Today was my last day in Moscow, before taking the 4:50pm train to Saint Petersburg. My plan was to wind up at the Tretyakov gallery by the afternoon, and then return to the hotel around 3pm to pick up my things (the hotel employee told me that when taking the train you don't have to get there an hour early like the airport, and it was just 15 minutes by metro).
I realized within my first few experiences on the train that it is best to write the metro line number down. Sometimes the color of the line on a map did not match with the color of the sign posted at the metro. For example a pink line could look purple. I felt more confident if I had both the color and the line number written down (so I didn't have to refer to my book/metro map in public).
Today I determined that I walked right past the Bolshoi theater on New Years Eve. I started my day here, with plans to walk to the main post office before taking the metro to the gallery (my third attempt at visiting the museum). I wanted to go to the main post office to better my chances of it being open. The small post office on Old Arbat was closed on the 2nd so I wasn't sure how long the holiday surrounding New Years would last and it seemed like each post office had different ideas regarding the length of time the holiday should be celebrated.
I walked down a pedestrian street, Kamergerskiy Pereulok, and enjoyed more Russian architecture. The buildings are so detailed and unique.
It looks like a movie set.
I am more impressed with this artwork above a random door on a random street than I am with most artwork in a museum.
The walk to the post office would have been a lot shorter had there not been black ice on the sidewalk. I read about this before my arrival in Moscow, that people slip and slide while walking during winter months but I didn't know that I would actually experience it. I didn't realize it was so regular. There was a few times throughout the week that I thought I was going to go down, often not resisting the motion like I learned to do in drivers training, and sometimes landing in a large icy puddle. Luckily other people were slipping and sliding too, so I didn't stand out too much (except that maybe I was the only one laughing).
I finally understood why people were so concerned about me going to Russia; even walking down the street is dangerous!
I made it to the post office after just a small detour.
I asked a security guard for help and he explained the exact location to me (in Russian); I was amazed at either how good my Russian was OR how helpful hand motions are.
My experience in the post office went okay. There was only one customer in the building (who did not appear to have a purpose except to assist me in broken English). I had the number of stamps and the word for stamps written down but unfortunately there were more questions that had to be answered. Like if I wanted it sent by plane (she stamped a paper which read 'por avion' to avoid confusion). I said niet (no) because I didn't know if she meant that I wanted it to be overnighted or something and I didn't want to spend 30$ to send a few postcards. When I said no, she looked so confused. If I don't send it by plane how else will it get there!?
Why must the simplest task be difficult?
It all got resolved with the help of the other customer.
In the lobby I was looking at my map to memorize the best move for me to get to the metro, when a different nice security guard approached me in broken English to see where I was going and to help me with the process.
The reason why I specify that the language is broken every time is because it is very broken and is almost debatable whether it is better than nothing.
Often old buildings like these were not listed on my map, buildings hundreds of years old, mysteriously out of place.
Remember that Ps are Rs and all of your questions will be answered.
This mini church is just a few steps away from the Arbatskaya metro stop.
Most of the metro stations are heavily decorated inside but are plainer on the outside, with the exception of the Arbatskaya station. I think it looks magical with glazed ice in the foreground.
Often metro goers take long escalators down into heart of the metro. There is art and/or ads hanging on the walls; the posters lining up with the escalators, not the perspective of the observer. The pictures should all be tilted about 30 degrees.
I don't know why it bothered me so much, but it did.
When I got to the gallery I was confronted with a long line, once again. But today I had no choice but to wait, even though it was lightly raining which turned to snow as I waited.
They let us enter the museum in groups of 10 or 20, sometimes 30, in periods of 15 minutes or so. At the entrance, older Russians were teaching younger Russians about Russian cuts, an ancient tradition that goes back to the Mongols.
Why wait in line?
I mean, what line?
The Tretyakov Gallery houses the largest collection of Russian art in the world.
Pavel Tretyakov was a wealthy merchant who loved art and began collecting in 1854, at the age of 24.
He donated his collection of art to Russia in 1892. The collection has been growing ever since and now contains 170,000 Russian works.
Paintings are historical documents, a record of life before photographs were known to be worth a thousand words.
This is Ilya Repin's version of the moment right after Ivan the Terrible killed his own son (and only suitable heir) in a fit of rage on November 16, 1581, a great example of how Ivan the Terrible got his terrible name.
His wife was not happy.
Just kidding, this is totally unrelated.
I got back to the hotel a little later than expected. It was 4:10pm by the time I was walking to the metro. I had not yet seen Komsomolskaya metro station so I had an opportunity to take more metro pictures.
The Komsomolskaya metro station (on line 5, the circle) is the closest station to Leningradskiy station, the train station with tracks that go to Saint Petersburg (named when Saint Petersburg was temporarily renamed Leningrad upon the death of Lenin).
It was almost immediately after taking this picture that time started to move really fast.
I walked outside and looked around. I didn't see any indication of the train station. There were a bunch of doors to buildings and pathways and signs in Russian but I had no idea which way was the right way. I looked in here; I looked in there. Hmmm. Maybe I should ask someone... what time is in anyway?
Oh my God, its 4:40!
My train leaves in 10 minutes.
I found a police officer. "Leningradskiy!? Saint Petersburg!". He pointed me in the right direction. I ran as fast as I could with a carry-on bag on my back. It was difficult to keep running in the cold but I wouldn't allow myself a break knowing that every second would count. I ran around the block to the station and saw security. I did Russian cuts (it is a time saver), through the metal detector and bag scanner, frantically asking the police "Leningradskiy!? Saint Petersburg!". They nodded their head yes.
I had 5 minutes. But when I entered the building there was a bunch of stores surrounding a waiting area. I had no idea which way to go. Every way looked like a dead end.
It was like a bad dream.
I did a few pirouettes and found another bag scanner and metal detector and said to these police "Leningradskiy! Saint Petersburg!". They asked for my ticket and looked at it, very worried. One man ran over with me, showing me the way. There was only one train waiting and I jumped on, showing my ticket. I made it. I wasn't in the right car but did not want to risk getting off and back on with the seconds that remained so I walked through the train, feeling like I was going to develop pneumonia with all the stressing and running in the cold that just occurred. By the time I got to my seat (6 seats in a compartment, three on each side facing each other) I was a mess. Everyone was looking at me like I came in from the roof. The Nevsky Express was well on its way by this time, accelerating quickly to the speed of 200 km/h.
Stare all you want, I made the train.
I couldn't help but imagine the train speeding away, with me left on the platform wondering what my next step would be... I came way too close to this being a reality.
I was at the Moscovsky station in Saint Petersburg just 4 hours and 15 minutes later. I happily walked ten minutes to my hotel, avoiding the hungry taxi cab drivers lined up outside.
Before I left my dad told me "you know, you are a good traveler, but you are also really lucky".
It is so true.