Never in my life did I expect to be standing in an arena in Moscow listening to Justin Timberlake shout, “This one’s for my Tennessee kids!” before playing an Elvis Presley hit. I was the lone scream in the crowd, and I laughed to myself when I realized, “I’m probably the only person here who’s ever lived in Tennessee!” You’re probably wondering, “how in the world did you get to a Justin Timberlake concert in Moscow?” Well, first we have to rewind three years…
I met a Russian Purina colleague when she moved to St. Louis for a three month stint in Spring 2011. We got to know each other while she was there working with my department. We did several fun St. Louis things together before she left to go back to Russia, and of course, once you’re in my circle, it’s hard to escape.
We had a rendezvous in Louisville, Kentucky in Spring 2012 when she was visiting family in the States. And in January 2014, she came over for dinner with a bunch of girls during a work trip to Switzerland.
You know me and my goal lists. Obviously, it was one of my European goals to visit her in Moscow. After seeing all of the hype on facebook about the Justin Timberlake concert in St. Louis, I decided to see where he was touring in Europe. I matched his concert dates with weekends in cities I hadn’t visited, and guess what? He was performing in Moscow on Saturday, May 17! Now, mind you, I only have ONE Justin Timberlake song on my computer. I can’t say I’m a huge fan (though I do own the N’SYNC Christmas album), but I knew he would put on a good show. I asked my friend if she had any interest in the concert, and she did! So we flagged this date as the weekend for my visit way back in November.
As you all know, the political situation has changed since November. I had all of my fingers and toes crossed when I sent my passport away (along with A LOT of paperwork) to apply for my visa. Thankfully, it was approved, and I was good to go! And as a bonus, another expat friend joined me for the adventure!
The flight times from Geneva to Moscow are a bit odd. We departed Switzerland at 9:15pm and arrived in Moscow at 2:45am! My sweet friend arranged for a car to pick us up and take us to our hotel. We had no issues, and I was sound asleep by 5:00am.
We did so many things during our visit! I’m going to attempt to recap all of the activities through pictures more than words…
[View of the city from a hill near Moscow State University]
[This building is a focal point on the university campus. There are a total of seven buildings around Moscow with a similar style – a single spire standing tall. One for each of the seven hills in the city.]
[A beautiful park outside of Novodevichy Convent. This sculpture, “Make Way for Ducklings,” was a gift from Barbara Bush.]
[The Novodevichy Convent was where the royal women were sent to live as nuns, if they weren’t married by the time they were 18. It’s a little bizarre to think that if I were a member of the Russian royal family a long time ago, I would have been a nun for 12 years already! Yikes!]
[Behind the convent is a cemetery where many famous Russian artists, writers, politicians, and military men are buried. I didn’t know any know of the notable artists or writers, but two political names were familiar to me: Raisa Gorbachev (wife of Mikhail Gorbachev) and Boris Yeltsin.]
[Cathedral of Christ the Savior can hold 10,000 people. It is an Orthodox church full of icons and ornate decoration. Our guide told us that one of the reasons for all of the Biblical paintings in these churches was to help teach Bible stories to uneducated parishioners who couldn’t read or write.]
[Our guide for the afternoon]
[A lovely stroll down a pedestrian street. There were so many tulips throughout the city!]
[We had dinner at the White Rabbit – located on the 16th floor of a building with 360 degree views of the city. It is currently ranked among the Top 50 Restaurants in the world. The venue, the view, and the food were incredible! You’ll notice some of the buildings with the tall spires in some of the pictures.]
[Over dinner, our friends told us about a coffee drink from McDonald’s that seems to only be served in Russia. It’s called a Cafe Glace, and it is a cup of coffee with a scoop of ice cream in it. Of course, we had to stop by McDonald’s on our way home to try one.]
[We took the Metro on our own to meet up with my friend. While we found our way, it was a little bit comical trying to match the words on the map with the words on the signs. The Cyrillic alphabet is quite different from the Latin alphabet! The fun part about the Metros in Moscow? They are GORGEOUS, and they are really deep underground. We rode the longest escalators ever!]
[We had breakfast in the park…overlooking the largest collection of ping pong tables I’ve ever seen!]
[After breakfast, it was time to learn something new…how to ride a scooter! As an aside…someday, I hope to capture enough photos to write an entire blog post about scooters. They are EVERYWHERE in Switzerland! It’s actually way more exhausting than it looks. I thought I would be able to coast along, but you really have to channel your inner Fred Flinstone to keep moving!]
[And of course, we had to pause for a photo op with the gorgeous tulips and the flautist]
[We stopped at another amazing Metro station on our way to Red Square. The one was full of statues]
[Before entering Red Square, there is a point called Zero Kilometer. All roads and distances are calculated from this point. You can throw a coin while standing in the center of the circle and facing Red Square to make a wish.]
[It started to get rainy when we arrived to Red Square, but we still had to take all of the obligatory photos. It was SO fun for me to see St. Basil’s – the iconic landmark in Moscow. Fun fact – the word “red” is used to depict importance, not necessarily the color. So Red Square actually has its name to denote its importance]
[We met up with two other expats currently living in Vevey. One of them is Russia and was thrilled to help my friend show us around for the weekend.]
[We walked through Gum Department Store (which was more like a high end shopping mall) to escape the rain and to try a traditional Russian ice cream cone. It was delicious!]
[Our afternoon consisted of a visit to the State Tretyakov Gallery to see some Russian paintings followed by a late lunch. Then it was time for one of the highlights of the trip…the Justin Timberlake concert! It was SO much fun! He is a great entertainer. It was his first concert in Moscow, and the crowd LOVED him!]
[I didn’t think it was possible for the day to contain any more goodness until we found ourselves at an AMAZING Mexican restaurant…in Moscow. WHAT?! It was after midnight, so naturally, it only made sense to order nachos. And I must say, they were delicious! A live band made the experience even better.]
[After a late night, we opted to sleep in a bit before heading back to Red Square. I mean, it is vacation, after all. We had brunch at Bosco Cafe on Red Square, and even though it was my first meal of the day, I went for the Beef Strogonoff. It was gorgeous outside and actually quite a bit hotter than expected!]
[After everyone arrived, we made our way into the Kremlin to visit the Armoury. The Armoury is home to a number of the crowned jewels, old dresses and robes that had an unbelievable amount of beading and detail, lots of carriages from several centuries ago, and even several Fabergé eggs. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but someone in our group snuck a few. Fun fact – The Kremlin itself is a walled area that is the original site of the village of Moscow.]
[And to culminate an incredible weekend, we ended our visit with an opera at the Bolshoi Theatre. Thankfully, there were subtitles provided at the top of the stage, so we could follow the story. It was really beautiful, and the theatre itself is magnificent!]
Many people asked if there was any hostility toward Americans while I was there, and I have to say that not only did I not feel any hostility, I also felt completely safe during the entire visit. Russia is so different from the rest of Europe, and I’m thrilled I got to experience Moscow. And as always, I’m so happy I could spend a weekend with sweet friends. Another European goal accomplished!