I’ve been going to Russia every summer since the year 2000 to visit my mom’s side of the family, see Moscow, help gma at the country house (we’ll get to why this is not a summer house) etc. I actually wasn’t planning on going this year (apparently the working world does not give out 14 week summer breaks and you get a measly 3 weeks [for the year] if you’re lucky) but alas my cousin was getting married so my mom and I decided our presence was required.
How would I describe Moscow? Mysterious? Enchanting? Impressive? Breathtaking? Cold? Dreary? Vast? Expensive? Intimidating? I guess it’s all of those at times. Although no matter how many times I go I will always be impressed by the beauty of the historic structures. The Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Church of Christ the Savior – I could go on and on. The architecture, the colors, it truly is breathtaking. Just knowing that you’re visiting a city founded in 1147 is fascinating in and of itself.
I used to come to Russia for 5-7 weeks, but this visit was significantly shorter (o the joys of adulthood), only 9 days. But I did get a lot done in those days.
Spent 2 days at the country house where my grandmother has an enormous garden with flowers, vegetable plants, fruit trees, etc.
She’s got plum trees, apple trees, red/black currant, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, gooseberries, wild berries, carrots, garlic, onions, grapes, potatoes, 20 pound pumpkins, zucchini, peppers, basil, lettuce, and my 2 favorites – cucumbers and tomatoes.
Have you had home grown produce before? It does not even begin to compare with what’s sold at the grocery store. These tomatoes are to die for. There is nothing better than eating a home grown tomato like you would an apple, while sprinkling it lightly with salt as well. Does maintaining this garden require a lot of work? O you bet. And gma loves her plants and treats them well. For one, she never waters them with ice cold water – would you want to be hosed down with that? She fills up buckets and waits for the sun to heat the water and then waters the plants. She covers them with plastic tarps to keep them warm at night. She uncovers them first thing in the morning to let them get fresh air. This is no easy task. Gma at the country house set’s off to work right away and doesn’t sit down til night fall.
Now the reason I call this a country house is because first off it’s in the boonies – 100 km out of Moscow and here is the simple life. Dirt roads, no running water, outhouses, don’t even bother asking if there’s A/C or wifi. There is a sense of adventure to it all though. There’s just nothing quite like this in the US – waking up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom putting on your shoes, grabbing a flashing light, venturing across the yard with only the moon light and stars shining (there are no street lights) into the pitch black outhouse, then washing your hands with ice cold water out of a bucket and quickly scurrying back into wet (with possibly a few new mosquito bites acquired on this journey). I suppose it’s not for everybody. But there is something about the simplicity of it all.
But then, a bus, a train and a metro ride away is the bustling city.
150 metro stops, 11 million people (officially) and the city is still growing. New metro stops are being built, new apartment building popping up everywhere, the city limits are being expanded. Where can you go to even get a glimpse of it all? Ostankino Tower. 540 meters high (was the world’s tallest tower 1967-1976 until the Toronto Tower was built) with an observation deck at 337 meters, you can just begin to see how big this city really is. I’ve been wanting to go to this tower for 10 years and finally I got there. The tower is a must see, the views are great and the tour was interesting.
Overall I spent a great week in Russia. Between my cousin’s wedding, sight seeing, bus tours, country house time, time spent with old relatives and meeting the new relatives, there was never a dull moment (or a moment alone for that matter). I don’t know when I’ll be back again, but I know it won’t be too long….