Our first road trip to Moscow took place this past Sunday, January 22nd. After church, we came home, ate a quick lunch, and loaded the kids up in the van we are borrowing. Our plan was to drive to Moscow on Sunday, spend the night at a friend’s house, and then get up early Monday to do all the things we needed, and drive back to Rostov arriving Monday evening. You know what they say about “plans”? Make some plans, and then watch them change!
The trip from Rostov to Moscow should take about three hours. It didn’t. One word: TRAFFIC! If I thought New York City traffic was bad, Moscow has it beat by a long shot.
We arrived at our friend’s house just south of Moscow in time for a late supper. They live in a four story house (yes, I said four story), and they have six children who are similar in age to our children. Our kids hit it off with their kids, and we really enjoyed our time with them.
They gently informed us there was no way we were going to accomplish what we wanted to in Moscow, and still get home Monday evening. Moscow traffic says, “No way”! We decided to extend our stay with them until Tuesday, with the hope of leaving early Tuesday morning to beat the “Moscow traffic”.
Monday morning we drove to the Metro (subway). This took longer than the 30 minutes it was supposed to take, because of …..wait for it…..TRAFFIC. We walked quickly (as quickly as you can on snowy ice carrying a baby and a backpack) to the station.
After some discussion, we got our passes, and boarded the train to Moscow. About 30 minutes later we arrived in downtown Moscow. We met up with another friend and translator to begin our tour.
First up we saw the Kremlin, Red Square, and St. Basil’s Cathedral. All of this was breathtaking and well worth the trip!
After our tour, Kenneth needed a diaper change, and it was almost lunchtime. We headed over to the mall to kill two birds with one stone. To enter the mall, we had to go through security. I’m not kidding.
If I hadn’t known I was in Moscow, I would have thought I was in a mall in America. Kenneth got a fresh diaper, and we ate lunch at a café in the mall. By the time we finished it was time to head to the American Embassy for our appointment.
We hopped back on the Metro, and headed toward the Embassy. After a brisk walk, we arrived at the Embassy, and started the process of getting in. At the gate (on the street), our translator told them we had an appointment, and we showed our passports.
The guard takes our passports, looks in his book, looks at our passports again, looks at his book again, and then hands our passports back to us. He asks our translator about all these children. Our translator says they are our children. Now the guard needs to see their passports. We show him their passports. He decides they can come in too.
Next we have to show him all of our backpacks (me and each of the 7 children have one, plus Fr. Joseph has his laptop bag).
Then each one of us gets “wanded” by the security guard. Finally we get in the gate, and go up the stairs into the Embassy.
The next room is barely big enough for all ten of us to even squeeze into. We have to show our passports again, our bags have to be x-rayed, and we have to walk through a metal detector.
We also have to surrender our cell phones. Not turn them off, but hand them over to the guard. I’m not kidding. He buzzes us through the door, and we sit down to wait. By now it is a good 30 minutes past our appointment time.
Thankfully, we paid for the notary, we signed the paper, and then we asked where the nearest FedEx office was so we could mail the paper back to America. After some consulting, they told Fr. Joseph where they thought one was nearby.
They were WRONG! Our first translator had gone to do some errands of his own, so we were on our own. Fr. Joseph searched for the nearest FedEx office, found one on Google Maps, and we set off in search of it.
Here’s a visual picture for you: Imagine two adults (one carrying an 8 month old baby), and 7 children carrying backpacks, wandering up and down the snowy streets of Moscow following a blue dot on a cell phone! Oh yes, we were a sight!
A mile later, we ended up at the place where the map said a FedEx office was located. We go in, and the man at the desk informs us that NO, there is not a FedEx office here. We all collapse on their couches, and groan.
The kids are CERTAIN they are NOT going to ever see a Lego store, and I’m certain my feet and arms are going to fall off. We go back outside, and lo-and-behold, Christ the Savior Cathedral is about a block away from where we are standing. Thank you, Jesus!
We walked to the Cathedral, taking in the beauty of it. For a Christmas present, Katie and Kimberly had gotten a puzzle with a picture of this Cathedral, so it was even more special to see it.
This Cathedral was awesome to behold! There’s a Church upstairs, and then you go downstairs, and there’s another complete church down there too.
While there, we also met up with Anna, a friend of ours who is also a translator. She and her friend (also named Anna) guided us to our next and final destination for the day.
At this point it is about 4:30 p.m. We hop back on the Metro, and head to the big toy store.
This toy store is right outside the Metro! THANK YOU, JESUS! It is three floors, and after riding the escalator up and down to the wrong floors, we finally arrived at the Lego store. Our kids could hear angels singing “Halleluah”.
I passed the baby off to our friend, and started systematically helping our children spend their Christmas money (a gift from their Grammy) as quickly as possible.
The nice saleswoman must have seen a “big spender” sign on us. She quickly got brought out a basket for the many boxes of Legos to go in.
We finished in about 15 minutes, and we headed back to the Metro. But not before we ran into an owl! Yes, we got to pet a real live owl in the Metro. Jeremy and Andrew even got to hold it. There’s never a dull moment in our lives, I’m telling you.
We hop on the Metro, and begin the trip back to the Metro station where we left our van. It is the last stop. And the Metro is PACKED!!!
We have 8 children, plus backpacks, plus three big bags of Legos on a packed train that is moving at a high rate of speed.
Eventually the train started emptying out, and we were all able to sit down. Oh yes, we were a sight!
We arrived back at the train station, and walked back across the snowy ice to the van.
After loading everyone up, we began our trip back to our friend’s house. Remember it is only supposed to take about 30 minutes. An hour and a half later we arrived, and had a late supper.
The original plan was to get up really early and leave to come back to Rostov. However, we hadn’t found a FedEx office yet to mail off the paper, so that still had to be done in the morning.
Next morning we got up at 6:00 a.m., had breakfast with our friends, and said goodbye to them. We headed back toward Moscow with the hope of finding the right FedEx office.
About noon, we pulled into the parking garage of a building that was supposed to have a FedEx office in it. It turned out that this van was too big to fit properly in this parking garage, but sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
The kids and I sat in the van while Fr. Joseph and our translator friend went into the building. About 30 minutes later they came back, and the paper is supposed to be on its way to America.
We started our trip back to Rostov. By now the kids are coming unglued because they are hungry, and Fr. Joseph just wants to get away from Moscow traffic.
We stopped to fill up with diesel, and then Fr. Joseph visited the local “Pomponchik” fast food restaurant. He brought us chicken nuggets, fries, and fresh, warm doughnuts. This made us all less grouchy about the trip that seemed like it would never end.
We arrived home about 4:30 p.m., and the kids got right to work, putting together all their Legos.
All in all it was a good trip. We saw some really amazing sights, spent time with some very hospitable Orthodox friends, ate fast food that reminded us of America, and conquered Moscow traffic.
I think it will be a little while before we do another road trip though!