Snow & Swan Lake – Halloween in Moscow

Snow & Swan Lake – Halloween in Moscow

Since the song just came on in my headphones while I finished writing this, you should listen to it while you read. It’s probably my favorite song for the semester, and the other students laugh at me when I play it because I get up and dance, not really, well maybe, but no not really, just kidding, maybe, not really. Anyway, it’s called and it sounds amazing on my headphones after getting them back from China where I got them repaired. You might not like it if you don’t like electronic dance music, but I do.

Yesterday, October 30 was our first day of snow. There was less than an inch and it didn’t cover everything, but it stuck for the night and I was able to run through white covered trails in the park nearby during my run Halloween morning. Here I am, successfully returned from my first ‘snow’ run:

I had to add the beanie to my attire as it is getting pretty cold. Even though I cannot ride a bike here, I can pretend by wearing some cycling gear every time I run.

I had to add the beanie to my attire as it is getting pretty cold. Even though I cannot ride a bike here, I can pretend by wearing some cycling gear every time I run.

After a quick shower and a double-decker egg sandwich we headed out for the Kremlin area. The idea was to see the Diamond Fund, but when we arrived we noticed it was harder to get into the Kremlin than we had thought, and even with 3 students in the beginning Russian class we were not confident with our communication abilities. It also didn’t help that some of us haven’t been to Disneyland that much and so have not had practice in, and thus no patience for, standing in a line longer than 5 minutes—much to my dissatisfaction. So we ended up walking around the outside of the Kremlin and going on a short walking tour through inner Moscow.

I think a WWII memorial but there were no signs describing what it was.

I think a WWII memorial but there were no signs describing what it was.

Just to the leff of the pillar. In the background we see the Kremlin walls.

Just to the leff of the pillar. In the background we see the Kremlin walls.

Stalingrad Memorial. There were about 12 blocks with different Soviet city names on them to the left and right of this one.

Stalingrad Memorial. There were about 12 blocks with different Soviet city names on them to the left and right of this one.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Too bad we can't walk up to it like the one in St. Petersburg.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Too bad we can’t walk up to it like the one in St. Petersburg. (Kind of a depressing photo for that lady to put her kids into no? )

We then branched off the Kremlin area and began our short walking tour.

The old Russian Stock Exchange building. To my understanding it's not in use anymore. But back in the early 20th century the square that I'm standing on, and this building were the center of the Russian stock market.

The old Russian Stock Exchange building. To my understanding it’s not in use anymore. But back in the early 20th century the square that I’m standing on, and this building were the center of the Russian stock market.

Cool cathedral next to the Romanov's Moscow house.

Cool cathedral next to the Romanov’s Moscow house.

We then ventured into the Romanov’s Moscow house which is now a museum. Even though it was four stories tall, the building was very tiny and the doorways were less than 6 ft tall. The stairs were extremely narrow and it was difficult, but fun, to maneuver between rooms. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed of the inside. It kind of reminded me of an east coast colonial home where all the rooms are like the attic room: the ceiling shaped by the roof boards, the room and windows small, very cozy. Behind it stood, or once stood, a great Soviet hotel that is now under demolition.

Honestly, this is what I thought Russia was going to look like. It would have been fun to run around inside a place like that.

Honestly, this is what I thought Russia was going to look like. It would have been fun to run around inside a place like that.

Here is an example of beauty jutted up against ugly. This setting is all over Moscow: a really exquisite church right next to ugly business buildings. It makes the church, or buildings, look extremely out of place. But I imagine it makes those employees' lives better each day they get to see this church.

Here is an example of beauty jutted up against ugly. This setting is all over Moscow: a really exquisite church right next to ugly business buildings. It makes the church, or buildings, look extremely out of place. But I imagine it makes those employees’ lives happier each day they get to see this amazing architecture.

We then went to the Moscow History Museum which was quite fun, and free since we were students. We learned about the growth of Moscow from the 16th century onwards. After walking around for a little more and getting colder and colder, it was below freezing today, we decided to head home…and get ready to go see Swan Lake. The theatre gives away a limited number of student tickets for 20 rubles ($.70) if you get there early and sign up. Unfortunately, we were a bit late for that but still tried to get them anyway. It failed. So we bought $30 tickets from a scalper organization outside the building. After all, it was Halloween, and we wanted to see Swan Lake, and that still was a better price than the actual price.

The Большой (Big) Lobby where we were to see Swan Lake.

The Большой (Big) Lobby where we were to see Swan Lake.

I am lying to you a bit. This isn’t really the Большой театр (big theatre). It’s the one across the street. In Russia, when they are doing construction on a theatre, they first build another one nearby so that audiences may still see shows while the original theatre is under construction. No, probably not. They probably just had an extra theatre they moved in by truck or something. Anyway, this is called the New Bolshoi Theatre, or New Stage. Okay, so after checking the name online, it seems that the Russians did exactly just what I was joking about above. They built this theatre in under six months so that performances could still continue while construction was going on. This country does not cease to amaze.

Tanya, me, Natalie, and Lenny (left to right), inside the lobby about to see Swan Lake.

Tanya, me, Natalie, and Lenny (left to right), inside the lobby about to see Swan Lake.

Up the first set of stairs to the inner lobby.

Up the first set of stairs to the inner lobby.

Up one more flight.

Up one more flight.

Looking down the finite spiral of stairs.

Looking down the finite spiral of stairs.

The inside of the theatre. I was very awestruck. Even though there are less balconies than the real Большой театр it still had that impressive aura to it.

The inside of the theatre. I was very awestruck. Even though there are less balconies than the real Большой театр it still had that impressive aura to it.

The Stage, from another vantage point.

The Stage, from another vantage point.

At intermission we went down and looked into the orchestra pit. Check out that timpani set. It would feel good to play the timpani right now.

At intermission we went down and looked into the orchestra pit. Check out that timpani set. It would feel good to play the timpani right now.

The timpanist's sheet music.

The timpanist’s sheet music, full of rests that makes the percussionist so good at counting them.

The final bows and giving of flowers and celebration and hand waving and telling your dance partner they did a magnificent job.

The final bows and giving of flowers and celebration and hand waving and telling your dance partner they did a magnificent job.

I’m not much of a fan of ballet but since the music was superb, it kept my interest. And I was even amazed by a dance move sequence the jester/joker performed in the middle of the ballet. He did super fast pirouettes across the entire stage and they were all in control. Everyone cheered, including me. I think it’s the first time I’ve actually been really impressed by ballet. It was crazy good. He was the best dancer out of all of them.

But hey, the next time someone complains about women’s beach volleyball uniforms and how it’s just for men to check the women out, pull ballet argument: clearly, the mens’ uniforms are so the women can check some dudes out with virtually no clothing. The main character was wearing his tights so far up his buttox I’m not sure how he was even comfortable. I mean come one, the girls where those tutus, the men could wear them too. But then I would probably be laughing the whole time. I was impressed by how high the main character could jump, a testament to his huge quad muscles, which with my glasses, were clearly defined. Also, the dancers’ heart rates must have been sky rocketing. I had no idea how athletic this event was. One other move that I liked was when the women ‘fluttered’ their legs like swans I guess. Their feet were together with toes on the ground and they would make their legs look like rubber, sort of like the pencil trick where you hold the end and move your hand vertically. It was really graceful and very pretty. I tried it at home but apparently there is some finesse in it that takes training and practice, because I couldn’t do it—it doesn’t help that I’m terrible at ballet. Anyway, it was a very cool move.

I must confess, I was mildly disappointed at the conclusion of the ballet as my limited knowledge of ballet music caused me to think Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite was actually part of the Swan Lake Ballet. Yes, shame on me. But I was looking forward to it the whole time. It was only afterward when I realized my mistake that my disappointment subsided. But I did recognize the Swan Lake Theme as it is one of my favorite themes, especially when the horns play the melody and it darkens. But it’s alright, we’re going to see Nutcracker in December so I will get to here the waltz.

The enormous chandelier and murals on the ceiling.

The enormous chandelier and murals on the ceiling.

After the ballet we went back to the dorm, but not before buying a Snickers at Mongolia (really Magnolia, the 24 store near our house. we call it Mongolia though, I’ll take a picture one of these days.) Then we watched “Silence of the Lambs” with Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. It was quite good. The next morning the sky gave us a new surprise with more snow!

Check out that snow. Too bad it rained the next night and then warmed up some more so that it all disappeared until the following Friday.

Check out that snow. Too bad it rained the next night and then warmed up some more so that it all disappeared until the following Friday.

Time to do Complex Analysis homework that I’ve put off since Tuesday.

6 Responsesto “Snow & Swan Lake – Halloween in Moscow”

  1. Papa says:

    Caleb I hope you save this on a disk so that you can build a power point with all the good things you have.
    Love
    Papa

  2. Blair says:

    Caleb

    Those pics are amazing. What great architecture you get to see. Do you still need a coat/jacket? What are the Russian people like? Do they like you as an American? What intrigues you most about the culture? Are there any surprises you’ve learned about how the Russian people are different than Americans? When are you home next? Cheers, Blair

  3. Tatiana says:

    Great! Thank you for adding copyright)))

  4. Jennifer says:

    Caleb,
    I love ballet. So glad you liked it. I loved your observations. On Cheers, the sitcom, Diane points out that she admired Baryshnikov’s “Albrecht”. Woody Harrelson attributes that level of visibility to Baryshnikov’s tight leotard. Heh, heh, heh. Oh, the merriment.

  5. LebCa says:

    It was probably the tightest piece of spandex I’ve ever seen.

  6. LebCa says:

    I realize I’m spoiled with how many incredible things I’m getting to see. No, I do not need a jacket/coat anymore as I bought one while we were in Kyiv. It was a bit cheaper there than Moscow. The Russians are very interesting; probably the most confusing thing about some of them is the way they have opinions about two different subjects which seem to contradict each other from our standpoint. I think they do like me, and us for the most part. I think learning how people deal with the corruption in their government here intrigues me, as in trying to learn what extent corruption affects people’s lives.
    Surprisingly, I think Russians are more generous than Americans. Sometimes when I ride the metro, a beggar will jump on and ask for money (maybe cross his/her heart) and I’m always shocked at the large number of people who pull out change for the beggar. Of course these coins would equate to around $.03-.25 per person, but wages are less here. Although last time this occurred, I noticed that the people giving money were all wearing fur, so maybe it’s just a higher class thing. But not the highest high rollers because they wouldn’t be riding the metro; they’d be in expensive cars with tinted windows being driven by a private driver (we see these). But it seems different on the street as I often see old women kneeling on the side of the road begging with a cup in front of them which is always nearly empty. So I really don’t know how this whole charity thing works.
    I will be home January 10th for about 10 days before I head up to Berkeley. But then I’m kind of home/at berkeley for the rest of the year.

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