It all started when...
As a child of the 80's, at the height of the Cold War, there were endless movies and news reels depicting a far away land of mystery and mortal danger. The grainy black and white images, projected by the classically temperamental cathode ray tube TV, burned deeply into my psyche. It would be hard for me to forget thousands of soldiers marching in unison. Each soldier dressed in ornate and extravagant military uniforms. All this taking place in an wide open square surrounded by equally extravagant buildings. Despite my intrigue, the most important take-away fact portrayed to me by the news was how the USSR wished for the demise of freedom-loving nations all over the globe. Upon learning of the unwavering will of total destruction by the Red Army, I imagined that my care-free young self probably went for some ice cream right after. My sweet tooth is an ever-growing monster, much like my waistline, that I aim to tame even to this date.
A few decades later, I had the opportunity to visit not the USSR, but the Russian Federation, for time had not been kind to the old Union. Visiting Russia must had been unfathomable for me as a kid. Due to the impenetrable Iron Curtain, Russia might as well be on a different planet. Fate and having a paying job would have it, I booked my ticket to Russia for April, 2017 (Yes, it took almost 8 months for me to go through my travel pictures). What I thought would be a nearly impossible trip as a child, was actually happening. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly I should say, I had to jump through a bunch of hoops before setting foot on the Motherland.
Travelling to Russia is not as easy as going over the US border to get gallons of milk and gas and hiding anything else that you can’t wear across the border in the dark recesses of your vehicle trunk. The trip required some serious paper pushing. As a Canadian, I needed to get a tourist visa. The Russian visa required me to detail my personal history over the last few years without any gaps. It asked for information not even my closest friend would know of me. Even as a tourist, you are still required to have someone "sponsor" your visit. You can either have a friend in Russia who would vouch for you or a Russian travel agency can issue you a travel voucher for a cost of course! You will have to send this voucher in along with your visa application, passport, and more money for processing. After some waiting, your passport should be returned to you with a page occupied by the beautiful Russian visa counterfoil and the inevitability of a terrible picture of oneself.
As I boarded my flight out of Canada, I was filled with a nervous excitement for the trip. Soon, this nervous excitement became a tired enragement as I wonder why I decided to fly from Vancouver to San Francisco first, then onto Frankfurt before finally arriving in Moscow. When I finally arrived in Moscow, my heavy eyelids must had made my already slitty eyes looked minuscule. Perhaps all were wondering how I was navigating the airport with my eyes closed. Maybe the sleepwalking routine did me in when I was randomly selected to be examined by a Customs Officer when the exit was no more than 10 steps away. I slept walked myself a few more steps sideways to the examination area and waited for the officer to finish her thing. This was the beginning of my journey as a part of the reality TV show "Locked Up Abroad". Of course not! I am a law-abiding traveller. As I walked away, I even managed to turn the officer's frown upside down!
I walked out of the airport and hopped on the first cab as quickly as I could. This was when my imagination ran wild as I pictured my cab driver to be a hair-trigger maniac, who would mercilessly mow down a widowed grandma walking her grandson to school with their rescued three-legged dog. This insane imagination was fueled by the countless Russian dashcam videos on YouTube. Instead, within the first 5 minutes of the ride, I realized my driver was a courteous young man who was as careful as they come. As I recount my grossly inaccurate stereotype of Russian drivers, the car stereo was switched on. Not a word of lie, some hardcore Euro-techno beats filled the car as we glided smoothly toward my hotel on a wonderful Moscow night. It was hard not to have a smile on my face.
Without a doubt, the Red Square was one of my favourite places during my visit to Rissia. I was unsure how the Square would live up to my expectations. After all, there would be no marching soldiers and self-propelling artillery tanks streaming across the square during my visit. As I walked past the little chapel and through the gate to the Square, I could see the much pictured St. Basil's Cathedral in the distance. One would think that seeing a structure, so famous and visible around the world, would be a pedestrian experience. It wasn't so for me. My eyes could feast on the gentle curves of the Eiffel Tower or the bubbly shapes of the St. Basil's Cathedral in person without ever growing tiresome. It's a weird feeling to be recharged by the passage of time so plainly visible around oneself. Tangible history could be so exhilarating at times. Of course, my young self would surely scoff at that statement. Perhaps, as I age slowly toward oblivion, the history, and its fundamental character of immortality, become a source of inspiration and energy for my impermanent existence. I hope you enjoy a slice of history in pictures that I so treasured.