Russian Flea Markets, Bowling and Birthday Celebrations
May 3, 2010
I know that I just published an update, but this weekend was one of the best yet here in Moscow. On Friday, Yasha, Trevor and I went bowling, or “bowl-ink” as the Russians say. It goes without saying that we had ourselves a good old time. I was expecting a hole in the wall, decrepit, and distinctly Russian place, but it turned out to be the classiest bowling alley I have ever been to. That said, it also turned out to be way more expensive than I thought it would be. Don’t go thinking it wasn’t worth it though, we had an awesome time.
It was tough to take some really great pictures at the bowling alley for lighting and skill-less photographer reasons, but I think you get the idea.
The bowling alley is in a kind of inconvenient spot, as far as simple transportation goes. It’s too far to walk, but it’s only five minutes by car. So, in order to get to the bowling alley, we had to hail a gypsy cab, which is an absolutely common and everyday facet of Muscovite life. Basically, it’s hitch hiking, but you agree on a fare beforehand with the driver. They make 100 extra rubles, you get a quick ride, everyone wins. Stand on any street in Moscow with your hand outstretched, and nine times out of ten, you’ll get a gypsy cab instead of a legit cab driver.
In America, the idea of getting in a car with a stranger is a serious taboo, and we’re scared to death of each other. In Russia, however, gypsy cabs are a common, accepted and reliable way to those places in Moscow which the metro doesn’t reach.
This particular gypsy cab also fulfilled another of my goals for my time in Russia; ride in a Lada. Lada is the quintessential Russian car, and protectionism and trade barriers in Russia are pretty much the only thing keeping them alive. They are, for all intents and purposes, pieces of shit, but they are absolutely everywhere and a true staple of Russian life.
On Saturday, Trevor and I headed to Измайловский Парк (Ismailovsky Park) to check out the enormous flea market there. It was a bit touristy, and it always pains me to see the amount of Soviet kitsch for sale. But, all told, it was a cool place to walk around, and we did end up purchasing some pretty cool stuff. It’s also fun to haggle, and the traders are all too willing to do so. We purchased two huge metro maps, an old atlas from 1955, and another book for 950 rubles, after talking the guy down from a total of 2100 rubles. Not too bad. At the end of the transaction, he asked where we were from and was very impressed with our language and negotiating skills.
Ismailovsky is also a great place to have a few beers and people watch.
There’s a hilarious phenomenon that occurs whenever non-native designers try to experiment with foreign languages. In Russia, we’ve come to call it “Ringlish,” and it can be seen on t-shirts, bags, signs, really anything that is rendered in English.
I’m not sure what “JOOP!” means, but I am sure that it makes me laugh every time I look at this picture. JOOP!
After Trevor and I had had our fill of the market, we had worked up a mean appetite and headed to our favorite Georgian restaurant to meet up with Adam and Steve for some dinner and drinks. After some delicious Georgian food, we headed to the bar to meet up with everyone on the trip for Andrea’s 20th birthday celebration.
The party was originally supposed to have karaoke, but it turned out to be something like 500 rubles (about $17 USD) more to do karaoke, so we decided to just entertain ourselves sans karaoke.
This was really the first time that I have gone out with so many of the people from the program, and I’m glad to say that we all had a pretty good time.
After the bar, we all needed to head home and get some rest before heading to Tolstoy’s estate the next day. We had to meet at the metro station at 8:30 a.m. the next day for our trip to Ясная Поляна (Yasnaya Polyana). I have another update on our trip to Ясная Поляна, complete with a good number of pictures, already in the works, so don’t stray too far.
For now, the Internet is not working at home, so I’ve moved into the Кофе Хауз (Coffee House) for the time being.
I hope you all are enjoying the updates, and if so, leave me a comment so I know how much you miss me. Stay tuned.