Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Americans Come to Visit

After six months of trying to sell Moscow as a hot tourist destination, I have finally secured my first visitors, Alli and Leah.  I had advised them to learn the Cyrillic alphabet before coming so they’d be semi-functional, but only Leah agreed to take on the task. I guess she decided literacy was overrated because when she arrived on Saturday, she couldn’t even read her own name, which was poorly transliterated on her Russian visa as “Li.” Alli’s survival instincts have kicked in and she has been making a valiant attempt to master the alphabet—she likes to sound out all the metro stops and has been taking her phrasebook everywhere.  She still can’t say anything other than “what's your star sign?” and “thank you,” but it’s been good for my self-esteem to hear someone speaking Russian even worse than me.

The three of us on the Moscow River

The weather has been uncharacteristically amazing, so we’ve visited nearly every outdoor space in Moscow.  But after three days of traipsing around outside, I decided we needed to 1) see something cultural and 2) get their visas registered. With Alli and Leah trailing me like ducklings, we metro-ed over to Red Square to pay our respects to Lenin’s corpse. Having visited the Soviet Union’s founding father twice before, I knew that we weren’t allowed to bring in bags, cameras, or phones, but I wasn’t sure where we could leave them. At the head of the line were two police officers who looked no more disgruntled than your average Russian, so I thought I’d see if they could be of any assistance.

Me: Excuse me, where is the garderob?
Female Police Officer: You mean the kamera khraneniya?
Me: I don’t know…the place for bags and cameras. [For the record, both garderob and kamera khraneniya refer to a place where one leaves their stuff, and there is no way they didn’t understand my word choice.]
Male Police Officer: There is no garderob.
Me: Really? But the sign said—
Male Police Officer: Maybe it’s in America.

Then he gave me a self-satisfied smirk and turned his back on me. I thought about firing back a pithy response, but I try not to argue with people who have the power to throw me in jail. That and I’m linguistically incapable of making comebacks in Russian, so that was also a limiting factor.

In the end, the coat check was within eyesight and we were able to turn our bags over to an even more irritable Russian before queuing up for the metal detectors. Though Leah set off the sensors, we were yelled at to keep moving and they didn’t bother to pat her down. I’m not sure what it says about a country when they have tighter security at hockey matches than the Kremlin, but that’s a puzzle for another day.

Lenin's final resting place

Lenin’s mausoleum feels even larger up close, and the black and red granite is sufficiently intimidating. It took a second for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but the unsmiling guards don’t let you dawdle. We descended into the tomb and into the main chamber where Vladimir Ilyich’s body is is laid out on a scarlet platform. Volodya looks much the same as he did the last time we met—slightly waxen, not quite real, and delightfully creepy. I’m hoping to look just as good when I’m 90-years dead.

After giving Alli and Leah their share of culture, it was time to tackle the process of visa registration. Perhaps this reflects poorly on me as a hostess, but it was definitely done in the front of a Lexus parked outside a metro stop. I guess we’ll find out if the whole process was legal if Alli and Leah manage to avoid a trip to the gulags. Nice as Siberia is this time of year, I think America and its allegedly ample supply of coat checks is preferable.

Alli and Leah explore the Arbat

Alli and me on Red Square

1 comment:

  1. гардероб - to store clothes
    камера хранения - to store bags