Thursday, September 09, 2004

More Moscow--Tuesday  

Perhaps the worst part of our trip was the way the tour schedule kept changing on us. When we arrived in Moscow we were told that the circus, which we had expected to attend on Monday evening, would instead be on Wednesday evening, with a boat ride on Monday. Then it was going to be circus on Monday and boat ride on Wednesday, which would have left us with Tuesday afternoon free. Eventually though, it wound up being boat ride on Tuesday afternoon.

Mom and I had decided that we would like to skip Tuesday morning's activities (tour of the Moscow metro stations, which are amazing, but we had seen amazing metro stations the previous day, followed by a tour of the Tretyakov Gallery) in favor of revisiting the flea market. At dinner Monday night, I discussed this plan with Valentina, but she insisted that we would not be able to meet up with the group at lunchtime or for the boat ride and proposed a counterplan: We would go for the metro tour and let the bus driver take us to Detskiy Mir while the others toured the Tretyakov, and then she would join us for the market after we all went on the boatride together.

I have always wanted to visit Detskiy Mir (meaning "Children's World"), which is this huge toy store that sits catty corner to Lubyanka, home of KGB headquarters and its infamous prison. Every time we drove past it on the bus tour, I pointed it out to my companions: "Torture! Toys! Torture! Toys! Never confuse those two."

So we set off Tuesday morning with the others to visit the metro stations. By the second or third station, Mom's feet were killing her and we were beginning to regret that we had agreed to the metro tour at all. As we were getting ready to leave the metro, Valentina began to cajole me in front of all the others about whether we could please go along to the Tretyakov? She batted her eyes and assured me that we would only be there for an hour, but I was getting pretty steamed. She and I had a plan worked out and now she wanted to change the plan on me. I felt embarassed with everybody staring at me, so I told her not to worry about us and certainly not to change the tour on our account. But there was no way in hell I was going into the Tretyakov!

We reached the Tretyakov Gallery, and this is where I started getting really upset. Valentina asked in the group for somebody to speak English and translate for me so that she could explain the plan. My German was better than the English of all but perhaps 2 people on that tour (she said modestly), and I didn't need a translator. I needed a guide who made one plan and stuck to the darn thing! I felt frustrated and embarassed, so I did what I generally do when I feel frustrated and embarassed: stalked off in a snit and burst into tears. Mom, the kids, and I spent the next hour and a half hanging out in a nearby park. (Now that the trip is over, I rave about Valentina as being part of what made it so special and interesting. Mike is always quick to remind me: "But, Mom, she made you cry!")

After the rest of our group returned from the museum, Valentina redeemed herself and surprised me with a stop at Detskiy Mir on our way to lunch. It was amazingly cool--so much nicer than your standard Toys R Us. Annabelle bought a stuffed anteater for the equivalent of $6, and I got the kids a very small Playmobil set to add to their collection. Aside from the anteater, everything in the store was terribly expensive, so we treated it as a museum: look, but don't buy.

We had lunch that day on a boat docked in the Moscow River. The main course was a rather unremarkable fried whitefish. But the atmosphere was pleasant, and the kids enjoyed watching a cockatoo who sat on top of his cage 10 feet away from us.

After lunch, we got on another boat for a river tour of Moscow. We sailed past Moscow State University, Gorky Park, the Peter the Great Monument, the Kremlin and Red Square, and it was a nice enough trip. The weather had returned to being clear, if a little chilly, after the rainstorm of the previous day, and it was a good day to be on the river. I'm not sure it was worth the almost-$100 it cost us, but it's only money, right?

When we returned to the hotel, Valentina accompanied us to the flea market. Mike was devastated to find that his beloved CD/DVD vendor isn't there on Mondays and Tuesdays. It was getting late, and the shops that were there were starting to close, so we headed back to the hotel. We enjoyed our supper and then hit the internet cafe in the hotel lobby before heading up to bed.

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