Time to visit Moscow
I woke up in the morning at Nadia’s house in Moscow and she made me Russian tea and oatmeal for breakfast and we ate together. I wanted to wash the dishes, but Nadia didn’t allow me that and said the Russians usually do not let guests wash the dishes and they believe it is bad luck. In Iran, we also don’t let guests wash the dishes because we believe it is not polite to let the guest wash the dishes. I asked her if she believes in bad luck? She said no, but still, older people believe in that. Soon after breakfast, I went to visit Moscow and Nadia went to work.
No bucket list, just explore!
I went by subway to Red Square and passed by St. Basil’s Cathedral and Arbat Street, where only pedestrians could walk and cars were not allowed to enter. I was walking there without any special place in mind and did not even looking at the map so I don’t remember most of the places I visited. I believe you cannot enjoy the vibe if you just look at the map and check your bucket list.
Before I go to Russia, honestly I didn’t do any research on sightseeings and things to do, I didn’t know any place, and the thing is that it wasn’t very important for me to know, it was more important for me to see ordinary people’s lives and go wherever I enjoy. That’s why I cannot So I had no plans during the trip, except for my friend’s wedding in Saint Petersburg(That’s why I decided to go to Russia in the first place and will tell you all about it on day 4 of my trip).
Besides the wedding, the only place I was sure I wanted to visit was St. Basil’s cathedral, which I didn’t even know its name before confronting the building. I was walking from Red Square aimlessly and suddenly I saw the beautiful and colorful cathedral and I felt accomplished. The cathedral was the symbol of Russia in my mind and I always imagine Russia as a colorful country because of that, I also like its unique and colorful design.
Great experience with locals
At noon, I had a meeting with Julia(I found her in Couchsurfing), who was about forty years old, she came with her daughter Marsha, about six years old, we met at a subway station. Julia was an interesting lady, she had many things to say. She was always apologizing for not picking me up from where I was. She was also upset that she couldn’t make a decision easily and she didn’t find a touristic place for me to show me around. I told her that I don’t have any plans and I don’t care for touristic places and talking and walking with her is enough for me.
We walked a bit and Julia suggests an affordable restaurant to have lunch. I told her I only care about Russian culture and experience, so she took me to the Daily Store and showed me some Russian products. She got me a Kefir Ayran(Dough) saying that this is a Russian drink and it is a famous drink. We also have Kefir Ayran in Iran and we call it by the same name. Now I don’t know Kefir came from Russia or Iran or even Turkey 🙂
Since she had a kid, she had a lot of food in her bag. She brought food from home and we enjoyed having snacks together. Her husband worked as a scientist at a university. Julia taught me some Russian alphabet and it helped me for the rest of my trip. at least I could read some letters from metro station names.
She gave me and her daughter a special cheesecake, I think it was made from sour milk. It is something like cream that has a sour taste. She also had coffee in a flask and a toast, she had everything for a nice snack in the middle of Moscow streets. Since she was with her daughter, I think she was well-equipped and of course.
New ways of living
In my mind, Julia was so free. Free from all the pressure society gives us. She was really cool and her daughter had the same personality like hers. I wanted to sit next to her on the sidewalk kerb, she gave me her green jacket so I sit on the jacket instead of the kerb. She said Russians are so afraid of the cold and you will feel sick if you sit in the cold area.
She was telling me how sorry she is for not inviting me to their apartment because she believed their apartment is not clean and organized. It was embarrassing for her because she said Iranians are very clean and traditional so it is not nice to host someone in a dirty apartment like hers. I was telling her that it is not important and I am not like the clean and stylish Iranians, but she was not convinced and I finally didn’t go their apartment, but I had the chance to go there at the end of my trip to Moscow which was really fun and I will explain in the last they of my memoir.
All the time we were talking and siting for a snack Marsha was playing by herself and enjoying her time. Her face was a little black because she didn’t care if she touches the ground or smoky walls, she was jumping around and playing with birds on the street. She was trying to touch the birds by an umbrella. Julia was not annoying her by telling “Don’t do that”. She didn’t see the environment as a dirty place, also her mother. that was fascinating for me because nowadays parents are so strict about their kids and they don’t let their children experience the world by themselves. while we were sitting Julia sit on the floor to show me the map, sitting on the floor in a city is something I could not imagine, especially for me living in Iran that no shoes are allowed in the house and there is carpet everywhere.
Time for local lunch
We went to a small and inexpensive restaurant that had daily meals. The owners were an Armenian couple. When the man found out I came from Iran, he was excited and happy to see me there. He said he likes Iranians because they allowed Armenians to come to Iran after the genocide. I asked Julia to tell him I also like Armenians and they are good people, but that was only a positive reaction because I believe there are good and bad people in every country and we cannot say one kind of race is good and the other is bad. So it was not easy to discuss these kinds of things as I couldn’t speak Russian or Armenian. He said Armenians are very good goldsmiths and if you ever saw a piece of nice jewelry, be sure that it is made by an Armenian.
He told Julia to tell me that he loves Iranians especially their women! I asked permission to take their pictures and his wife was shy to look at the camera. For lunch, I followed Julia’s recommendation. The food was not my type but I enjoyed the atmosphere and the Turkish coffee they treat us.
At lunch, we planned to go to Gorky Park with Pavel, who I met on the first day of my trip. I also told another new friend, Anastasia, from Couchsurfing to join us in the park. The five of us went to the park and what a park it was. It was beautiful and the weather was great. Julia’s daughter played with the pieces of equipment in the park, and we talked and talked about everything. Anastasia was a birdwatcher, volunteering approaching nature and had plans to go to the protected areas in the south of Russia to do some voluntary work.
Pavel was working as a delivery guy for a dentist. Julia was not working at the time. She taught the Russian language to foreigners in Russia before the war with Ukraine. After the was a lot of expats left the country so there was less demand for learning Russian. now she was disappointed, she wanted to leave Russia.
She had three kids, Marsha, and two others who were at his father’s workplace at the time. Her husband’s workplace was okay with kids coming over and that was good for them ( He was working in a university that I will explain in detail later, because I saw Julia again the last day of my trip, and this time not only her husband’s workplace but also their own home!) She was not happy with their situation because she did not like big cities, but her husband was okay with that and did not want a change.
After some hanging out, Julia went home and I continued walking with Pavel and Anastasia. we walked into the park and they showed me a dance floor in the park where young people were dancing and they said some times it is really crowded, everyone will dance here and there would be no free space.
I also asked about Russian music and both sing me a national song and tried to translate the lyrics. That day I couldn’t be happier, enjoying the Moscow vibe with three cool local friends. When you travel with locals you will experience different from a tourist without a local guide.
After the park, Anastasia took me to the metro and I went to Nadia’s house, we had a great dinner and she got me a train ticket for St Petersburg. The train was about 2 a.m. and the metro was working until about midnight, so I rested a little bit and left before 12 and my trip to Saint Petersburg officially started. It was almost midnight, I was a little scared, but it was safe and nothing strange happened. I get to the train station and waited for my train to come. With no delays, I entered the train and looked for my seat, the seat was turning to a bed. It was an eight-hour route and I had enough time to have good night sleep. Since it was too late I slept immediately and the second day of my trip ends on the train.