popular culture, Russia, traveling

Gorky Park Experience (at Night!)

The first time I visited the famous Gorky Park, named after the iconic writer, political activist and founder of the socialist realist style Maxim Gorky, was in a late August night 2015. (The park itself was built in the 1920’s.)

Funnily enough, it happened just like in the song ‘Wind of Change’ by the German hard rock band Scorpions. Recorded in 1990 and released the following year, the song still reminds us of the initial hope for the uniting humanity after the collapse of Soviet Union – often represented as the ultimate villain and antagonist for the westernised values; such as the freedom of speech.

When you follow the Moskva river, you may indeed end up in the pristine Gorky Park. All of these pictures I am about to publish here were taken in a night time unfortunately (or luckily, depending on your perspective).

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I think Russian metro is known for its long escalator systems (at least in comparison with the Helsinki one)!

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There were a couple of other people going to watch the light show as well (which we didn’t know that time).

The closest metro station to Gorky Park is Park Kultury on the Circle line marked with the brown colour.

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The illuminated entrance gate we used that night. Quite spectacular, isn’t it!?

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Even the bridge was decorated with lights for the show and celebration.

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The buildings on the other side of the river were the ‘canvas’ used to project the different pieces of art into.

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This was probably the closest we could get! Even so, I must have taken the picture standing on the tip of my toes…

Please let me know if you preferred a more visual type of post instead of a greater mass of text. As always, I would love to hear your comments and suggestions!

Yours,

Miah

Russia, traveling

Love at First Sight – Moscow and Me

As you already may have heard, I’ve planned to start a blog for quite some time. This is another post that I should have made and published years ago.

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In 2015 I was looking into the future. Now I am gazing back.

Today I’m going to share you pics from my very first trip to Moscow, the grand capital of Russia, where lamented layers of history can still be read from the architecture, atmosphere and culture in general. Also, in the end of the post I will give you a small introduction of arriving into Moscow by air – and a not-so-surprising musical treat to play in the background when you plan your trip…

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A flying rainbow ballerina.

Even though many describe St. Petersburg as the cultural capital of Russia, for me somehow the ‘soul’ of the vast nation can be better found from Moscow. Purely geographically speaking, there is no denying that the city is located more in the centre whereas St. Petersburg was intentionally founded by Peter the Great to be closer to ‘the Western Europe’.

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An old piano left to be admired right next to the river in Moscow. I guess every passer by, local or tourist, can try their luck at playing it. The bridge you see in the background is actually a metro station. Unfortunately, I’m not able to recall its name but I do remember it being a relatively new one! Metro stations in Russia are usually always worth visiting. With the cost of one ticket (around 40 roubles; approximately 60 cents) for the public transportation, you can see as many spectacular works of architecture you want!

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A view to the river near ‘Kitay Gorod’ (‘Chinese City’).

Approaching Moscow by air in the night time is a small spectacle itself. The illuminated ring roads and other lights make the city appear as it was covered in gold and diamonds. (Which metaphorically can be seen as quite an accurate description since most of the wealth literally flows into the capital from all over Russia.)

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A small Russian airport where I took off in 2015.

Arriving in Moscow happened for me through the Domodedovo airport but your destination may vary according to the direction you are travelling from. All in all, there’s four different commercial airports in Moscow: Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo, Vnukovo and Zhukovsky International Airport.

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The front of Domodedovo airport in Moscow.

After landing and passing through the security controls, you may (and probably should) take a train into the centre of the city – of course depending the location you’re staying.

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At least a couple of years ago, when the train line was relatively new, a one-way ticket to the city or back to Domodedovo airport cost around 500 rubles (approximately seven euros). Please correct me if I’m wrong to give you guys a more accurate number!

It may sound expensive compared to the general Russian price level but I guarantee that the train is the most efficient way of getting to the reach of the metro system. So, in other words, it’s definitely worth buying the ticket. After all, flying to see Moscow from the other side of the world is already an investment in itself.

Last but not least, here’s a musical treat that you may already be familiar with… A song that has inspired me and many others to travel to the mysterious and bizarre capital of Russia.

‘Moscow Nights’ (or ‘Nights at the Moscow Suburb’ as the direct translation would suggest) was recorded and released in 1955. Interestingly, the lyrics were originally written about Leningrad (nowadays St. Petersburg) but after the request from the Soviet Ministry of Culture, the lyrics were changed to the ones we have learned to know and adore.

Above we have a version of the song with Russian subtitles combined with quite high-quality pictures (way better than mine) of Moscow. And below I linked the version with translated English subtitles so that friends from all over the world could enjoy the meaning of the lyrics. That version is performed by my absolute favourite baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovky, who sadly passed away late last year. Luckily, through his career and work in music, we can enjoy his artistic heritage hopefully forever.

Yours,

Miah

popular culture, Russia

Why Russia?

I’ve been fascinated by the Russian cultural heritage, or the myths and narratives surrounding it to be exact, since early childhood. The representations of Russia indicated (often from a very orientalist stand point) that it was to be considered as something mystical, exciting and a bit unknown, in the East. If Russia isn’t accepted as a part of Europe (but it is still something else than Asia), what is it then? A bizarre but intriguing mystery with an eventful history and debatable politics?

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Finland is one of the neighbouring countries, located in the West from the Russian perspective. Historically speaking, we’ve also been a part of the kingdom in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1917.

I personally grew up in the South Eastern corner of Finland, and we’ve always had a lot of connection with Russian people. My mother’s best friends from work were originally from Russia, and she used to tell funny stories of their times together. Even though the centre of my home town was small, Russian tourist buses often made stops in order for the passengers to shop there. Also some of my bilingual school friends had a parent or two that had moved here from Russia. Even I have some Russian blood from my father’s side. Amongst the relatives, it’s indeed rumoured that there would still be some relatives dwelling around the Lake Ladoga area near St. Petersburg.

What it comes to cultural products, I think that the 1997 animated film ‘Anastasia’ linked below has been a huge generational experience for people my age. I can still quite vividly remember gathering around the television as a child while the nurses at the kindergarten would set up the video cassette. I remember crawling next to my best friend since I was genuinely terrified of the evil Rasputin character trying to kill the beautiful young princess who had just discovered her true identity.

Later on the Russian telenovela series ‘Bednaya Nastya’ (which literally means ‘Poor Nastya’) shown on Finnish TV-channel 4 charmed many people into studying the language and culture more. I wasn’t the only one sold by the braided hairdos, extravagant costumes and ‘traditional’ settings since there were at least a couple of other girls in my class who were also motivated by this particular series. Even though I don’t even own a television, I wonder why there hasn’t been more telenovela series bought for Finnish broadcast? In my opinion, there would be a lot of people interested from all ages and walks of life. (MTV hire me, please!)

Anyway, here’s a link to the tune ‘Mne ne zhal’ (my translation would be ‘I don’t regret’) with some clips of the series as well. If you’re not familiar with the Russian Cyrillic letters, here’s a good chance to take a look how they are! Isn’t it exciting how different they are from the letters we use?

I have been listening to perhaps one of the most internationally and commercially successful Russian pop duo since I was a kid (‘All the Things She Said’ was a huge hit back at the time), more actively since high school though. I think that this kind of music somehow represents more accurately my experiences of the contemporary Russian culture. This crazy Russian disco mentality definitely has enhancing impacts in my study motivation (especially combined with three or more cups of coffee)! Try it out, learn the lyrics and see for yourself…

Till this day I’ve been studying Russian language (hence the resemblance to my robot necklace…) since the beginning of high school which means approximately eight years already! It was obvious for me to keep studying Russian at the University language centre which eventually led me to dig the culture a it deeper. I started to enrol myself into courses about Russian cultural history (feminism, for example) and to spend six months as an exchange student in the small town called Izhevsk in the Republic of Udmurtia. After that I’ve regularly had a valid visa for all kinds of trips to Russia, mainly in Vyborg and St. Petersburg that are easily reachable from Finland.

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I bet that this robot knows the Russian grammar by heart. I still don’t – but I am trying!

In the future I will definitely do more posts about my previous and future trips to Russia: how I’ve managed to be vegan in there, for example! I’m also going to get some more tattoos done by my favourite artist located in St. Petersburg so if you have any suggestions for May’s upcoming Russia post, please let me know in the comments section! Maybe I should set up an Instagram account for real time posting? Later on I can also share the story and meaning of my tattoos (after they are all done and healed) if you happen to be interested!

Tvoja (yours),

Miah