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scorchy

Anybody been to Russia?

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Just booked our tickets and hotels for Russia this June.  In the process of getting visas now.  The plan is 5 nights in St. Petersburg, 5 nights in Moscow, and 3 nights in Kazan.  Me, my wife, and 15-year old son.  The latter is becoming fluent in Russian, while my wife and I can basically say hello, thank you, and grandmother.

Any fellow FBGs been and have advice?  Schtick welcome.

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2 hours ago, Charlie Steiner said:

If you've seen this before, disregard; if you haven't, learn from this guy.

Was really expecting Yakov Smirnoff.

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Nice!  No experience with Russia other than going to the Russian embassy in Vienna (hi @Sandeman) and getting to get a visa and them telling me that they needed my passport for 2 weeks to process it... Obviously I never made it to Russia.

Also, I might have some extra tickets to EURO matches in June. I'll be going to 3 matches (England, Scotland, Denmark).

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Mr clown car and I met there. He spent one summer there (1992), then we spent the next summer there (93), then I spent the next summer there (94). Then we honeymooned there (1995). We were students and stayed in a dorm in Petersburg those summers and stayed at my Penpals apartment in Moscow for the honeymoon. Best months of my life. 

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8 hours ago, The Z Machine said:

Also, I might have some extra tickets to EURO matches in June. I'll be going to 3 matches (England, Scotland, Denmark).

Jealous. Looked into matches in St. Petersburg (no visa needed if in Russia for Euro 2020) but hotels were exorbinant and ticket resellers looked really shady.  Also checked out Dublin and Edinburgh for stopovers on the way home but hotels were even worse b/c of game.  Ended up with 2 days in Brussels instead.

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6 hours ago, Clown Car said:

Mr clown car and I met there. He spent one summer there (1992), then we spent the next summer there (93), then I spent the next summer there (94). Then we honeymooned there (1995). We were students and stayed in a dorm in Petersburg those summers and stayed at my Penpals apartment in Moscow for the honeymoon. Best months of my life. 

Russia in the early post-communism days must have been one hell of an experience.

Edited by scorchy

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17 hours ago, Charlie Steiner said:

If you've seen this before, disregard; if you haven't, learn from this guy.

Not at all to get political, but when I clicked on that video, I got a Trump ad. :shock:

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13 hours ago, The Z Machine said:

Nice!  No experience with Russia other than going to the Russian embassy in Vienna (hi @Sandeman) and getting to get a visa and them telling me that they needed my passport for 2 weeks to process it... Obviously I never made it to Russia.

Also, I might have some extra tickets to EURO matches in June. I'll be going to 3 matches (England, Scotland, Denmark).

DUUUDEE!!!! Let me know hwen you are in DK - I can show you all the good (craft beer) watering holes!

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I went to Russia twice in the early oughts. Really liked St. Petersburg - very beautiful. Not so keen on Moscow. It was business so not much sightseeing.
The Winter Palace, outside St. Petersburg is supposed to be fabulous

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I was there back in the aughts.  I was in Moscow and it looked just like you'd expect a former Soviet country to look.  Gray and dreary.  Don't talk any politics.  Putin is no joke. I remember that every so often, we'd be talking in the office and I'd lean over to a plant or piece of art on a desk and say, "Just as a reminder, I fully support Putin and love all of his political decisions.  He's the best leader in the world."  Everyone would laugh, but I was kind of being serious.  

Of course, I was also the guy who walked into Red Square and yelled, "WOLVERINES!!!!!"  I was quickly greeted by two armed men who my former KGB handler had to explain to them that I was just a harmless moron.  :mellow:

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Two days in St Pete at the apex of a Baltic cruise w my peeps (they love em, i hate em - i indulged them this once because i wanted to see the island/port of Kronstadt and Tsarskoe Selo [Catherine] Palace as research for a writing piece) 15 yrs ago. Finagling that and the museums (Hermitage is incredible) absorbed most of my time & effort.  i mostly dined & slept on the ship. Beautiful but discomboobulated city

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8 hours ago, scorchy said:

Russia in the early post-communism days must have been one hell of an experience.

It was awesome. The dorm we stayed in also housed kids attending an economic college up the road. They received notice that their school was closing and they had to figure something else out. So in protest they took over the dorm. Threw furniture in the stairwells and disabled the elevators at the top. So we just came and went climbing over the stuff. We were friendly with them so we wished them well but we were all like “well the economic policies aren’t going to work” so just smiled and nodded. 

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4 hours ago, TheIronSheik said:

I was there back in the aughts.  I was in Moscow and it looked just like you'd expect a former Soviet country to look.  Gray and dreary.  Don't talk any politics.  Putin is no joke. I remember that every so often, we'd be talking in the office and I'd lean over to a plant or piece of art on a desk and say, "Just as a reminder, I fully support Putin and love all of his political decisions.  He's the best leader in the world."  Everyone would laugh, but I was kind of being serious.  

Of course, I was also the guy who walked into Red Square and yelled, "WOLVERINES!!!!!"  I was quickly greeted by two armed men who my former KGB handler had to explain to them that I was just a harmless moron.  :mellow:

I've been to some non-Russian Soviet cities in the last few years and was pleasantly surprised by the non-grayness.  Nice weather and all the nicely attired ladies in summer dresses and heels probably helped.  Plus, after living in Philly and Bmore for the past 20+ years, I'm used to dingey.  Minsk was sparkling clean and safe in comparison.

Edited by scorchy

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5 minutes ago, scorchy said:

I've been to some non-Russian Soviet cities in the last few years and was pleasantly surprised by the non-grayness.  Nice weather and all the nicely attired ladies in summer dresses and heels probably helped.  Plus, after living in Philly and Bmore for the past 20+ years, I'm used to dingey.  Minsk was sparkling clean and safe in comparison.

I also went in winter, so there was snow on the ground.  Maybe in the spring it colors up.  But the buildings looked like cement blocks.  My hotel was across from a casino and that place had neon and blinking lights.  But the rest of the place seemed dreary.

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Ivan drago was kind of an #######

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7 hours ago, wikkidpissah said:

Two days in St Pete at the apex of a Baltic cruise w my peeps (they love em, i hate em - i indulged them this once because i wanted to see the island/port of Kronstadt and Tsarskoe Selo [Catherine] Palace as research for a writing piece) 15 yrs ago. Finagling that and the museums (Hermitage is incredible) absorbed most of my time & effort.  i mostly dined & slept on the ship. Beautiful but discomboobulated city

We also did 2 days in St Petersburg on a Baltic cruise within the last few years. The tourist sites like Catherine's Palace, the Hermitage, Church of Spilled Blood, etc are simply amazing. I've never been in a cleaner subway station either. Would absolutely recommend visiting. 

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On 2/12/2020 at 2:07 PM, Charlie Steiner said:

If you've seen this before, disregard; if you haven't, learn from this guy.

My goodness.  Even if he made that up, that's one of the greatest stories I've ever heard.

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I spent a week in Moscow in the mid 80s, early glasnost years. I was with a group of American kids I was living with in west Germany. It was a fantastic week, had a blast. We flew in and out on a rickety East German airline, out of Berlin. My one regret was that Gorbachev had just begun a crackdown on drinking and limited the vodka supply, so the only bars we could drink at were for westerners only. There were always a few Russians hanging around those places, but we weren’t able to just walk into a bar on the street and party with the soviets in their native habitat, which was a huge disappointment. We figured out the subway stops and were able to navigate the city pretty well. The subway is like DC, very deep down, but extremely clean and impressive - feels like a museum with beautiful marble and artwork. We went to several street markets, always a trip in a different culture.  The women were stunningly beautiful, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.  Red square was impressive, but there was something going on there all week and we never figured it out, couldn’t walk around much. 
 

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I won't do this story justice -- he tells it so much better -- but a friend of mine went to Russia in 1995ish.  He was there for six weeks with another guy from his journalism class (IIRC).  Friend of friend was legit crazy, probably an addict, and the source of many good stories.

They're in one of the "former" cities -- Volgograd maybe.  Friend of friend arranges an interview with a local bigwig and asks my friend to go with him.  Sure, why not. 

So that evening they're wandering through town following a street map (pre-cell) and gradually travel out of the commercial district into an industrial/warehousey area.  My friend starts to get a bad feeling about it and wants to turn back, but friend of friend insists they're almost there and doesn't want to lose the interview.  So on they go.

Finally they arrive at the place.  It's a solid brick building, no windows.  Friend is convinced they're not even in the right place, but friend of friend knocks on the door and a little window in the door slides back.  Dude on the other side is very much "WTF" when he sees these two.  Friend of friend explains why they're there and they're ushered in.  Basically an empty building.

Some context here... even today my friend, a successful professional and happily married father of two, could pass for a homeless person if he skipped a shower for a few days.  Ratty shoes, holey jeans, tatty t-shirts, stubble.  Appearance just isn't his jam.  Back then?  You could see through some of his shirts they were so worn.  These guys are not exactly representing.

Anyhow, after a wait while their story is checked out, they get led through some similarly empty rooms, up some stairs, etc -- deep into the building.  My friend is already convinced they've made a big mistake when the guy leading them comes to the door of a floor-to-ceiling industrial-quality safe embedded in the wall and... knocks. 

The safe door swings open and reveals a fully furnished series of rooms -- there's an entire area walled off from the rest of the building and accessible only through the safe door.  Which closes behind them as they're led through.

So now these two 20-something Americans who look like they stepped out of the set of "Clerks" on a ten-day bender are led into a second room where the the city's leading mafioso greets them.  They're literally locked in a safe inside a building in the middle of an industrial park thousands of miles from home with a Russian crime boss.  My friend is convinced that, if they're lucky, they're about to be kidnapped.

Details on exactly how friend of friend got set up with this guy in the first place, and what he actually knew about the him beforehand, are murky, but he plows forward -- playing it straight -- and goes through the motions of conducting the interview he'd asked for.  Obviously not asking anything sensitive now.  During the entire thing my friend has the sense they're being sized up and is basically trying not to puke.

In the end though they're turned loose.  Given what was going on in Russia at the time, immediately after the Soviet breakup, my friend remains convinced to this day that the only thing that saved them was the fact that they both looked so completely broke and bum-like that no one would believe it was worth the time or trouble to shake them down or try to ransom them.

Edited by Dinsy Ejotuz

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