Monday, 13 February 2012

Episode 22: Rob moves in, goes to Ikea, buys a guitar, goes to a party and hitchhikes home...

What a week it has been!! My stint as a hotel-bound foreigner is finally over and I have a room of my own in which to lurk, sleep and write blog updates for you lot. I've spent the last few nights getting used to my new regime and flatmate and getting up to several little, ridiculous adventures hence the small wait between episodes. My apologies, this'll be a long one...

First was "The Grand Ikea Trip". As my room in the apartment came unfurnished I was given money off the first month's rent to go out to the GIANT out of town Ikea and get myself a bed, bedclothes and a desk. After getting madly lost and sweaty among the endless aisles of indoor lighting I took a break and sampled the Swedish food they have in the cafeteria there. Yes this place is so big it sells beer and has about three restaurants.

The communal area and my bedroom door
After wondering for a couple more hours in the giant, Swedish, cultural-exchange centre I ended up with a not too shabby single bed, a cheap, efficient table, a work lamp and some really cool bedsheets. After building all this I got the best night's sleep in a week, far away from Marilyn Monroe pictures and noisy hostel poker tournaments.

The rest of the weekend was now free for adventuring and relaxing. On Friday night my flatmate and I went out to a cool little bar tucked somewhere behind Red Square. It's got a German, beer-hall vibe and was full of studenty types glugging away and giggling behind gigantic glasses of cheap lager. The huge screen plays Rammstein videos really loudly and the lighting is very low. Two beers later and my flatmate had to leave for a double-date he'd arranged so I decided to head back on the metro alone and after dark. The alcohol was definitely conducive to my bravery and I arrived safely back in the flat unmolested, not covered in snow and with all my valuables in their respective pockets. Well done me? Oh come on, it's a big deal going out in a city the size of Moscow, especially for a country boy...

The little kitchen
Saturday was "find a guitar day". Anyone following me since Petrozavodsk in September will know that I  can't survive more than a week or so without playing guitar. I hit a cafe and came up with a list of Moscow guitar shops and locations thanks to free wifi and the "" forums. Soon, wrapped and warm and with a belly full of hot chocolate, I set off into the snow.

After finding one or two overpriced and stuffy shops I eventually came across "Mir Muziki" near Mayakovskaya Metro Station where I was able to buy a simple classical/folky accoustic guitar, a soft carry-case and a tuner for about £40. The staff were helpful, taught me the word for "guitar pick" and gave me a bag of free ones for my trouble. Taking my newly acquired friend home was a little tricky on the metro as the crowds were quite thick. Eventually I wrestled it into a respectable tuning and can gladly report that it sounds very warm and mellow. It'll do nicely :)

My flatmate asked me what my plans for the rest of the evening were and as I have yet to make my own circle of friends I was more than happy to accept an invite to the new flat of one of his university buddies. We took the metro all the way across town the Yugo-Zapadnaya station and ended up in a massively wood-paneled but very nice apartment. Despite this being by the last station on this metro line (and having a reputation for being a great hangout for Moscow's alcoholic-homeless community) this district is expensive and well thought of. The flat was stylish but old fashioned. The high shelves were littered strangely by volumes and volumes of theological textbooks in various languages. The explanation I got was that they were left by the previous tenant who was possibly off on a quest to fight demons...fantastic!
My room and awesome duvet cover

We'd brought a bottle of whiskey with us as a house-warming present and so settled down to play a Russian version of the card game "Liar" in which you try and deceive opponents by passing off undesirable cards as cards of another suit. It was complicated but a great icebreaker and soon I was breaking out my unsteady Russian for the first time in months. The flat filled up a little more as the evening progressed and I found myself drafted into various political/economic discussions. I just about kept afloat and tried my best to give an opinion when prompted. It was lovely that so many of the students I met were so interested in me. Clearly the novelty of being a Russian-speaking Englishman still persists outside of Karelia and I had to explain my presence in Moscow quite a bit over the evening. In stereotypical Russian style the drink was free flowing and I found my glass mysteriously refilled with wine and at one point with some unlabeled beer out of a plastic bottle...Eventually we were singing REM and swaying about quite a lot (for my sins I seem to remember some embarrassing airguitaring too) and it took a glass of wine being knocked off a coffee table to finally break the evening up.

Russian Guitar #2
My flatmate and I were far too late for the metro and we ended up on the ringroad highway hitching a lift home. Normally alarm bells would have been ringing in my head but I suppose the alcohol had numbed my senses a little. Equally however my trust in my flatmate, intoxicated as he was, was unerring and soon we found ourselves bartering with a nice chap in a fast Audi for passage back to our district. We both practically fell asleep in the warm car with relaxing Russian rock playing softly over the muggy radio.

We collapsed in the flat and didn't surface til Sunday afternoon, the last thing I remember being the Audi guy laughing and wishing us both good fortune.

Clearly Moscow is going to be a testing and strange experience but then again that's almost a pointless thing to have told you. One of my few tested and confident theories about this country is that it will never ever be boring. If this first week is anything to go by then, once again, I am pleasingly very correct in that belief.

more very soon

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