Transsiberian, Day 10: Final day in Moscow

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Today was a free day for everyone, and we luckily had late checkout so most of us slept until the very last minute, choosing to wake up just before noon. Today Ihita, June and Amanda were off for their Helsinki/Tallinn adventure and hung out with us in the hostel lobby until Calvin played off Ihita and Amanda with Vitamin C’s “Graduation Song.”  I made them sad with the statement “this will be the very last time we are all in the same place together.” An hour or two later, June left for her flight, which was yet another downer.

Some of the group went off to explore museums or other monuments which we didn’t have time to see in the previous days, but only after a few days of this rapid-fire sightseeing, I was up for resting. Calvin, JC and I went back to Grabli for lunch, on the way witnessing a young girl horseback riding on the sidewalk. This is downtown Moscow, may I remind you. Judging by other people’s reactions, this isn’t normal, since even the Russians were filming it on their phones. After finishing lunch around three, and plans being that we had to return to the hostel no later than six to leave for the airport, I had some time to kill.

I still needed to get postcards, and I didn’t want to go anywhere new, so I decided to hop on the metro to get to the Red Square Christmas market. Unfortunately, the metro drops me off at that baffling intersection once again, wherein I can’t figure out where to cross. After asking three people, I figure out that I need to get back into the metro underground and come up from a different exit. Despite using my compass, I try two exits before finding the right one. Well, there’s twenty minutes killed!

I enter through the Kremlin outer walls, taking a picture in the process, just to say I was near the Kremlin. I go to the street market and it’s the first of many instances where I’m just outright denied. I attempt to order a “hot tea with fir cone syrup’ by pointing to the sign in the window when it’s my turn. The cashier looks at me, disinterested, and then her eyes go to the customer behind me. Are you out of stock? You don’t know what I’m pointing at? You hate my hair? I’ll never know because she never spoke and I just murmured ‘eff this’ as I walked away to a hopefully friendlier vendor.

I got my ‘hot tea with fir cone syrup’ at a different vendor, with the help of a friendly Russian man behind me in line who helped translate my order. I got service with a smile and everything! However, it was about seven thousand degrees (every hot liquid here is served above boiling temperature, apparently) and despite my efforts to open the lid and blow and wait, I burned my entire mouth on the first sip. Also, it didn’t taste special. Maybe it was my numb mouth but I’m pretty sure it just tasted like hot sugar water.

Next I needed to get some sweets because, well, that’s me, and I went to a different booth that served donuts and cracknel, a beautifully colorful frosted pretzel with sprinkles. I debated until I saw a kid eating cracknel and it looks dry, hard and crumbly. I decide to go with donuts instead. I hear two young women behind me talking in Russian and I assume they’re talking about what they’re going to order. I hear them say ponchik, a word similar to paczi, the polish jelly donut, so I assume that must be the Russian word for donut. When it’s my turn, I order a bag of ten ponchik (they’re mini and I plan to share, okay?), using my hands to indicate the number. And…IT WORKED! I just kind of spoke Russian! I know only the most important things you need to know, one of which is the word for donuts.

The sun is setting and the entire market looks even more magical at night, with all the beautiful lights twinkling from every building, stand, and amusement park ride. My hands at this point are completely numb, despite holding scalding hot tea and my heavy use of hand warmers and gloves and pockets. I eat one donut with bare hands at risk of frostbite before stuffing them in my bag and going to the Kremlin gift shop to get postcards, since I know they have them there for sure. Also it’s indoors, and I need to bring up my body temperature again.

 Immediately upon entering the gift shop my glasses fog up completely and I walk around in a literal haze until I find exactly what I need. I purchase the postcards but wait a little longer in the shop to increase my body temperature and unfog my glasses before heading out. It’s so cold out there, the fog might freeze on them, so it’s a wise decision.

I take the metro back to the hostel with time to spare, time I use to charge any and all electronics while bumming off of Taylan’s multi charger and repaying them with cold, soggy donuts. Eventually Calvin, then JC, then the rest of the group joins us in the hostel lobby and we’re ready to head out.

We take cabs to the airport and as I’m super exhausted, I sleep through the whole ride, through the crazy traffic, and wake up upon our arrival. Apparently an hour had passed.

We rush into the airport and check in, and the place is crazy [mind you, I am writing this before the Chinese airport experiences, so I will eat my words in future posts]. There are tons of people and it feels like the day before any holiday weekend.

We split up for dinner and decide to meet at the gate when it’s ready for boarding. JC and Calvin head to the frequent flier lounge while David, Taylan, LaiYuen, and I go to a fast food court. David had some issues ordering his food because the cashier spoke zero English, but I think all of us fared pretty well with pointing. I get pelmini for the trillionth time (they are sooooo good), and I felt special that they made them to order, so I had to wait about ten minutes while they cooked. I also got tea, served at the temperature of the devil’s tears, to aid my sore throat from lack of sleep.

Our accommodations for the night are a big metal tube in the sky as we sleep on the brief five hour flight (brief for an overnight) so we can be rested for our early arrival in Irkutsk tomorrow.