I awaken at 8:00am to daylight of my first day in Russia. The sleep was very good – albeit short. I got to bed around 1am and the 7 hours of sleep were well deserved after the 12+ hours of travel half-way around the world. I learned a lesson early in my traveling career. As soon as you get on the plane, set your watch for your destination, and start living exactly as you would if you were already there. So if you get on the plane and local time says 11pm – you go to sleep best you can.
My hotel room is a fairly simple affair. Which is somewhat disconcerting considering this particular hotel (Nikola House) is considered one of the best two in the city. Yet most European/American folks would liken it to a nicer Holiday inn. Still, everything is in order and feels safe – the bed soft and the shower is hot – so it’s gold in my book. We awake and I head down to grab some breakfast – ham and cheese, sliced tomatoes, some fresh bread and a lot of orange juice. A LOT of juice. Man I’m dehydrated something fierce. In all that day, I drink no less than 5 bottles of water and several glasses of juice before I feel back to normal.
We catch the cab to work when I realize we’re actually only 1 block from the city’s kremlin. I make a mental note that I must return for the tour. We drive to work and I spend the next 8 hours in meetings and prepping slides/etc. The folks here are very bright and accommodating. I found them to be easy to work with them and fun to hang out with. Their English is good overall – and communcation isn’t too difficult.
After a long day of work, we head out for dinner. We walk down the main walk-way of shops in town to a place called ABS brewpub. It’s a pretty fun place that has one side done up like a big truck and you sit on the back/flatbed. When you sit down, there is a big tap on the wall hooked to piping. The spigot has a digital meter on it that they read when you sit down. then you just pour whatever you want from the spigot. When you get up, they read the meter and charge you for what your table drank. Slick.
I went a little out on a limb and ordered the ‘sea cat’ dish. Which from what I could tell later turned out to be a whitefish that the guys at work reported comes from a lake or river. They didn’t have the name handy – but I bet it was a catfish. It was a great dish of fish and Spanish rice-like base – tasty and filling.
After dinner we head back to the hotel around 10pm. That night I take a mild sleeping pill that my doc gave me and was suggested by my coworkers. They tell me that first night being 12 hours apart you’ll likely wake up at 2 or 3am and not be able to sleep – then be a disaster the next day. I sleep a solid 9 hours that night. 🙂
Couple of niceties about Russia in general:
1. Just about every restaurant has a complementary (mandatory) coat check. You don’t go into any restaurant without checking your coat – which is a nice touch of class to everywhere you go.
2. People tend to stay dressed up when they go out. While not the height of expensive fashion, people might wear a simple suit coat or a nice shirt with a collar, women would dress in dresses and heels. I think I have seen only 2 women in anything other than healed boots/shoes. Even our little brewpub looked a bit classier because of this. I think we as Americans might learn a bit from this habit to bring some class back to dining.