Repeat: I will not overstay my visa...

Trip Start Jul 16, 2010
Trip End Dec 25, 2010

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Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday: Arrive Moscow 4AM. Picked up by surly non-English speaking guide who appears to think that yelling at me in Russian is key to comprehension when a normal voice didn't get through. Gee, I should have screamed at my Japanese students more often I guess. I have hearing damage though so I still don't understand him. Anyway, arrive at Home from Home Hostel, better known as Hell from Home (its reputation precedes it on the railway). Even though I have a reservation, there is no room for me. Half awake Russian dude at desk with many tattoos tries to slip me into the women-only room but this results in "difficulties" and I refuse to take the bed, resulting in tattoo-guy telling the women to all fuck off and remarking to me, It's not like they are going to rape you, man. Niiiiice!  That earns a solid negative five on the SBR.

Nevertheless, after 3 1/2 days on the train, first priority is a shower, so I do so with difficulty, as the shower is so small that if you drop your soap you can't turn around to pick it up. I go find some food in a local supermarket and eat my last beloved bowl of meuslix. By the time I clean up it is time to head out for a noon tour of Red Square etc.
Red Square is quite cool. Props (pun intended) to Mathias Rust! Love this too: in the Square: East: megachic mall GUM; South: St. Basils; West: Kremlin and Lenin's mausoleum; North: National Museum. Economy, Religion, Government and Culture, all in one quick stop!

PM try metro first time to get to opera, which proves somewhat confusing but am saved by my amazing Cyrillic-reading skills. Time saved is then lost spending an hour looking for the damned opera house after the potato-kiosk lady gives sends me in the opposite direction of the opera house which is just AROUND THE CORNER from her cart. Should I draw cultural inferences about potaoto ladies from this? WTF! But anyway, the potatos and beer were damn good, and cheap too. Opera (Verdi's La Traviata) was quite good - I especially liked the stage design, which had tall perspex cubes with colored lights inside arranged to geometrically reflect the theme of each act. For example, in the first act they are red and diagonal (crooked?) (Violetta is a courtesan). In the final act, Violetta is on one side of the cubes which have been lined up in a wall across the stage, while the other singers carry on muted, on the back side - to which she crosses when she dies. If I was 20, I think I'd like to give opera stage design a go for a bit - let's be honest, the plots are usually a bit silly, so "propping up" the singing makes it all more interesting. Unbelievably, Moscow has operas, ballets, and concerts like this almost every night.
Tonight I have a room and bed (SBR +1).

Sunday: Leaving Russia tonight (or so I think! HAHAHA evil laughing in background) so I enjoy a bag organizing session before heading out to the Cosmonaut Museum, which is interesting but no Smithsonian. Return to hostel, pick up my bag and head to ballet theatre (Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake). I have seen one ballet before, Sleeping Beauty while in uni at Rice years ago. Anyway, this was awesome and I am ready to hand credit to the Russians for kickass theatre and space stations. Have by this time mastered the metro. Seems like half of Russians have tattos, and I notice the same in Denmark later. Sorry, but when this many people have tats, it looks really tacky. Despite (or, because of) my non-conformist leanings, I have managed to get this far in life without getting inked.

Catch 11:00 PM train to Helsinki. After chatting with my Russian carriage mates, two guys and a girl in their 20s all heading to Europe to pick fruit for their summer vacations, the prov comes and tells me "There's a problem with your visa"... 
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