Irina: Russian, successful private banker, kind, charming, adventurous, and of Orthodox church.
Adventure in Africa brought them together. They got married.
Wedding was a fairy 3-day celebration in Moscow. My husband and I were among the over 100 guests that flew from over the world to Moscow to wish the couple well.
July 2nd: Arrival in Moscow in Domodedovo International Airport.Construction is still going on at the airport. Moscow is changed from my memory of 10 years ago when I visited Russia in October 1998. Our bus journey took 3.5 hours from the airport to our Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel (within walking distance of the Red Square), which would take less than an hour by train.
Moscow changed! Ten years ago it was drab in every respect, with little food in store and the country on the verge of economic collapse.. Now, even the air is full of wealth. Every western brand in the world seems to have its shop here: clothes, cars, etc etc. Cheap Chinese goods are no where to be seen, though I suspect that they must be somewhere serving the Russians who are not yet so well off.
July 3rd: Cocktails and Dinner at the Sky Lounge of the Russian Academy of Science. This building of Soviet Era looked kind of unfinished with its bizaar exterior. The restaurant is on its 22nd floor with a modern feel and most important of all, it has a 360 degree breathtaking view of Moscow. I forgot to take my camera! My vodka drinking skills impressed the Russian Waiters, who willingly provided me more whenever they saw me at the bar.
July 4th: Wedding day!
Live music welcomed 150 festively dressed guests.
Drinking started early, waiters poured vodka generously and cheerfully into my fruit cocktails.
Bride and groom took their vows.
Groom promised to peel patatos and not to snore.
Bride threw her bouquet to unmarried girl friends.
Delicatessen, fruit cocktails, more vodka...
Walk to the pond in the forest..
Dinner, abundant dinner, wonderful dinner, lively dinner, big dinner, 15 tables of dinner!
Russians are famed for their artistic talents. Russian singers can also act very well. I enjoyed quite a few Kirov operas in London. I can not describe to you how incredibly good they were when this Most Wonderful Eight-men choir started singing and dancing! Their performance was a eleclectic and innovative mix of opera arias and popular songs. Opera trained, their voices covered the full range of notes from base to suprano. Bear in mind- It is not easy for a male voice to sing in the highest ranges of the female voice!
The Evening ended with the most fabulous display of fireworks by one of the ponds....in the early hours of next morning.
July 5th: Party Continued.
I skipped the day tour and went to see the landmarks that were there ten years ago. Hotel Metropole was a happening place then. Having tea under its famed stained glass ceiling was a must. Now, it looked abandoned, although the building still evoked its glamamorous past.
Gum (Meaning General Department Store) got to be the most beautiful shopping mall in the world. Built at the end of the 19th century, it exulted now over the array of famed western fashion outlets....
Dinner at an atmospheric Uzbeki Restaurant themed after the famous Russian film of the same name "The White Desert Sun" was fun, with a caged peacock occasiionally echoing the sound of its comrades in the movie, shown on the TV screen of the restaurant.
I remember how beautiful the city was but it is now more beautiful! The city seemed to have gone through a major changeover in the past ten years. Many historical buildings have been restored and many more are under scaffoldings.
Ten years ago I battled to find any place for dinner, but now there are more cafes here than anywhere else in the world. Clearly Russia's new found prosperity does come with a price! I won't be surprised if it is the most expensive country in the world now! A tiny bottle of water at the lobby bar at the Grand Hotel Europe was nearly 90 yuan. A modest meal at a Ukrainian restaurant was 70 pounds! But the reward for me was to try the "illegal" Samogon-home brewed vodka. Russians now find it 50 to 60 percent cheaper to go on holiday overseas!
The reason I wanted to come back to St. Petersburg was due to a very beautiful church-Our Saviour built on Spilt Blood. It was closed and under restoration ten years ago. I made a vow to come back to SP just to see this church. And the church definately deserves every praise heaped on it!
Larrissa, who used to look after us and my cats in London, came all the way from her home town of Kraznadar in the South to see us. We haven't seen one another for 4 years! She was like an old sister to me and I love her dearly. She is a fine example of Russian
women-cultured, hard working, honest and kind..
Many like her are the reason
why I believe Russia will continue to rise.