed in a frenzy, only to find that because of the volcano in Iceland our flight had been CANCELLED. More frenzy as we re-booked ourselves on a flight out of New York the following day and got a rental car to drive to the airport there. Whew. (I just learned that the equivalent flight the next day ended up being cancelled too, so we really just made it to Russia! Hope we can get back without too much trouble...)

Our flight took a longer flight path than usual, cutting aross Northern Italy. We made up a little time getting blown across the Adriatic by a mighty tail wind, but it was pretty long all the same. I was SO relieved when we finally touched down. The passport control guy was a dead ringer for Val Kilmer (but cuter!). I've been having fun practicing my cyrillic reading.

We had a very relaxed, delicious lunch at my cousins' place before heading out to evening Mass (the closest experience we're probably going to get to a clandestine Mass - the Catholic Church's position here in Russia's somewhat unclear to us but seems little tenuous). The priest's apartment was in a building with a very Soviet feel (and aroma!) to it; it even had the diminished-visibility screens on the windows. Mass was intimate and lovely, bilingual in French and English (so my husband was invited to do the second reading in French), with the priest singing the prayers in a deep plainchant that transported us back a few hundred years.

Afterward we took my cousin's son shopping for suit pants at Gum, which has to be the most gorgeous shopping mall, inside and out, that I've ever seen. Red Square is right outside Gum, so I peeked into the soul-stirring interior of little Kazan Cathedral and was thrilled to walk across the vast expanse of Red Square, toward colorful and iconic St. Basil's. Then home again to a home-cooked dinner, showers, staying up till midnight talking, and a deep, restful sleep. A really great first day in Russia!

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