Tag Archives: Russia

Why Russians aren’t smiling

29 Apr

A lot of Americans that come home from a quick trip to Russia ask me why Russians are so mean. I always respond that Russians aren’t mean at all, and, in fact, they are some of the kindest people that I know. What makes Russians seem mean is simply a cultural difference in what facial expressions are appropriate and when.

I came across this blog post about why Russians don’t smile like Americans do, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Anyone who is planning a trip to Russia would be wise to read this blog post about why Russians don’t smile.

A Stalin era poster. "Be vigilant. Even walls are listening nowadays. Chat and gossip are not far from high treason. DO NOT CHAT!"

Learn more about Ashley R. Cummings on Google+.

30 Things I Love about Russia & Ukraine

3 Apr

Came across this gem in my travel journal. It’s a quick read that really does highlight some of the best (and the “best”) things about Russia & Ukraine. I truly love these places.

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1. Any of the following: borsch, pancakes with tvorog, syrok, Russian black bread, juice, Zhivchik.

2. Watching out for vomit piles.

3. Faberzhe eggs.

4. Tanning on the beaches of the Black Sea.

5. The Lavra and cool, dead, old bones.

6. Russian.

7. Puzata Khata, best restaurant ever, and way cheap.

8. Tula, Russia and Leo Tolstoy’s estate.

9. Having time to read whatever I want. Interestingly enough, it ended up being Brothers Karamazov.

10. Big Mamma in Kiev.

11. Showering/bathing in the Black Sea when you don’t have an actual shower.

12. The sweet smells including–cigarette smoke, alcohol, dill, dirt, sweat, incense, salami and rain..

13. Ladies with beards…(LADIES…PLURAL…AS IN MORE THAN ONE).

14. Golden smiles.

15. Getting stared at all the time…probably for being pretty?!?!

16. Read Square.

17. Shaurma’s on the street, oh baby, yum.

18. “Mexican food…” (ew).

19. Techno music playing everywhere (also, ew).

20. Close calls with death (aka Russian drivers).

21. Cheap Russian vodka (even though I don’t drink).

22. Listening to people talk quite openly about me, because they don’t think I understand Russian, and then politely informing them that some Americans can actually speak Russian quite fluently.

23. Enjoying the shock on their face after #22 happens.

24. Ice cream.

25. Worst internet access of life.

26. Protecting your place in line like you’re protecting your life.

27. Any sign that says smoking and drinking is prohibited. ha!

28. Grosses lifts/elevators of life.

29. Trying not to die while crossing the street.

30. Moscow & St. Pete’s prices vs. prices everywhere else in Russia and Ukraine.

Oh…the essence of one of my favorite places on earth!

 

Learn more about Ashley R. Cummings on Google+.

I Reek of Russia and I Love it!

12 Mar

Time for a little throwback travel post. I found this journal post about my 3rd visit to Russia, and it gave me the giggles. This was back in 2009.

Highlights from Russia so far:

1. Told everyone in Tula I was coming to visit them on Saturday…Jeni and I BOTH thought it was Friday (freaking time change), so I managed to accidentally ditch the Russian friends I haven’t seen since 2007, while having a nice gulyat’ (stroll) in Moscow.

2. Saw Faberzhe egg special collection at the Pushkin Museum. AWESOME. I want one for my birthday.

3. Asked someone to take my picture on Red Square and it turned out to be Alice Cooper’s band. They got flirty with us and asked us to come to their concert. Alice Cooper is a bit scary, so we’ll have to see about that.

Jeni and Ashley on Red Square

Most people take pics of Alice Cooper’s Band. No, Jeni and I ask them to take pics of us.

Lenin's tomb

By 2009, I had been to Red Square DOZENS of times and had not seen Lenin. I finally saw him in 2011 when I returned with my sweetie, Brandon. It was both creepy and cool.

4. Sloshed through barf on the metro. I feel asleep for like one station and I got up in a panic and as it turns out…someone else had a panic and managed to barf right on my standing place, and I literally had slippery throw up feet. Was wearing flip flops. Had to pay 39 rubles for “gas water” that Jeni poured on my feet while I winced in grossed-out-edness.

5. Meet up with my friend, Larisa, and some grossies tried to pick up on us. One of them pinched Jeni’s butt. I punched him in the shin.

6. Missed the last bus to Rosinka (a place no one in Russia knows about)–missed it NOT because we weren’t there on time, but probably because we were not on the correct side of the street. Yeah, then we sat and twirled our hair and smiled at boys who naturally asked us if we wanted a ride. Turns out they were from Georgia (country, not state) and their dads were in another car giving us the mafia/creepster look. We didn’t know the address (totally RUSSIAN SELO type of place where it’s just Rosinka and a house number…no address), so we call the emergency number and find out it’s close to a place called Mitino. We pray in our hearts. God sends Russian guardian angel driver, who doesn’t know where Rosinka is either, but finds it and doesn’t charge us anything for the ride, because it was so “priyatno” (nice) for him to be with us. Wow! I love being cute.

7. I smell like chimney just from being here. No really…I do.

This fascinating place just got fascinating-er!

10 Jan

After living in Russia for 2 years, and visiting multiple times, Russia has become one of the most fascinating places in the world to me. The language is interesting and complex. The people are kind. The food is great, and the architecture and scenery in Russia is uniquely…well…Russian.

The country is plastered with memorials dedicated to Russia’s greatest leaders and cities. If you are interested in learning about Lenin, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and heroic WWII generals and cities, all you have to do is take a stroll around any one of Russia’s great cities.

What you don’t see in Russia is memorials dedicated to great Americans. Until yesterday. And, mind you, this is absolutely blowing my mind.

Russia just erected a memorial to Steve Jobs by placing a large iPhone statue in the middle of Saint Petersburg. Check it out.

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Memorial to Steve Jobs in Russia

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I wasn’t looking to return to Russia for a few more years, but I may have to amend my plans just to see this. It seems so awesomely out of context, and I can’t wait to check it out with my own eyes.

P.S. I think Steve Jobs is an alien.

Ever thought of checking out Belarus?

31 Jul

I recently wrote a post about Russia, but I would feel extremely guilty if I didn’t show some love to White Russia (aka Belarus). Belarus is a beautiful country, and if you’re headed to Russia, you may as well hit up Belarus too! After all, it’s another stamp in your passport, right? Here are some things to know/do.

1. You need a visa for Belarus. While it’s possible to buy a train ticket from Belarusskiy Vogzal in Moscow without showing your Belorussian visa, and it’s even possible to get into the country of Belarus (by train) without a visa, you won’t be able to relax in the event a Belorussian official asks you for your visa. So, unless you want to risk some old fashioned jail time (and remember Belarus is still a dictatorship), do yourself a favor and get a visa. Sneaky-sneaky is not the best idea in old Soviet countries.

2. Remember! Remembering is a great thing to do in the country of Belarus and the architecture will constantly remind you of historical events. Sadly, most of Belarus was obliterated in WWII, and all that stands as original buildings is a small section of Minsk. As a result, much of the country has been rebuilt and there are manymanymany memorials built in remembrance of  WWII.  Touring Belarus is a heartwarming way to learn about WWII and honor those who died in the war. I would recommend visiting the city of Brest (right next to Poland) and also Khatyn. Prepare yourself for a lot of respect and reverence as you experience the atrocities of WWII.

3. Go to Minsk. Minsk is the largest city in Belarus and it’s happening, especially during the summer city festival. There are a lot of awesome art and history museums, great places to eat (seriously), and cool churches and sites.  I would especially recommend any Marc Chagall exhibits. Belorussians are proud of Marc Chagall, and, as such, they have amazing collections. Also, eat at Cafe Fresci. It’s “Italian” food. Well, it’s not really Italian, but it’s freaking good. It’s located  just behind October Square (Ploschad Oktyabrskaya). Save room for an ice cream sunday, because they are delicious.

4. Speaking of Marc Chagall. If you are into art, there is a little Marc Chagall Museum in Vitibsk, the city in Belarus where Chagall is from. I love Chagall, so to me, this is the definition of uh-mazing.

Marc Chagall Museum in Vitebsk

5. Don’t be lame and eat some Belorussian cuisine. Try borsch, cold borsch, pelmeni, pirogi, vareniki, oliveye, etc. I realized this probably won’t make much sense, so just go to Cafe Bistro Lido, and try what looks good. You won’t be disappointed, and if you are, sue me!

Belarus is beautiful. There are gorgeous dachas and green hills everywhere. It’s calm and the country is filled with beautiful memorials, reminding everyone of history. Go there. Love it.

Russia Russian of Russianness!

27 Jul

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I found myself dreaming in Russian last night. When I lived in Russia, this was a daily occurrence, but Russian dreaming only happens every once in a while these days (and no, contrary to popular movie culture, Russian doesn’t pop up in my subconsciousness only when I’m dreaming about a mysterious villain).

Anyway, it got me thinking about one of my favorite places on earth–Moscow. While I think everyone should visit Moscow, there are a few things you ought to know before spending $200 on a visa and hoping over to Moscow for the trip of a lifetime. Here goes:

1. Moscow really is as cold as they say it is. Really, it is. Take the coldest you’ve ever been and times it by a lot colder, and then get your head wet, and stick it in a freezer for 45 minutes. Only come out when your nose buggers and eyeballs start to freeze.  That’s how cold it is.  That being said, don’t go to Russia anytime from October-March, especially not January and February. Russia has lovely summers, so go to Russia in June. Unless, you feel like killing a bear, skinning it, and using its coat for protection against the elements.

2. To an outsider, Russian sounds like someone is talking about something really important, or like they are plotting your death. At least that’s how it sounded to me before I learned the language. Chances are, people are just talking about something trivial like their dog or cat. I don’t know why you should know this, but I think it’s helpful.

3. Eat Russian food. It’s best if you can make friends with a Russian babushka and trick her into thinking you are her grandchild. If so, your tummy will be full of deliciousness.  If you do not have this luxury, don’t worry, you can find plenty of other delicious food there. If you eat at McDonald’s while in Russia, you are officially lame. Try borsch. Try pelmeni. Try verekni. Galuptsi. Pirozhki. Try it all. If you’re brave, try kvas (non-alcoholic wheat drink…or something like that) and kholodetz (jello-ed meat). I don’t recommend the later of the two, because, well…it’s jello-ed meat, folks.

4. Moscow is about culture, architecture and kick ass sightseeing. If you feel like going to the beach and lounging about, then head to the Bahamas, or maybe Sochi, or Yalta, but not Moscow. That being said, strap on your walking shoes, and check out the following: Red Square (obviously), Victory Park, Moscow University,  Old Arbat Street, The Church of Christ Our Savior, and more. If you’re serious about going to Moscow, e-mail me, and I will give more info on where to go.

5. Remember how I said you have to spend $200 on a visa? Here’s the deal. You can get a double entry visa for the same price. That means, you can leave the country and come back in again all for the same price of one entry. If you have time, go to Kiev, or Lithuania, or Estonia, or Latvia, or Finland, or Belarus (you need a visa for Belarus), and see another great place.

6. Use the metro. It’s rad. Everything is written in Russian, so it’s like a fun puzzle to figure out. Even if you get lost, the metro is really beautiful, so you’ll still have fun.

7. If you need to speak English, find someone that looks like they are in college. Old people (I hope that’s not discrimination) don’t really speak English there.

8. If you speak any Russian, give it a whirl. Unlike the French, Russians think it’s awesome when people try to speak their language. If you throw in some innocent slang (nothing vulgar), they will think you are super cute, love you forever and take you home to their grandma, so you can accomplish #3 on this list.

9. Register your visa. If you stay in any one place for longer than 3 days, you must register your visa. You can do this at the hotel where you stay. The only person who should touch your passport are the people at the front desk registering your visa.If you plan to hop from city-to-city, you can do this, but keep all proof of travel. If you don’t have your visa registered, these tickets will show proof of consistent travel, and then you will be a-okay.

10. If military or police confiscate your camera, it’s code for they are stealing your camera. Act natural and run away with your camera. That’s a specific scenario, but it’s also kind of a metaphor. Don’t let people take advantage of you, or mess with you. If you feel weird about something, trust your gut.

Okay, enjoy your trip!

US Airways Gets an F-

19 Jul

I’ve done a lot of traveling in my day, which means I spend a lot of time on airplanes. I’ve flown a bunch of different Airlines and mostly have had great experiences.

The best experience I ever had was with a Bulgarian Airline on a flight from Moscow to Sophia. I got really sick right before boarding the flight and was throwing up the whole time. I was so sick, I could hardly stand. The flight attendants took me to the back made me a little bed and tended to me the entire time. I was so sick, but I felt loved, cared for, and their dedicated customer service meant a lot to me.

Conversely, the worst experience I’ve ever had was with US Airways. Being such an avid traveler, I had special plans for my honeymoon and wanted it to be the most perfect vacation ever. My husband and I flew to Cancun, and a few days into our honeymoon, we both got extremely sick. My poor husband couldn’t keep anything in his body and was extremely dehydrated, and I couldn’t stop throwing up (again). After a few days of this and even trying Mexican medication, it was time to get home to a doctor and get home as quickly as possible.

We called the Customer Service representatives at US Airways and they assured us that all we needed to do was pay $300 now and then send a doctor’s note to them and then they would refund the money. We kept our end of the deal, paid the money, flew on a miserable flight home, and promptly sent in the doctors note to US Airways. We heard nothing for a while. Then, we heard that we weren’t sick enough to get a refund. Then we heard that they had no such policy. Needless to say, we still haven’t seen a refund.

Get your story straight, US Airways!

I love to blog, and I blog about experiences both good and bad. All I know is that travelers should be treated with honesty and respect, especially when prices for flights are astronomical and there is loads of competition in the airline industry.

For my future flights, I will not be flying US Airways, and I hope you don’t ever have to deal with their horrendous customer service either.