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Russia Sneak Peek: Totally not what I expected!

Russia has surprised me in the best possible way. Find out why!

Greetings from Moscow! Because I’m crazy a curious explorer, I’m here for 10 days, despite the fact that even at the end of March temperatures dip below zero degrees Celcius and the wind blows with an intensity that could transport you to the next town over. (Note to self: next time pack thermals, a snowsuit, and a balaclava.)

But as usual, I digress.

What I really wanted to say was that so far Russia has surprised me in the best possible way!  My stay in Moscow has been delightful thus far.

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As I noted on Instagram (follow me there for real time updates!), it’s funny how you can have pre-conceived notions about a place you’ve never been to before. Prior to coming to Russia, I assumed it would be very grim and spare; dark, dilapidated, unfriendly, and foreboding.

But what I’ve encountered in Moscow has been anything but. The city is colourful, grand, and opulent. Even better, we have been lucky with the weather (well, with the exception of the cold, which even locals say is unseasonable): three days into our 10 day journey, the skies have been nothing but clear and blue.

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And while we’re on the topic of locals, I’ve found Moscovites have been very welcoming– there are lots of smiles in the streets and in stores, and on multiple occasions I have been approached and asked if I needed help. This I find remarkable since the level of English is not very good here.  I mean, that takes a lot of courage and goodwill to approach a foreigner and offer them help when you don’t speak their language!  I am grateful for this, and also grateful because thus far I haven’t experienced any racial discrimination (I’ve heard that travelling while black can be an issue here).

As for the physical aspect of things, the infrastructure is great! As an internet addict a blogger I have been impressed at the amount of wifi in public spaces!

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Food is also abundant and varied– the restaurant scene is popping and the range of cuisines around means that you can always find something to whet your appetite.

And the architecture is… wow.

So in the interest of demystifying this little of corner of Russia (well, big is probably more accurate– Moscow has a population of 11 million), here are a few pics!

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This place has really come as an unexpected delight, y’all.  I can definitely see myself coming back in the summer. Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a destination?

 

 

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Caroline Achieng Otieno
    March 28, 2016 at 6:44 am

    I’ve always dreamt of coming to Russia..have to get a visa though, but will try to visit this year. My brother studied there for seven years in the 90s..he spent a year intensively learning the language then his pharmacy study in the language..his experience as well as the experiences of other African students was different. I know things have changed alot now, but he always had stories about the beautiful babes and the scenic architecture, the cheap price of vodka (cheaper than water) and the endearing (*sarcasm alert) skinheads.
    The country that most surprised me was Bosnia and Herzegovina ..absolutely friendly, helpful and courteous people. Given that I had just traveled from Dubrovnik (extremely unfriendly cold encounters) to Mostar..I didn’t know what to expect..and Sarajevo blew me away by it’s hipness..will surely visit again.

  • Reply
    Bethaney - Flashpacker Family
    March 28, 2016 at 7:10 am

    It looks so bright and colourful. Not what I would’ve expected Russia to look like in the winter at all! I’m hoping to do the Trans-Siberian next year from east to west so finishing up in Moscow & St Petersburg. Will be interested to see what you think of the rest of your trip!

  • Reply
    NT
    March 28, 2016 at 7:27 am

    I have to say, i’m genuinely surprised. The incredible architecture I know about. The notion that Russians, fiercely independent in thought, live life to the fullest does not surprise me, but friendly? especially to foreigners? albeit a black one? that shatters a few views I hold about Russia. I have to say these are views formed by reading accounts of black football players and students who experienced harassment because of their skin colour. Could it be that you haven’t been there long enough to experience it or perhaps the city centre is a safe haven for all of that?

  • Reply
    Alexandra
    March 28, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Oh! Russia is on my travel-wish list. But I’ve been thinking that it would be difficult to travel around the country without knowing the language. So, your post definitely encourage me to go as soon as possible 🙂 Thanks, Oneika!

  • Reply
    Reginia Cordell
    March 28, 2016 at 7:39 am

    I am completely impressed with your coverage of Russia. I too have heard unsavory tales about black travelers and expats in Russia. Because of those tales, I am (was) reluctant to visit. I may rethink those plans now. I’m looking forward to reading about the remainder of your stay.

  • Reply
    Ele
    March 28, 2016 at 8:02 am

    I don’t subscribe to the notion “don’t confuse travel and politics”, so until Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine, I will not travel to Russia or recommend anyone doing so. I know this pertains to many countries in the world, but it pains to have one like this as a close neighbour.

  • Reply
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    March 28, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Wow Moscow is beautiful! I always see ridiculous sales to Moscow from NY ($400 rt?!) but honestly I never booked it after hearing about so many negative things about the race relations there and I too thought it would be a bleak dark place, so in my mind I put it on the ‘someday’ list. I am happy to hear you are having such a wonderful experience which is making me reconsider my prior thoughts, and with such cheap fares, I might even add it to the list for this year (well, when it warms up lol)

  • Reply
    Danny
    March 28, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Wow, stunning photos! My dad visited Moscow a few years ago and said the exact same thing – gorgeous architecture, helpful people, and not nearly as gray or cold as one might think. I’m glad you’ve also had a positive experience so far. I haven’t been to Russia before, but it’s certainly on my list!

  • Reply
    Tandra Wilkerson|Thriller Mom
    March 28, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Your photos are amazing! This post has caused me to totally reevaluate my opinion of Russia based on preconceived notions, etc. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! Safe travels ?

  • Reply
    Theresa Mack
    March 28, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    I too, like some of the other readers, was shocked at the way you described your experience there. As an African American I would never go there unless I was with a tour group. There is still a great deal of violence against people of color.

  • Reply
    Victoria@ The British Berliner
    March 28, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    I love your post Oneika!

    I can’t believe that Russia is so bright and colourful especially at this time of year. I know that they have a marvellous Xmas though as I have a blogger friend who is half Russian and half American and she always writes about Moscow.

    I’ve “sort of” had the Moscow experience and people were enormously friendly. I went to Vietnam 9 years ago with Aeroflot (the Russian airline) and went to their airline office right next to the Russian Embassy in Berlin! The price was right and I had an 8 hour stop-over in Moscow. They even offered to arrange a visa for me and everything, but I, being the stupid girl I was, rejected it when they said that the visa was €50! Ha! I had no idea then that being British, that price was the VIP -we-know-you-so-we’ll-help-you price. The visa + application fee for a British person is €150 – €250 at the moment, depending which company you use!

    I ended up sitting on my cushion and drinking local vodka for 8 hours, while Asian travellers put up their tents and camping stoves at the airport. I know!

  • Reply
    Leah
    March 30, 2016 at 3:22 am

    I first visited Moscow (while I was studying abroad in St. Petersburg) in 2009, and most recently went back in 2014. Even during those five years, a lot has changed! There has been a concerted effort to improve urban infrastructure, especially around the city center. Gorky Park, which I adored (with its free wifi), wasn’t even in existence the first time I visited! I do have to say that further out from the center the city is very, very different from nearer the center. That’s where you’ll see more of the stereotypical Russia: monotonous apartment blocks, more obvious poverty, a certain grimness, etc. But, this is partly why I am so fascinated with Russia – it’s full of contradictions and you really can’t pin it down under a stereotype. Props to you for going. I’m so glad you had a nice experience! I’ve had rude encounters on the street during my time living there (not to mention I did see neo Nazis walking around on occasion…), but also some very positive ones. Russia is such a mix!

  • Reply
    Leigha
    April 1, 2016 at 5:08 am

    Ever since I met my Russian friends from study abroad, I’ve been waiting to visit Moscow! The architecture style is so different from anywhere in the world makes it a even more unique travel spot. Your picture definitely inspired me to look into details of a Moscow trip! 🙂 Cheers! Enjoy your travels!

  • Reply
    Anke
    April 1, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve always been fascinated by Russian history and culture, and I’m dying to visit Moscow once! Now I’ve read your post, I should really start planning a trip!

    As to answer, Panama really positively surprised me. At the end of a five month trip, after saying goodbye to too many people, I didn’t really expect to be surprised by such a vibrant capital and the most gorgeous islands I’ve ever seen!

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    April 4, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Great to hear you are having a good time! We got the full poor treatment and racism (partner is from HK) in Russia, and found places beautiful, but ultimately very much ‘show off’ and pretty facades only with very little soul. Once you walk out of the city centre even in Moscow and St Petersburg we found places very sad and dilapidated (the harbour in St Petersburg especially was super scary, essentially a rubbish dump with some cruise ships, and I know that harbours are rough places throughout the world). We’ve also had some bad experiences with Russian couchsurfing guests and me with customers in a previous job… I genuinely went to Russia to better my preconception, but it didn’t work out 🙁

  • Reply
    Candice
    April 6, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    I remember being surprised by Trinidad. When you think of the Caribbean, you think of a laid back atmosphere, a nice tropical drink, and of course the beach. Trinidad had a different feel to it. It had the feel of the hustle and bustle of a large city. I learned that most people go to Tobago to relax and get away from the city. I was there for a long layover but would love to back and explore the city more. Getting some Roti and going carnival are at the top of my list 🙂 .

  • Reply
    Elle Croft
    April 11, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I also found Russia to be all sorts of surprising. For a start, I arrived in mid-April to gorgeously warm temperatures, and wore nothing warmer than a light jacket the whole time. Moscow was lovely, but for a real surprise, head to St. Petersburg – that city totally blew me away!!

  • Reply
    Igor
    October 5, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    When all of you write here your impressions about Moscow, based on absolutely standart photos from Red Square, it seems that al you know about surrounding world – from clips like “Take me back to your house” of Basement Jaxx.

    By the way – author did not see even 1% of really beatifull/interesting places of Moscow

  • Reply
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