Russia – Moscow – Winter Is Coming

 

Our stay in Moscow is getting unexpectedly longer and longer, there are reasons for it, but I am not at liberty to discusses them at the moment. Lets just say that some interesting things are up ahead and those of you who know us already will not be surprised by the announcement. Man, really starting to sound like we will have a third marriage ceremony at the North Poole or a baby on the way. No, although both good ideas, no…not right now.

My cousin Katya is an English teacher in a Russian school and thought of a cool idea of us visiting her class and talking about our trip in English. Luckily there is a projector, so we were able to use our website to lead the story of the trip and for those who couldn’t understand everything, at least there would be something to look at….just like an Indian movie.

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Tried to speak as simple and slow as possible…but according to both, my cousin and my wife, i failed. The adrenaline probably dilated my time perception so much that it seemed slow only to me.

The students were great took them a little be to get going but the questions were flying by the end of class time. It was a special moment for me to go visit a Russian school, the first time since leaving Moscow in 9th grade. The Soviet dogma of standardization to reduce costs, led to all the apartment buildings, hospitals and schools having an identical layout. So i can walk through pretty much any public school and remember my own childhood.

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Remember Chile, Torres del Paine? That’s the last time we did anything resembling exercise. A single bout of activity in a year, not exactly what i would call a healthy lifestyle. While living a sedentary life in Moscow, we found a perfect place to stretch our legs and tone up our weak arms.

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Sky Club in Moscow was amazing to give us a month long membership so we can turn into the Greek gods that we truly should be.

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Seriously, the coolest place in Moscow. They got all the regular cardio equipment, i personally just use the treadmill. I’ve tried the elliptical but somehow it just truly feels like i’m spinning in out place. Then there are more weight machine than i know what to do with, but the staff is AWESOME, just ask a question and they will gladly show you how to use the machine and more importantly some exercise to fully work a muscle group. And of course there are the free weights, were you can monkey around and pretend to be Arnold. “Ya, its like coming…that feeling of getting pumped…”

After its all said in done, go to the first floor (or the roof if the weather is nice) and stretch out that body in the swimming pool. If you are into boxing, kick-boxing or any kind of martial arts, they got a whole separate huge room for that. In the 3 and 4 floors there are yoga, stretching, spinning…you name it classes. Honestly, so many things to do that you can go in there everyday for a month a never be bored with your work out. Oh…shoot, if you got little ones…bring them along and leave with the babysitter!

We went there every day for 2 weeks and loved it. Overall we lost a little bit of weight…all the fat that we had around our bellies turn into muscles and moved to chest and arms.  Thank you so much to Sky Club Team – Sergei, Lilya, Nastya and all the trainers for making our gloomy days in Moscow brighter and most importantly – FITTER!

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My childhood friend’s wife Irina with a tea kettle.

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A photo from the late 1980’s. My mom on the right, her friend Lena on the left, me in the center and Lena’s son, Anton in the back there.

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And that’s Anton now, looking at the photo of us together. We have known each other since we were kids, he is one of the very few people who is not my family who can say that he has known me LITERALLY my whole life. Even though we didn’t get to see each other much during my exile to the States, we still managed to keep in contact. Seeing him is like seeing part of the family…after the 5 minutes, its like the years have never even happened.

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Hyein looking at our childhood photos.

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Since we saw the last two years ago, Anton and Irina have a little addition to the family… i introduce you to Gleb! Looks like Anton when he was a baby himself.

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Pretty and historic during the day, Moscow really comes out of the closet at night. If you have a friend with a car or just hire an Uber and ask them to drive you around the center of the city. The traffic has calmed down and you can just flew down the ring roads in comfort.

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Lucky we got a friend who knows what he is doing and can show the true beauty of this northern capital.

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At night almost all of the center is brightly lit up, some landmarks look even better against the backdrop of the dark blue sky. As the pillar of Russian power and pride, sticking out into the cold, hard darkness.

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The Red Square is worth a visit during the night as well.

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The cold night wipes away all the tourists and you get to see the place in a more intimate setting. Top – St. Basil’s Cathedral.

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One of the Seven Sisters aka Stalin Skyscrapers, looks even better at night.

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The pride of Moscow, the symbol of modern and future-welcoming Russia – Moscow City. Right now its just a few buildings on the riverfront of the Moscow River, but there are plans to build more of these along the river….that is if the price of oil goes up and the sanctions end. The buildings are mostly offices with oil, gas, and banking companies owning a large portion of them. Its no New York, Singapore or Dubai, but a step in the right direction.

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Somewhere, somehow, someone (I’m pretty sure it’s my cousin Misha) emailed a radio program about our trip and they actually invited us!

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The show is called “Stillavin and friends”, thats Sergei Stillavin (left), Tim Kirby (center left) and Rustam (right).

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You are probably thinking that this is some internet podcast in some dark basement that gets a thousand listeners a month? That was our first thought as well, turns out is on the biggest radio station in Russia, called “Mayak”. Its the radio station that we all listened to when we were growing up…mostly because there was no other choice, but thats beside the point.

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Every morning these guys get on the air for 4 hours and talk about whatever nonsense they talk about. Its structured into different categories, with 10-11 am being the car category, so they invited us as car travelers (aka overlanders).

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I was worried about Hyein not necessarily keeping up, but one of the hosts actually speaks English and helped Hyein with the translations. I have to give a lot of credit to Stillavin and Rustam for making sure Hyein felt comfortable and making sure she was having fun.

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The night before we brainstormed a few ideas for stories, trying to think ahead some of the answers and prepare the best stories. Needless to say we were a bit nervous.

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But once the show started, our worries went away. There is no time to think, everything is happening live…just do the best you can.

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We thought the hour is going to drag on forever, but it was over before we even started. There was so much that we wanted to say about the travel but just didn’t have time. If i were to go back and change something, i would have like to focus more time on the travel, rather than on our personal life. Is it really important for a travel show? No! Lets talk about the places we saw and what we learned, not how we met.

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Overall, super fun and exciting. I made a few mistakes speaking Russian, Hyein did great, the hosts were super nice. Tim mentioned that i have an accent in English? Whaaaat….get outta here, you’ve been in the motherland too long and forgot what real Californian English sounds like. Just teasing. Thanks to my cousin for making this happen and thanks to everyone for making it a blast.

Here is the link to the full video version of our show. The one comment I got from literally everyone who listened – “OMG Hyein’s voice is soooo sexy on the radio!”….and what about me? “The timbre of your voice is just …”

I say whatever to the naysayers…i do what i want!

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Ah, my little cousin Andrei, all grown up! When we were scheduling the meeting i asked him if he speaks at least a little bit of English…he replied that he lived in England for a while. Shit, way to keep up with your cousin’s lives Ivan. Two years ago we were so busy that we didn’t get a chance to meet. I’m glad that Andrei took the initiative and made sure the same mistake wouldn’t happen again. It was a real pleasure to hang out with him and his girlfriend, both spoke English, fun people, smart and entrepreneurial! Plus he knows the best place in Moscow for a good burger.

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Living in Sunny San Diego you dont realize that some places in the world actually have 4 seasons. You know about them…in theory. One of the very few good things about staying Moscow is that we get to experience the magical Golden Fall. When in a matter of just a couple of days the whole city is alive with reds and yellows. But make sure to grab you camera fast, because in a few days it will start to snow.

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No visit to Moscow is complete without a photo of the Red Square and of the gorgeous subway stations. This is probably the only thing that New York is actually behind on – the subway stations. Dark, dirty, bleak, hot in the summer and freezing in the winter they are the ugly necessity of the giant American city. Moscow subway on the other hand is the pinnacle of communism idealism. They were building a country by the people for the people, so why not make the place that EVERYONE uses into a beautiful museum? This way the proletariat (aka working class blokes) can enjoy a moment of beauty during their commute. Btw, this is the Novoslobodskaya Station, if you are so inclined to check more photos of subways stations from St. Petersburg then check out my friends project – https://www.facebook.com/dariahuxley

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My personal favorite photo of the whole post – The Monument to the Conquerors of Space.

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Hung out with my cousin Anton and his girlfriend and instead of just drinking did something fun. We went on a quest – where you have to solve puzzles to get out of a room in an hour. Super fun and exciting way to spend time together.

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Went to a soccer (football) game with Anton. The team is called Spartak and for as long as they have been around, they have not had their own stadium, one of the most decorated teams in the Russian Football League and no stadium. They finally got one and omg its soo nice. Its going to be part of the World Cup in 2018, so the facilities are absolutely polished. There are enough bathrooms and coffee shops, just no booze.

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Its getting cold and the idea of sitting outside for a couple of hours might scare you, but time flies when you watch a good game. Just like in Brazil, before you know it the ref blows the final whistle and you have to go home.

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A part of the mysterious plan that i cannot fully reveal yet. I can say this – “Hodori found a home for the winter in Moscow”. We are going rogue.

The winter is coming and our travel style doesn’t really align with freezing temperatures and snow. Everything we do is outside, so if its always cold or snowing then in a matter of days we will start to hate everything about this trip and we dont want to ruin this beautiful thing. So thanks to my grandmother and her friend, we found an awesome heated garage in Moscow. We just had to cut down some shelves to make room for our Hodori, dad helped out on that one.

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Hodori is much larger than most of the vehicles on the road and up until the last moment we were worried that in some dimension he is not going to fit. Alas, he is in!

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With a bit of heartache we locked the gate and are left with just our backpacks and own two feet. What are we going to do now? Where are we going to go before the spring?

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