This all began when we were invited by our friend Steve to go with him to Siberia to help him with his upcoming film, mostly as pack mules (but, as you will see later on, other crucial services were provided by the Trager clan). This trip was supposed to happen in '13, but circumstances dictated otherwise (and sent us SW instead). Between the SW jaunt of the last posts and the fotos below was eight months of paradigm shifting, unemployment, student teaching (which I finished literally a day before we left for Russia) and many other moments mostly undocumented that when we reflect upon them add up to "life." Its weird to jump so many months of life in this format, but have it look as one continuous whole to scroll through, but thus is the magic of cherry picking experience to bloggroll. Thirteen turned to fourteen, stars aligned, bureaucracies were navigated and we made this trip in waiting wait no longer.
Just look at that backpack! Siberia is not quite vegan friendly, which we thankfully thought about before we left. Melissa spent the months prior to us leaving stockpiling plant-based nutrients in the various catch pockets of the backpack below, thus producing a Melissa sized person-bag to strap to her back (well, to have me lift onto her back for her) for the duration of the trip.
We flew direct, LAX to Sheremetyevo, slogged through the Moscow underground with our mountain of bags/gear and our trusty linguistic/moscow sprawl sherpa, Alisa. (photo below taken by Jan Cieslikiewicz, hereafter credited as Jancie).
Our home station during our time in Moscow was the station below (pronounced "so kull" meaning "Eagle") which would drop us off near the lovely wooded apartment perch atop a soviet block that belonged to Alisa and her cadre of lovelies we talked to well into that nite/morning (and the rest of the nites/mornings we spent there).
I was just figuring out the settings on m'new camera on this trip, so please excuse the non-uniform sizing of the pictures in this post. Below is an example of the wooded interior of Alisa's zone/perch.
Here we find Steve pontificating amongst the poppies
While here we see Melissa sharing culture via Nagi Noda. That first night in Moscow took us quite deep into the wee small hours of the morning, thus setting a precident for the rest of the time that we spent in that grayish capital city (which Alisa said was "not for living" but rather from moving to in order to pursue career/make money).
Talking/Rolling, Rolling/Talking (Jancie)
Sharing late. LATE (Jancie)
We arose the next morning/afternoon with only a few hours of daylight to burn and spent a lot of them inside watching Soviet music videos
and eating hella caviar (so cheap in Russia).
Steve learned how to tie his scarf!
Only the beginning of Moscow subway opulence (got me in his grip!)
Conquerors of space!
Saw a few of these insane/amazing feline posters, what do they mean?
Sled Shed Ted
Alisa decidedly deciphers
Seven dimensions! We didnt spring for it (might have been closed. It seemed early March was not peak tourist time for Moscow and we found a lot of the things we wanted to see were closed for reasons unknown and for an indeterminate amount of time. For example, this was heartbreakingly closed. They apparently have a lot of this guys work).
I forget the name of the area we walked about after the Cosmonaut monument, but there were many different cultural centers (mostly ex-soviet states) surrounding a central park and we were drawn to the Armenian cultural center, mostly due to the promise of Armenian Cognac. After locating said Cognac (and eating ALOT of these), we then stumbled across an exhibit by Hagop Sandaldjian and further drew connections/our frame of reference the world over.
Information is quite scant on this dood in English, wish we could read Cyrillic. I didnt know he created anything outside of his microminiatures.
Melissa digs into the miniatures. They had at least double the amount of the miniatures at this exhibit than they do at MJT. Felt incredibly lucky to happen upon the exhibit.
I forget what most of these were made out of, but they were/are stunning nonetheless
Floaty Christ in amber
Violin in the eye of a needle
Sax player on half a poppy seed
Crosses on half of a human hair
Before getting into the museum of drunkeness/torture, we happened upon this old Soviet whip with two Lenin heads inside of it.
As well as some children runing around in fairly creepy white masks. Surreal zone in the dying light.
Inside the museum of torture, we came across this thing. Gnar
Museum of drunkeness. This was a movie about some bootleggers (did you know Russia had prohibition? Probably, but my puny brain hadn't taken in that info before this trip) living out in the woods, plying their trade. Pretty geuud.
Dusky light strolling
And then this place. The more you know, the more you dont know. Alisa sherpa'd us here and introduced us to the glories of cuisine from Georgia (the country).
This particular restaurant had some work from this dood up on the wall, and information about him within the menu, which we could not read becuase Alisa kept the Cyrillic-laden menus at our table so as to avoid the English language menus and the accompanying price hike.
Eggplant roll thing with a nut filling. Also, pommegranates everywhere!
Eggy in a bready
The almighty khinkali
Large Pirosmani Piece
We then descended into a multi-stop techno tour of the Moscow underground (music scene, not public transit. We shall be getting to that later). At least at this first stop, they were playing this dood pretty heavily.
Inside previously mentioned club, a scientist/foodie was whippin up ice cream via some dry ice alchemy. (foto: Steve Elkins)
On the way to the next stop, we came across this spooky dry-iced patch of blacktop.
On the way to the next stop, we came across this spooky dry-iced patch of blacktop.
Alisa's friend (foget his name. Maybe Raskolnikov?) was quite inebriated at the beginning of this nite. Here is Alisa herding him to the next drinky spot. (Jancie)
He learned my name, proclaimed it louldy in the reverberant alley surrounds repeatedly and would not leave my side. He grabbed on to my hand as we stolled through the damp early March Moscow nite and we held hands most of the way to the next stop. (Jancie)
Here we are at that next stop, a incredibly loud/innards rumbling techno spot. We set up camp near the bathroom so we could communicate in relative quiet, for it was the furthest spot from the dance floor/speakers. Yes, we're old.
Alisa would come over and check in on us (Jancie)
and give us some comedic relief (Jancie)
Wow. Probably one of the most insane people I've met, in the foto below (forget her name. Apparently shes a model). Perhaps it was the fact that she only understood/spoke a little English, but the lil lady below whipped up some of the craziest word salad I've ever heard, with random almost tourette like outbursts of some insane/hilarious curse combos. I hope shes doing okay. (Jancie)
Trying to communicate through the gauze of time zone shifting and our time-destroying nite of techno/ear abuse
This is mostly what it felt like
We escaped all club confines and pushed further into the nite, swinging by Red Square around 4am. Incredible and so worth the club crawl to get there and experience those moments/monuments sans anyone else save for a cleaning crew or two.
Touristed & Melissa
Late late wooded interiors (redux)
Another morning/afternoon with Alisa's roomies (Alyosha on the left works in film conservation and was a wealth of information on Russian cinema. Also had some great Marker talks with the man), catching up on episodes of My Wife Chicken
Talking more film, talkin friends out East with Alyosha (Krasnoyarsk to be exact, but we shall get to that later).
Elevator to the grays
As promised, more subway opulence
Jan (who we all met for the first time on this trip) is the producer of Steve's film. Jan grew up in Gdansk, partially under communist rule, and was very motivated to join us on this trip due to the fact of that Soviet connection and the chance to compare that spectre of mother Russia that had been rumbling around his brain since childhood to the reality of Russia today.
Polish and Russian share some linguistic traits (according to Jan) and so he would try and throw out some Polish phrases with people 'round town and it seemed to work most of the time. I think we were trying to make our way to the Bulgakov museum in the picture above and below.
A familiar pose in the photo below: deciphering Cyrillic (or, trying to at least) to find our way about the town
We spent the better part of an afternoon/evening exploring the subway, getting off at a few select stations because they felt/looked like museums. So incredibly beautiful (and quite a relief from the Societ block blues and hues of the outside world).
Just look at that produce!
Jan and Steve amongst it
Three of four, somehow Melissa is the tallest (Jancie)
Some images have been burned into my brain and have remained in there long past being able to contextualize them or place them quickly. The image below is one of these images. Upon seeing it I immediately recognized it, but couldnt place it for awhile. Then, I did.
We spent quite a lot of time in this subway station dedicated to that giant of Russian literature.
Crime and Punishment
Uncle Fyodor from a distance. Very austere/beautiful/fitting tribute to the man's work
Pilgrimage complete.(Remember that part in Crime and Punishment when Sonia reads Raskolnikov the story of Job? Still ranks as one of, if not the best sermons I've heard. You guys cry too when reading fiction?)
One side shootin
Other side hackin. Now imagine this scene in a very public space in the US...cant? Me neither.
Back at the wooded perch with Alisa gettin avant
Weird bendy arm statue on our last day in the big city, wandering round Gorky park (besides Lenin statues, Gorky parks seem to be everywhere in Russia).
Strollin the city, we came across the person below atop that bridge. Shortly after spotting him/her, they began jumping wildly atop it. Thought for sure we were going to seem them take a plunge. Thankfully we didnt (foto: Steve Elkins).
Dreads and Stilts
Apparently this is a thing out there
Alisa ordered up a cab for us to ride to the airport in. The driver was bummed on having to cram all of our crap into his cab, cursing us in Russian then and seemingly all the way to the airport. More dispatches from our time near that lake coming soon.