I arrived in Moscow, Russia at the end of May 2014. After being up all night on the flight, the ride into the center of the city was a bit of a blur. Luckily, two other researchers from my group were on my plane so we hopped in a taxi instead of taking the train.
It has been a long time since I’ve been in Moscow, in fact, since the 80s. Let’s just say it has changed a little. Since then, the dissolution of the Soviet Union occurred, the Cold War ended, Russia embraced capitalism, and on many levels, aligned itself with the West. More than 20 years later it appears as if ideologies are once again changing. Perhaps these patterns are cyclical, or maybe these deeply ingrained beliefs are rising to the surface in response to the perceived lack of understanding between countries.
Before I left on this trip, many people worried about my safety considering the complexity of the relationship between Russia and the U.S. But, it has been a wonderful experience so far — full of food triumphs and mishaps, adjusting to reading the Cyrillic alphabet on street signs and in the metro, shopping, taking in the sights, and interviewing people for my research. The metro is speedy with easily identifiable lines in different colors. So once you can read (or match) the station signs it’s pretty easy to get around.
The language barrier at times poses a problem because outside of academic and political circles English is not widely spoken in Russia. It took a few days to sort out how to approach my food allergy situation when attempting to order food, but then I figured out a system that typically worked in smaller groups and on my own. With that said, people are friendly and do their best to help tourists.
Overall Russians seem fairly surprised to hear us speaking English as we roam around, and also somewhat confused that Americans want to visit their country at the moment. For me, it is the perfect time to visit Moscow and experience the day-to-day life of those who inhabit this wonderful city full of stunning architecture, great food and fascinating people.
I’ll chat more about Moscow food, tourist attractions and research in upcoming blogs.