Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Weekend Getaways I - Moscow, Russia

By Ryan Kinports

When I was a student in Prague I took several weekend trips as the travel deals were often too good to pass up. Moscow was by far the most interesting experience I’ve had with transit abroad. My roommate and I decided to go last minute as we both had time the following weekend. We spent the next few days dealing with the Russian consulate in Prague (money may have changed hands beyond the standard fees). Our flights were inexpensive though so we let that slide. Once we got to the airport and printed our tickets we noticed a stop in Minsk, Belarus. I thought nothing of it and we boarded. When we landed we were greeted as Americans, pulled aside, given an armed escort, taken through security without being checked and forced to pay $150 for a two day transit visa (which we had to pay on the return as well). This process took time and thus we were late leaving Minsk and arriving in Moscow. Once we landed we were again pulled aside, placed with a guard, and our passports taken. After 40 minutes they were returned to us and we were free to go – except we missed the last train into Moscow and a cab would cost over $100. We went into the adjacent mall before it closed. We found an officer that spoke English and spent the night on couches in a coffee shop. In the morning we caught the train. When we checked into our hostel the owner seemed genuinely concerned that something horrible had happened.

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Red Square and the surrounding complex are impressive. I had imagined St. Basils to be larger.
(Kremlin, St. Basils, Lenin’s Tomb, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier)

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We did quite a bit in the few days we were there. One of the more interesting was the Izmailovsky Market which is the largest outdoor market I’ve ever seen. You could buy anything from vintage cameras to tea pots.
We were in Moscow for Easter so the city was in better shape than it typically would be. I’m not sure I would go back but I do want to see St. Petersburg someday.

All images courtesy Ryan Kinports.

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