The readings in this section are devoted to the experiences of Sunbirds.com Office Manager Jim Melcher on a company trip to Moscow in March 2001. During his two week stay, Jim was able to visit each of the four lacquer art villages where he met with many of the artists and visited the lacquer art museums of each village (except for Kholuy). As well, he spent a lot of time visiting the many sights of the historic city of Moscow. Jim is nearly fluent in Russian, and his language skills and prior time spent in Ukraine allowed him to delve right into the Russian experience. With plenty of people to take him around (and to feed him!) Jim was in good hands and could utilize his short time there to take pictures, take notes, and take a lot of memories, all of which is being shared in this section of our Readings Page. Take a virtual 'tour' of the Fedoskino Lacquer Art Museum, or walk through Cathedral Square! Click on any of the pictures to get an enlarged image, and mouse over each picture for an explanation. Jim thoroughly enjoyed his trip to Russia, and we hope that you do too!
As I embarked upon a two-week company trip to Russia, I had some mild concerns about flying Aeroflot. Flight 321 with direct service from Los Angeles to Moscow was not only the fastest way to travel from San Diego, but also the most economical--by far. And I was wondering why. Sure, it was an American-made Boeing 767 aircraft we were on, but did Aeroflot pass on a discount to its customers by not employing service technicians? By making their own replacement parts? These thoughts, while in jest, stem not from a naivety of Russia and Russian ingenuity, but from first-hand experience. I spent two years in Ukraine from 1994-1996, and had a pretty good idea of how things work in the former Soviet Union--they do work, but sometimes you wonder how. The flight went incredibly smoothly, and in a mere 12 hours and 15 minutes we were touching down at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.
Thankfully, jet lag didn't seem to be a problem. In fact, the entire trip was relatively problem free. This came as quite a surprise to me, but a pleasant one. Being able to speak Russian is a major benefit in visiting Russia. Unlike many tourist-bound locations, Moscow is not extremely tourist-friendly. Many of the people that American visitors would encounter do not speak enough English to be helpful, if they speak any at all. A main exception to this is on the souvenir centers of Arbat street and in Izmailovsky Park. Street peddlers are not only quick with a "Meester--hets, five dollars!", they are quick to spot the foreigners. Walking with a small group of Russians (even those dressed in Western-style apparel), the vendors would let everyone pass by and then tug on my coat sleeve and offer their wares to me. I was also immediately recognized at the Kremlin, but that's another story.
I found that Moscow and the rest of Russia has learned an important part of capitalism--advertising. There are billboards and signs lining the roads, the metro cars and escalators, even the buses. For visitors to Moscow, the ads begin in customs control in Sheremetyevo--the red line that you must stand behind before approaching an available official is broken up by Moscow Radio 100.7 logos, and the officials' booths are adorned with Bee-line Cellular signs. The interesting part is that placement does not seem to be a key factor in purchasing advertising space. There was a brand of cigarette that had multiple billboards clustered in certain areas of the city, so that there were four or five ads within a mile of each other.
March is a difficult time to see Moscow. The lingering winter temperatures and snow keep some locations closed, and others simply not tempting (especially to this native Southern Californian). Yet I was able to see much of this city of wonders. I was daily amazed at how massive it is, from the bricks of the Kremlin walls to the solid structure of the Hotel Ukraina.
Click here for the next selection from the trip