Trip Start May 24, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2007

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Flag of Russia  ,
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

PANCHO: We have been here several days now, and the most bothersome thing for me, is the inability to communicate.  Here I am just learning the alphabet, so I still cannot read any of the signs and not many people speak English, even at McDonalds, which we thought would be s sure shot.   By the way, we have a new respect for McDonalds.  Their bathrooms are clean, as is the entire store, they are very busy but friendly and very attentive.(they also have good French fries)  This lack of communication is a new experience for me.  In our travels to Central and South America I was never aware of how important the ability to communicate is.  I have noticed that it is hard to get a real feel for the country if I cannot communicate with the people.  We naively went to Red Square and the Kremlin yesterday thinking we could find a guide or a tour there, but It was a holiday and they were preparing for some kind of a concert today so red square was closed and so was the Kremlin and there were police everywhere.  Many shops were closed so we finally bought a guide book and did pretty well and catching the "must see"s. Out original plan was to find a hi dollar hotel and see the concierge and we finally got around to doing that in the late afternoon.  The doormen at the Hyatt spoke English and after getting the sightseeing information from them we struck up a conversation and found them to be very friendly and accommodating.  They also wanted to know what it was like in the USA and they knew about the Spurs (I had a prolonged senior moment and could not remember the name of the big Russian center that played for the spurs a couple of years ago). At the end of the conversation, the bell captain, Rusland, took us up the VIP lounge with this fabulous skyline view of downtown Moscow.   We felt like the Griswalds had just been moved up First Class.  We celebrated by buying the cheapest thing on the menu, which was Russian Champagne, so we drank our supper last night except for the McDonald French fries at the metro station.  By the way, we have negotiated the Moscow metro in spite of not knowing the alphabet.  It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, especially if the words are written in Cyrillic letters.  It is very difficult to bargain with street vendors, but we do OK.
A couple of nights ago we went to the new stage Bolshoi (the big house is still under renovation) and saw Giselle.  We even managed to buy a ticket from a scalper and yes we were in the nosebleed section, which seemed appropriate with our level of knowledge regarding ballet. (It also was more aligned with our budget)  After the performance we managed to find our way on the metro to the apartment we are staying in way on the outskirts of Moscow.
The first day in Moscow, Hans and Olga took us downtown to get us registered and for a brief orientation of downtown.  We went by an outdoor sculpture garden of modern art and pictures will be forthcoming demonstrating a urologic success story.
    Later we went to their summer house outside Moscow. Things are primitive there and she has relatives visiting so they found a place for us to stay and wwe have been on our own the finals of the for a few days. (We did manage to find a sports bar to watch the finals of the French Open.).  Today we rejoin Hans and Olga and the adventure continues.
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