Really quick update: I am in Vladimir right now, making a partial tour of provincial towns in the Golden Ring outside of Moscow. My internet access is limited and sporadic, and I can blame my lack of posts or pictures on this. Vladimir is like a smaller, friendlier version of Moscow. There are more signs that people actually live and do practical things here. The first day I got in, I ended up eating in the foodcourt of a Russian department store (nastiest hamburger of my life).
Two things I appreciate about Russia is that most of the other tourists are Russian, and for once I do not look obviously foreign. I would say on average I get stopped on the street twice a day by Russian people trying to ask me for directions. Both of these things mean I feel like less of an intruder here, although there is always that awkward “I don’t speak Russian” moment.
Anyway, I like Vladimir. I have been daytripping outside of Moscow for the past week or so, partly to escape the city and partly to get a vague sense of what the rest of Russia is like (they say Moscow is nothing like the rest of the country, kind of like New York in America). The downtown here is a lot of orthodox churches and Kruschev-era apartment complexes, but the farther out you get these give way to older wooden architecture and junky old one-story houses. Over the last couple of days I visited the even smaller towns of Suzdal and Bogolyubovo with an english-speaking friend of my host here. These places are very charming after all the hassle of a Russian supercity, although I would be completely lost if I tried to visit them without a Russian-speaking companion.
I am skipping a lot of things…I’ve been to an abandoned hospital outside of Moscow, I switched from hostel to a homestay with a belligerent older Russian woman. I finally went inside the Kremlin (pretty much what I expected) but I still have not seen Lenin! I am trying to think more carefully about negative space, and will probably have to break my own rule about only making pictures on-site. It is hard to be selective here: pretty much everything lends itself to an illustration.