Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Post: Rick's Review

And now let me introduce you to my dad, Rick. As someone who has a painting of Paul Henderson's famous goal on Vladislav Tretiak in the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series proudly hanging up in his basement, I was very interested to hear my dad's take on Russia.

While planning our trip to Russia to visit our eldest daughter we were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the country, the paperwork to get into the country and the transportation to move around once we were in the country. I have to tell you it turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.

My vision of Russia prior to us going was one that many people my age probably have- kind of an east versus west, cold war, spies, you know the kind of stuff you read in Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy novels. You picture everything in black and white and visualize miserable looking people in long coats staring straight ahead. Man, was I wrong!

Upon arriving at Domodedova, we were met by a pleasant immigration officer who spoke English and efficiently gave us our 10 day immigration card. Again, there were no armed guards or no KGB following us. Heading out through the sliding doors, we were greeted by dozens of smiling people, some holding placards waiting for their charge, others anxiously waiting for loved ones, and the rest were taxi’s, all wanting our business. We quickly scanned the crowd for Katie but could not find her. To all the cab drivers who approached me I just nodded my head and said “nyet”, meaning no. A lot of them spoke English so I would tell them we are meeting someone. After walking aimlessly around for about 15 minutes and not finding Katie anywhere we started passing the same cab drivers again, I am sure they were saying “sure, you’re meeting someone”. Anyways, one of the cabbies offered his phone to us so we could call Katie. I thought it was a very nice gesture since he probably saw we looked worried.

Back in the USSR - waiting for Katie
outside of Domodedovo Airport

Within a couple of minutes Katie arrived with her friend Iain and after hugs and handshakes I saw the phone- offering cabbie out of the corner of my eye give me a thumbs up. At this point I should thank Katie’s friend again for helping her navigate her way from Mytichshi to the airport which takes about 2 hours of bus, subway and back to bus again.

Reunion after 8 months apart!

Katie was determined to show us Red Square before we saw anything else and although it was beautiful and amazing the fact that we were with Katie, whom we have not hugged since August 30 made it all the more beautiful.

Katie navigated our way back to her flat in Mytichshi with a series of subway and bus rides. Upon entering her city that was founded in 1460 and has now grown to almost 200,000 people, we were greeted by 3 huge taps elevated about 50 feet in the air. These play a significant role because Mytichshi is famous for its aqua ducts and in the 18th century supplied the Kremlin with their first taste of pure water.(Editor's note: The statue of the water taps is considered a bit of a joke here in Mytishi! Although people are proud of the fact that their city supplied water to Moscow, the statue is a tad ridiculous looking...)

Finally, we arrived at Katie’s flat. Up 5 flights of stairs and let me tell you Julie and I were feeling every step, after all it was a mere 18 hours ago that we boarded our plane in Toronto. Heading down the hallway to Katie’s room all we could think about was getting to bed but no, we dropped our bags, freshened up a bit and headed out to eat. Crossing her parking lot we walked by the 5 year old, 9,000 seat arena that is home to the “Mytichshi Atlant”, a professional hockey club belonging to the KHL. Unfortunately, there was no hockey as they lost in the first round of the playoffs despite going the year with a 32-22 record. The restaurant was a pizza style place and for 9:00 on a Sunday night it was fairly crowded. The food, as it was during our whole trip was delicious and always presented nice. One clear difference from Ontario is they never give you the check until you ask for it, and I almost forgot to add, there are no taxes. Walking home we noticed the streets were still fairly busy and seemed completely safe, even the beer drinking people in the streets did not pose any threats, yes, I said beer drinking in the streets. It is legal to walk around with a beer in your hand. I had to prove it myself although it wasn’t until the next day. What a great concept.

Enjoying a beer at the park

It already felt as though we were there a couple of days but it was only about 6 hours and my views of Russia (too much TV and spy novels) were completely changed and I could hardly wait to wake up the next day and continue our adventure in a very friendly and welcoming country.

A big thank you to both my parents for the amazing trip (memories that will last a lifetime!) and for their blog posts. I know you were jet-lagged and the last thing you probably felt like doing was writing :)


  1. I must note that drinking beer in public places became illegal since maybe 2008. It's still somewhat unclear what's considered a public place and what isn't, but you can't (legally) drink in front of the bus stop for example. Still, people are doing this a lot and nobody cares much. But it's kind of wise at least to hide your bottle when you see a cop car approaching.

  2. The jet lag is all gone now. A word of wisdom - if given the choice to have a short layover after being up for 36 hours, or to take a longer one and go into London for the day, have a city tour and lunch and beer at a pub,take the day in London! We enjoyed an amazing, beautiful day. And, as Dad always says, "you've got your whole life to sleep"!

    Thanks for the memories, too, Katie.

  3. I know that saying of Dad's all too well...I have fond memories of him barging into my room last summer while I was enjoying a little nap, after I had ran around after three kids for eight hours, and giving me that line. But, that being said, I do agree with him 90% of the time...sometimes you just need a nap though!