Russian Winter – December 14-18 (My last week)

Russian Winter – December 14-18 (My last week)

Finally, the Russian winter I had been waiting for all semester. Thank you Russia for at least letting me preview your winter my last week in your hospitality. And it came with blue skies all week; how nice. It was almost as if Russia was saying, “stay through January. It won’t be that bad. Blue skies and a warm sun never hurt anyone.”

I went for a run Monday and bundled up a little extra this time. The changes: 2 pairs of gloves; leg warmers underneath tights, arm warmers underneath underarmor. No face covers, my beard covers it. I did intervals today and although I did not notice any respiratory difference in terms of pain when breathing, my intervals were noticeably longer. Instead of being around 45 seconds, they were closer to 60 seconds. But it could have been that I was just stiff.

Then I went searching for my dad’s Christmas gift. This week is pretty much about me searching for his gift everyday. But it’s cool, it brought some good photos of Russia that I normally would not have seen, except for this one:

The twin towers we see everyday when we leave our dorm and head left for the metro.

I took the metro all the way to Sokolniki station and got off at the bike market. There were supposed to be a lot of cycling shops here. And there were; I just didn’t discover more than two until my second day back on Thursday. But there was a cool looking church across the road:

Teal Church that I glimpsed walking to the cycling shop.

And in between the church and market area:

The central walkway complete with a Christmas tree.

But alas, I could not find what I was looking for, so I went to another metro station which supposedly had a bike store nearby. Once there, I got lost and could not find the bike store. But I felt like a normal Russian commuter walking with all the peoples down the icy sidewalks getting colder and colder. Eventually, I gave up for the day and decided to check google maps again before returning. Plus the next day was my Complex Analysis final and needed to study.

During lunch on Tuesday I realized I didn’t have any photos of our cafeteria at the IUM. Here it is:

My complex analysis professor on the very left.

The piano I practice on and the window where we get our food.

From the entrance looking in at where we sit.

The final was long and challenging, but fun. Afterward, I played the piano a little bit and braced myself for the cold outside. It was the coldest day of the week according to and it felt like it. Along the walk home there’s a thermometer on Old Arbat so I decided to check it out.

Proof that I experienced part of the Russian Winter. Check out that negative sign! It is just Celsius though.

Thursday morning Bill and I got up around 640 to see the Moscow sunrise from Sparrow Hill. I waited to do a lot of things my last week here. This probably would have been more comfortable had I done it earlier. But no matter, we were committed.

Moscow State University just behind the edge of the hill.

Turning around, the sun comes up from the right and hits the top of these buildings first.

The Moscow fútbol stadium in the center of our view.

Looking eastward at the rising sun.

The panorama (open in new tab to enlarge)

Turns out it was colder this morning than on Tuesday evening. It did feel a bit chilly out on the hill.

I left Bill on the metro at our junction to home and I resumed my gift hunting. At Baumanskaya station I found these cute dogs:

Too bad I couldn’t take them home. All shaggy and in need of a bath, one with a limp—they could have used a good home.

Going the right way on the street now I saw the church I was supposed to see at the intersection where I was supposed to turn. It’s a magnificent church though.

Russia’s finally getting into the Christmas spirit. Christmas trees are popping up all over the city.

This is not the Christmas spirit but someone seems to be trying to help this little dog out. I saw this guy when I turned off the street to get to the bike store. Double downer as the bike store was now a snowboarding store for the winter.

But I got to see more churches, like this one.

On my way back I spied another dog trying to keep warm in the metro. These guys can navigate the metro just as well as I can. These dogs are pretty smart to be able to survive a winter here.

Back to Sokolniki, I found more the actual bicycle market, an underground maze of kiosklike shops that also sold 4-wheelers and motocross equipment. And across the street I found something not usually seen in America.

Apparently, the Russian does not use telescopes to gaze at the stars. Instead, the Russian uses the telescope to find the Russian’s targets for shooting.

Back on the metro I was able to witness a very cool event. A police officer brought her dog on board and told it to lay down next to her. This dog was extremely well trained and did as told. It remained calm the entire ride and luckily I got off at the same station as them. Then I watched her and the dog mount the escalator. I stole a photo during this moment:

Police and dog on the escalator.

Pretty dog eh? Her whiskers were greying but she she was still energetic. Toward the end of the ride she started pulling the policeman, trying to get higher on the escalator, as if in anticipation of something. Then, the officer bent down and wrapped the leash around the dog’s lower stomach, while still having it connected to the neck, and grabbed the neck part and the stomach part with her hands. When the end of the escalator arrived, the officer said something to the dog. It jumped at the same time she lifted the dog upwards to clear the ending of the escalator. It was really cool. Lakota and I should try it sometime. Although, I think Lakota might freak out at the escalator and not even want to get on it. Anyway, at the top of the escalator I realized I wasn’t supposed to have gone up it, but instead walked the other way as this was my transfer station and not my exit station. No matter, I went back down, got on the metro again and exited at BVND station as I wanted to check out Ostankino Tower, what once was the tallest free standing structure in part of the 20th century.

A mild surprise awaited me outside the station:

Look familiar Michael? If not, it didn’t to me until from a different angle.

Tsiolkovskii, the man who figured out the minimum velocity needed for an object to escape Earth’s gravitational pull. This is the space memorial and museum center. Underneath the tall spire, a space museum lies and part of a spaceship sits as well.

A couple other structures caught my eye before I headed to the tower:

Some sort of Victory Arch

A long walk to another Stalin Skyscraper. I didn’t know at this time but behind this skyscraper is something like the Washington Mall: a long walkway with cool buildings on either side and a giant dome at the end.

But as I couldn’t see behind the building and wanted to see the tower at the moment I skipped it. So I got on the monorail to travel to the tower.

Russia has a monorail. But it was just as cold as the outdoors and so not very comfortable like the metro.

Unfortunately, Ostakino Tower was closed to the public. I mean really closed, not the “oh, it’s closed but we’re Russians so we can still get in” kind of closed. That barb wire looked pretty serious.

The tower looked pretty ominous. I wanted to go up to the observation deck and look out over the city but it was still being renovated after the 2007 fire. Maybe next time.

Behind me another church stood, also under renovation.

On the way back to the metro station while riding the monorail I spied another monument farther down the track so instead of stopping at my station I continued down the line to check it out, especially as it looked like the demonhunter from WC3.

Instead, it was a communism monument. The two persons are holding a hammer and sickle and together a cloth.

So I turned around at the exit and waited for the returning train. In the meantime I was treated to a beautiful sunset.

Steam rising from a cooling plant masking the setting sun.

I finally remembered where I had seen this monument before. It was on the card that I sent to Michael for his birthday.

I was getting hungry and as the darkness settled in so did the cold, so I headed home. My plan for the next day was to visit the Kremlin, after my last run in Moscow.

Even though my run went on schedule and I was out of the house on time to see the Kremlin, the post office delayed me so that I did not have enough time to visit the Kremlin before our university’s closing ceremony. So instead, I decided to return to the park from yesterday and check out the giant dome.

Close up of the Stalin Skyscraper.

Inside the building there were tourist markets. Cell phones, cameras, and other technology were on racks for sale. But the exquisite decorations still peaked through above and behind all this.

A gold fountain on the other side of the Stalin building.

A Christmas Tree! On the left, the dome I wanted to see. Another Stalinesque building on the right, and one of a different style in the middle.

The long pool, now frozen, in front of the middle building.

The Soviet Logo still looking good at the top of the building.

I was getting closer to the dome. Now there was a rocket in front of it.

And a plane. with CCCP on it. You don’t see many of these nowadays.

Close-up of the rocket

“Pavilion No.32” it read on the front of the huge building with the dome. I didn’t know what to think of it from this close. I was expecting a giant cathedral with detailed decorations and now it turns out it’s a Soviet Building.

I decided to walk around it, clockwise. The building was still pretty amazing but in a different way. I was unsure what to make of the architecture and glass. It seemed like it had the potential to be beautiful, but the cheap glass created a setback.

From the backside of it. It took me almost an hour to get to this point along the walk and I didn’t dillydally, except for the quick photo every 5 seconds.

At this point my toes and fingers were frozen with pain. It was not a good idea to switch out my jeans for cloth pants today, and boots for normal shoes. I put my camera away and began the long walk back to the metro station. I stopped in the Stalin building to warm up the toes as they didn’t seem to warm up from the walk. Then I made the final short distance to the metro. But on the way I saw another dog:

This one might not be stray. But I doubt it. I think it would be warmer with its bed off the snow.

I was 30 minutes late to the pre-closing ceremony final matters (turn in my internet cable and pay for my lunches) but I got it all taken care of before the ceremony began. I got a certificate stating that I completed the Math in Moscow program successfully and then we went downstairs to feast.

Lenny, with Dasha and Dasha, our Russian Language teachers. The tables are set in a square-like arrangement so we all sat on the outside of them and faced inwards.

I took this time to say goodbye to some people and things.

Irina and I. Irina is the Math in Moscow director / coordinator / student liason, she takes care of everything for us.

Elena and I. Elena is the secretary of the Math in Moscow program and she is always running around making sure everyone is doing alright. Oh, and our packages got delivered to her all semester.

Now this is a bookstore. The one room bookstore inside the Math in Moscow university.

The entry way complete with a pingpong table. We joked the IUM was dealing in less than legal matters as they always had these boxes stacked up all over the place with white powder sometimes spilling out…no, just books, all books.

Quick look at a subway car. Check out the Shapka Ushanka on the right, the classic Russian hat.

After saying goodbye I went home to spend my last sleeping night in Moscow. Tomorrow, I crossed my fingers, we visit the Kremlin.

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