Welcome home to Russia: first early morning musings

I’m writing from Moscow, Russia today! Benjamin and I left rainy New York in the evening of Christmas day and arrived into sunny, snowy, frosty Moscow the next day. Since then we’ve been indulging in all the Russian food we can think of, sleeping a lot, getting up at 3 a.m. due to jet lag, and planning New Years celebrations.

Red Square Moscow

This morning, I “slept in” for the first time and got up at 5:20 a.m., and while it’s dark and quiet in the apartment I wanted to jot down a few of my first memories and impressions from the 2014-2015 Russian winter vacation. In no particular order:

Samovar Red SquareRed Square winter

Tap water is incredibly soft! My Moscow hair is absolutely different from my New York hair: it’s silky, wavy and light, I hardly recognize it!

Red Square Christmas marketRed Square ice skating

Everyone on the subway is very polite, constantly offering their seats to each other and saying “Excuse me, are you leaving at the next station? Thank you!” as they walk by one another towards the doors. Not that people aren’t polite on the subway in New York, but the atmosphere is just more hectic. The trains are also extremely punctual and they run often even during weekends and holidays, which blows my mind coming from New York this time around — I’ve gotten used to unpredictable commutes. I think Moscow’s circular, European-style city layout helps the metro to be more regular than New York’s more free-form shape.

Conversation cafe Moscow

It’s very cold, and Russian women stroll casually through the uneven piles of ice and snow in their long fur coats and high heeled boots. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I can’t take my eyes off of them. Elegance and beauty above comfort is the Moscow motto for sure!

Feeding ducks

There is so much stuff at the grocery stores for New Years! I was expecting to see sad, half-empty stores due to the crisis, but I was shocked with the assortment on the shelves and in people’s carts getting ready for the biggest holiday of the year.

Gorodnya park

There are lots of new local cafes that opened up within the last year. It’s kind of an obvious statement, but it’s not the Moscow that I remember. Up until recently, the city was dominated by chains like Shokoladnitsa, Coffee House, Starbucks, Yakitoriya, Planeta Sushi and a few others. They could be found in every neighborhood and near every subway station. They offered familiar menus, affordable prices and easily accessible locations. It was comforting, but quite boring. This year seems to be different. Left and right I notice new independent coffee shops, cafes and bakeries that remind me of boutique cafes in New York. It might well just be my first overexcited impression — Ben and I will try to research this hypothesis!

Vinegret Russian salad

Russian food is so good, I almost forgot! So far we’ve had blini with red caviar, manty and khinkali (big juicy dumplings), kissel (thickened sweetened juice), kilka (little salted fish in oil), all kinds of kasha, mama’s special meatball soup, and sauerkraut with carrots. We haven’t eaten out much yet (just once with a friend) but so far, my family has treated us to the best of homemade delicacies!