guest blogger: tamara of american girls in moscow (part I)

American Girls in MoscowAlthough many of you know about my Italian heritage, you may not realize I’m also part Lithuanian. That corner of the world has always fascinated me, and so it is with great pleasure I turn over the blog this week to Tamara, who writes about the lives of her, her husband and her girls (pictured at left) at American Girls in Moscow.

In a series called From Russia with Love, Tamara will take us on the same grand tour of Russia that many newly wedded Russian couples follow–and just in time for me to wish my brother and father and their wives happy anniversaries!

I’ve divided Tamara’s fabulous photos and information into a week-long series, which means no reduced blogging schedule this week either! Somebody stop me!

So be sure to come back every day for more gorgeous Russian sights. Today is Gorky Park, and other stops will include Sparrow Hills, Victory Park, Novodevichy Monastery, Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer, Alexander Gardens and Red Square.

Now here’s Tamara:

Michelle asked me a while ago if I’d be interested in contributing a guest post here, something that would give you a glimpse into my current corner of the world—Moscow, Russia. Her blog is usually filled with such, well, SUNSHINE and everything gloriously Italian… My life here seems so very different from hers in that gorgeous Calabrian landscape…

I then thought of Giuseppe, my host father from when I studied in Rome while in college. I had been invited to join the family on their ski holiday to Cortina—and don’t get me wrong, I’d have loved, loved, loved to go. The thing is, I had already made plans six months before to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my friends in Moscow. I had worked as a translator for a children’s writer here in the fall of 1991, making many dear friends and I was looking forward to seeing them all again two years later. After all, I was already so “close by”… (Well, Rome is a heck of a lot closer to Moscow than New Hampshire…)

“Ma, MOSCA? Perché mai andare in quel paesaccio quando si puo rimanere qua, IN ITALIA, nel piu bel paese del mondo???”

“But, MOSCOW? Why on earth go to that country when you could stay here, IN ITALY, in the most beautiful country in the world?” (If only you could have heard the bewilderment and disdain in his endearing Italian voice!)

As an admiral in the Italian Navy, he certainly wasn’t on “good terms” with what remained of the Soviet Union… He was genuinely flummoxed and try as I did, I couldn’t help him understand what was pulling me back here—and then back again? Why would I willingly travel economy-class for four days on a Euro-Rail pass to get here? Why would I choose to stay with friends who were scrambling to get by economically, trying to find their way in the wake of their country’s unraveling? What could be FUN about three weeks of Moscow’s deep freeze?

It can be hard to convince someone of Moscow’s charm during the long winter… Weeks of no sunshine, only gray light… Pollution-tinged snow and slush covering the streets, cars, and the bottom of your pants… That’s why I’m glad that YOUR virtual visit to Moscow is coming at a splendid time of year. It’s summer here, and Moscow is in her green and flowery glory. (We’ll, ahem, skip all discussion of the infamous poplar pollen caused by sexually-frustrated trees… You could read more about that—and how sick it makes many of us—here.)

Now… with no further ado… I bring you my post from Russia. Let me give you amici in Italy (or those of you who enjoy pretending you’re living in Italy vicariously through Michelle’s blog) a glimpse of Moscow’s beauty and charm.

From Russia with Love

“So, now that you’ve just ____________, what are you going to do?”

If you watched TV in the USA during the early ‘90s, that question might conjure up images of Super Bowl winners declaring they’re off to Disneyworld. Even the Genie in Aladdin puts on his mouse hat, grabs his suitcase and heads to the famous park as soon as he is granted his freedom.

Well, if that question includes the words “gotten married” and you’re in Moscow, Russia, there’s no doubt where you’re headed. Before you make your way from the ceremony to the reception, you’re 99% likely to hop into one of these, followed by your closest friends in cars decorated with ribbons and streamers. (Third picture borrowed from here.)

Limo in Moscow

Limo in Moscow

Wedding car in Moscow

Your destination? The “Grand Tour” of Moscow’s most picturesque spots.

Regardless of your wedding budget (they commonly range from $100 to $1,000,000 in this city of drastic extremes), you’ll stop to have your picture taken in front of at least a few of these popular places:

Moscow site map

Unlike the couple I saw on Old Arbat Street last weekend, we won’t be stopping to have our picture taken with Shrek and Fiona. And I will not be asking you to climb up on top of the cow in front of Moo Moo restaurant.

Ladies: go easy on the champagne; there won’t be any place to relieve yourself until you get to the reception. Guys: drink up. You can pee pretty much anywhere you want along the side of the road, even in the city’s center… Trust me. We live right near one of the popular stops and I’ve gotten an eyeful too many times to count. If the cops do give you trouble, we’ll just slip them some cash and they’ll go away.

Ah, the joys of Moscow!

First Stop: Gorky Park

Everyone has heard of this place… It’s a huge complex on the southern bank of the Moscow River, including tree-lined paths, ponds, outdoor theaters, cafes and an amusement park. The promenade—and the pedestrian bridge over the water—are popular spots for photographs.

Here are my daughters, Katya and Natalia, in the picture that was my blog’s header for the most of this year. You’ll see more of the other view from this spot—with the Kremlin in the background—when we stop later at Christ the Redeemer Cathedral.

American Girls in Moscow

Now get back in the car… We’re headed over the river along Prospect Vernadskovo, driving by the famous Luzhniki Olympic Sports Complex, as we drive to Sparrow Hills—the highest spot in Moscow.

See you there tomorrow!

11 Beans of Wisdom to “guest blogger: tamara of american girls in moscow (part I)”
  1. Joanne at frutto della passione

    Fascinating, we’ve been talking about going for years, among so many other places. At least now if we go, we’ll know what to do.

    Joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Food pop culture 4

    Hope you get lots of great ideas here Joanne!

  2. Gil

    Now I’ve got it figured out your Mom is visiting to help you & P plan your lavish Moscow wedding!

    Thanks for the article especially the pictures of Moscow.

    Hah, funny, but not quite true 😉

  3. Very interesting post! I’m looking forward to the other installments! Your little girls are beautiful!

    Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy’s last blog post..Roasted Peach Ice Cream

    The girls *are* beautiful, aren’t they?! Glad you’re enjoying Susan!

  4. 06.17.2008

    oohh, My husband ispart Lithuanian too ! Maybe you’re related 😉

    Scintilla’s last blog post..Fridges and Ferries

    Knowing how crazy the Internet is, we probably are!

  5. How long are the winters in Moscow?

    That pink limo is too much. Michelle, I think you should have one for your wedding.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Flashback Friday – Cabbage Kids

    Hah, I’m sure P would *really* go for that 😉

  6. garbane

    “I’m also part Lithuanian. That corner of the world has always fascinated me” So why is the post about Russia then? Lithuania and Russia are absolutely different countries. Any lithuanian would tell you that the two countries are definitely NOT in the ‘same corner of the world’. Might have been some decades ago but not anymore. We lithuanians even find it insulting to be equated to russians.
    I recommend doing some research in that area. And also playing a visit 😉

    Sorry to have offended you, but I am well aware of the history in that part of the world (and yes, they are in the same geographical part of the world whether Lithuanians (or Russians) like it or not). Lithuania was indeed part of Russia at one time (in fact, the country listed on US census forms for my family is “Russia” while their language was “Lithuanian”).

    I’m sorry that you hold such hostility for a nearby country, but there is certainly a certain degree of cultural overlap–I have many friends of Russian heritage as well and we grew up eating many of the same foods, for example. I’m well aware also, of course, that Russians don’t enjoy being mistaken for Lithuanian…or Lithuanians for Polish, etc.

    But I don’t think that’s what I did here. I referred to a geographic part of the world and for me, this is the same as some Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece sharing the same geographical corner of the world as well as cultural similarities (and many differences!) even though they are very distinct, independent countries.

    And I would love to visit Lithuania, although I would love to learn some of the language first. Unfortunately my grandfather’s generation stopped speaking it at home 🙁

  7. garbane

    “I’m sorry that you hold such hostility for a nearby country, but there is certainly a certain degree of cultural overlap–I have many friends of Russian heritage as well and we grew up eating many of the same foods, for example.”

    Hm.. where did i say i hold any hostility towards Russia?

    You know its funny to find someone so convinced about ‘similarities’ between the two countries she has never been to.. But well.. sure YOU know better 😉

    I think saying you’d be insulted to be grouped with citizens of another country implies hostility towards that country, but that’s just my opinion–which I’m certainly entitled to have, particularly on my own blog. I also think speaking for an entire country’s population as you did with Lithuania is always a dangerous thing, but again, just my opinion.

    I don’t think I know better, but I do know that I grew up with Russian and Lithuanian (and Polish and Ukranian) culture as they were transported to America, so I do know something about them, yes; I was exposed to the languages, food, traditions (mostly religious) from various relatives (both blood and those married into the family) from the time I was born. There are certainly differences as there are from town to town within any country, but yes, I see similarities as well–though some from those cultures are too stubborn/proud/or something to admit it.

    Besides, visiting a country doesn’t necessarily give one any impression of the entire country’s culture anyway–going to Milan isn’t going to tell you anything at all about southern Italy just as I’m sure visiting Kaunus probably wouldn’t tell me much about Lithuanian village life.

    There *is* a lot to be learned apart from visiting places as well, and unfortunately for many of us, that’s the only way we can afford to learn. I’ve never been to Greece, but it’s not difficult for me to see similarities between Italian and Greek culture especially when I read first hand accounts of Greek life in books by Gillian Bouras and various blogs by both Greek natives and expats.

    I’m not trying to convince you that Lithuania and Russia are the same, but to tell me they aren’t geographically in the same part of the world (my initial point in the post) is simply an untenable position. Whether you see similarities in the two cultures is your opinion, but remember that I’m free to have mine as well.

  8. 08.02.2008

    very interesting blog. thanks

    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  1. [...] From Russia With Love led by guest blogger Tamara of American Girls in Moscow. Yesterday we visited Gork...
  2. [...] Tamara, we’ve already visited Gorky Park as well as Sparrow Hills and Victory Park. Today [...]...
  3. [...] Love tour of Moscow led by guest blogger, Tamara of American Girls in Moscow. On Monday, we visited Gork...
Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
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Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
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Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake