Olympic torch relay and Воробьевы горы (Sparrow Hills)
Yesterday started out like any other day here. I woke up late, did stuff around the apartment, walked down to the grocery store, totally procrastinated on my plans to check out a new park/area (Воробьевы горы) and finally left the house around 3 pm. I hadn’t planned to stay out too long, and the temperature was in the 50s, so I wore a sweater and scarf (that I only put on later on in the day) and that was it – no gloves, hat, boots or coat. I had no idea I’d end up spending hours up there, and end up in Red Square in the evening! Had I known, I would have planned better! (That’s the beauty of living IN the city and not commuting – no rush to have to hurry back to catch a bus home! It tends to allow for much more spontaneity.
Anyways, I showed up at the station (Воробьевы горы) and it was beautiful, just as I had read. Floor to ceiling glass walls and a mini museum of sorts in the center of the platform. There were beautiful views of the Moskva river, Moscow State University, the ski jump, and the city itself from the platform.
After I exited the metro, I wasn’t really sure what direction to start in. I read the signs and decided to head towards the monastery. I followed the signs until there weren’t any, and so I just decided to head down to the river first and then work my way back up towards the top and the view of Moscow.
When I got to the bottom of the hill, there was a police car blocking off the road that my path led to. I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to pass, but I was, and then I noticed that there were policemen, standing at attention, lining the entire road. Some intervals had several policemen there. I hesitantly asked one of them what was about to happen and they rattled off something in Russian, the only thing of which I understood was “Olymicsky” or something like that. =) All I knew was it had something to do with the Olympics, and since I had missed the torch lighting ceremony the day before, I was hopeful that this meant the parade would bring the torch! I asked them what time it started and they didn’t know. So I wandered along the river, just enjoying the views, taking pictures, and keeping an eye on the road so I didn’t miss the action. Well, I needn’t have worried since the whole thing didn’t start for another hour and a half!
I wandered back and forth near the Moskva river, not wanting to miss the parade and trying to keep warm since anytime I sat, I started to get cold. SoI just kept taking pictures (and imagining that I would take so many pictures I’d run out of battery by the time the parade came by). During this time I met two Russian women when they asked me to help them learn how to use their phones to take pictures. I was unsuccessful at helping them, but they decided to stick around and try to chat with me anyways. I say “try” because they spoke zero English, and we all know how good my Russian is, ha. I don’t think I have said “I don’t understand” in Russian more times in any one given day than I did yesterday. But we had a lot of laughs and we were able to communicate some. They wanted to know all about me and then once they found out I was single, they decided I needed to marry their son/nephew (they were sisters). They insisted that he was one of the Olympic athletes and even called him at one point during the night to tell him about me. In retrospect, they were some of the only middle aged women I saw there (most of the crowd was young people) and they were all into it, running along with me to get pics and stuff, so I guess it makes sense that they had a family member involved, judging by their excitement level. They sure added to the fun for me.
When the parade started, the fun started! A huge Coke truck came by, handing out flags and pompoms and cans of Coke. Several vans/buses of Olympic athletes came by, and then periodically the van would stop, an athlete would get out and the runner (who had the torch) would meet up with him and pass on the flame by lighting his torch. The torch that was left behind would be mobbed by groups wanting pictures with it, until it was extinguished. It was a lot of fun to watch.
After the parade had passed us, Olga and ZIna* told me that now the athletes (they called them “sportsmen”) would head to Red Square and there would be a concert and stuff. So I followed them as we zigzagged our way through the metro and navigated our way to Red Square. That proved to be a challenge since there were lots of people and each way we tried kept ending in a dead end as so much was blocked off. We finally arrived (after passing the darkened Bolshoi Theatre area, which I later found out was getting read to host this and I am still bummed that once I realized (after I’d gotten home) I didn’t head back up there to watch it.) and realized we couldn’t enter the area for another hour, unless we had a ticket, which we didn’t. By then it had started raining and after waiting a while, I decided to skip the rest and head home. I hadn’t planned to be out so long anyways. I said goodbye to my new friends and headed home. Then I got a text from a friend letting me know about the light show (actually, he had sent it earlier but I hadn’t seen it) – I was so tempted to head back up there, but I had just gotten home and was so hungry and tired.
But, at least I got to see the Olympic torch – that was more than I had originally planned for the day. Although now I need to head back to Sparrow Hills since I hardly saw anything due to waiting for the parade.
What an interesting, fun day!
*At one point I used google translate on my phone to tell the ladies something and they were so surprised to see a message on my phone in Russian. They immediately got out their (dumb) phones and were searching for a translate feature! They kept looking and looking and I just didn’t bother trying to explain that I had used the internet to translate.
Pics of Moscow at night: