Vagabonding Field Report: Who said Russia in the winter was a bad idea?
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
The massive amounts of Soviet-era and communist monuments were the strangest. As an American and son of Polish revolutionary parents who were involved in overthrowing the communist government in Poland, it was very interesting to see such communist icons be idolized and celebrated. Most places don’t exactly have Karl Marx statues these days.
Describe a typical day:
I walked and took the subway around town to see all the sites, such as the Kremlin, Red Square, Gulag Museum, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Bolshoy Theatre and several others. I tried to walk as much as possible so that I could see all the interesting side streets along the way, but the massive subway system in Moscow was definitely worth experiencing. I met a local entrepreneur for drinks in the evening and learned about living and working in Moscow.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
I met a local entrepreneur who was trying to get a start-up off the ground in Moscow, but was struggling with the bureaucracy and oligarch structure. He told me many of his stories and challenges trying to rise up in a country with such an economic divide where you are either well connected – or you are not.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I disliked how cold everyone was in public. They were almost never willing to strike up a conversation or help you out. However, when you spent some time and had a drink with someone, I noticed that this completely changed – Russians are actually very friendly and hospitable once you get beneath their tough surface. That was the part I liked best.
Describe a challenge you faced:
I was walking all around Moscow and it was very cold and icy. It warmed up just enough to turn the snow and ice into slush, which made my socks and shoes soaking wet and cold. I just took off my socks and kept trucking along!
What new lesson did you learn?
I was taught that there are only two types of people who smile in Russia – tourists and morons. I am not sure if this speaks for everyone, but I thought it was funny and consistent with my limited experience!
Panama and Costa Rica – I need some warm weather!