Greeting from Moscow! (15-20 July 2017)
The train down from Saint Petersburg was quick and easy, and Moscow has a simple enough city train system to navigate through, although one does has to pay attention as the twists and turns to find the right platform can be tricky (I had downloaded the Russian alphabet on my phone when in Saint Petersburg to help translate, it helped immensely in the Moscow train system where everything was in Russian while Google Maps translated it to English). One thing I found peculiar was the main train station in Saint Petersburg, it was busy with people traveling all over and filled with shops of all sorts. In the middle were kiosk, one in particular sold weapons, knives and guns to be exact. I could easily have picked up a handgun for quite cheap as a souvenir of my visit. I passed on that idea but instead spent my time on the train wondering how many other travelers were armed that day.
The hostel I stayed at apparently is quite the hotspot for travelers as when I was at the Visa Services Canada in Ottawa they remarked how every traveler they help get a Russian Visa have Godzilla’s Hostel down as the place they were staying at. In my opinion there was nothing outstanding about it, it was a nice place, central to the city and very cheap, which makes it a prime place to stay at, but it was no Castle Rock Hostel in Edinburgh with their own movie room and pool tables. I lost a shirt while staying at Godzilla’s, my brother’s band ‘Phantom’ shirt I got from him a while back (I use their music for my videos). It was one of my favourites. I guess the guy who bunked beneath me left in a hurry in the morning and figured the black shirt hung on the side of the bed was his. He left his plain, size small, black shirt behind. I was very disappointed as I had lost my ‘Phantom’ hat back in Barcelona and I had enjoyed taking pictures of me wearing my brother’s band clothes around the world and sending him the photos. That was no longer possible now. I hope the guy enjoyed that shirt, even if it was too big for him.
In this short 5 day visit I was only able to make it out to train just one day, given their schedule and how far away from them I was staying. I was much closer to the popular sights of Moscow and made sure to get out and see places like the Kremlin, the Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral, although the line ups were so long I would have to get there by sunrise and spend the entire day in order to see inside. I passed on that idea.
Also by the Red Square is the GUM shopping mall, a huge building that is the pinnacle of Neoclassical architecture and a famous tourist sight for it’s elegant, and some what over the top, decor.
I have more photos of my travels and adventures over on my Flickr account, head over there if you want to see more and maybe show some love by liking or commenting on few of them, thanks!
Back when I was first planning out Russia and talking to Khaled he connected me to Yusup Adaev who is the head black belt of Checkmat Moscow. We talked about my visit and Yusup was happy to have me come train with them, and even made sure to set everything up with the gym, Tigerclub, Checkmat is a part of. The gym is is the VEGAS Crocus City Mall, a huge and brand newly built mall out on the western end of Moscow. The mall has several floors with everything you could want in it, movie theatres, giant food court, gyms, even a hockey rink! Up at the top floor is where the gym is and Checkmat has a big mat space in the back. This gym was like the mall, big with everything you need in it. There was a big free weights section and big machine section, a fake grass area for cross-fit and dynamic conditioning exercises and even a boxing ring before the matspace. It was quite the impressive place. With this gym and this mall I could seriously just live in the mall as my visit.
The night I visited Checkmat Yusup wasn’t around, I believe he was out of country at the time but still made sure I was taken care of. The front desk attendant didn’t speak much English so when I first asked about Jiu-Jitsu and the Checkmat club she was puzzled. After a confusing conversation where she told me she passed me off to a manager who exactly why I was there. We had a nice conversation as I filled out the information form and waiver and then I was set up with a temporary pass, a key to a locker and told if I need anything to come back and talk to her (probably because no one else understood me).
I got changed and wandered onto the mats to stretch out and warm up for class. Since the head coach was away a lot of the higher belts were also away, leaving the class full of white and blue belts. Although everyone was friendly enough throughout class, the start of class was a bit awkward as everyone seemed to keep clear of me, giving uneasy stares my way. At first I figured they were intimidated or weren’t fond of visitors, maybe I was just getting a cold shoulder as the new guy. As the class went on and students over heard me introducing myself to my training partners or telling them where I’m from during breaks between rounds, one by one they started to open up to me and come over to talk. As it happens everyone was just really shy, not being strong in English they weren’t comfortable talking as first. By the end of class I had made a few new friends.
The class itself was good, there was about 20 or so on the mats and they had a very fit student take us through a thorough warm up. After the warm up we went straight into a series of sweeps which I believe they had been working on for a while as everyone seemed to be very familiar with the chain. As I was training with some white belts I gave a few points of advice and it was then that they first started asking me where I was from and why I had come to visit Moscow. They must not get many visitors as practically everyone asked why I had come to visit Moscow and not another place in Europe. Once we got into rolling the guys shed their timid demeanor and gave me some tough ‘Welcome to Moscow’ rolls that really tested my defense skills. I only rolled with one guy who didn’t maul me and he was only new. I gave him some advice as we rolled, just newbie pointers but I could see given a year this guy would be a serious threat. It was a really good time training with Yusup Adaev’s club, Checkmat Moscow, and wish I was able to make it out to the west end to train with them again, but it was not in the cards during this short trip. Thanks Yusup for having me at your club and thanks guys for the fun rolls.
After an all too short visit to Moscow, ending my all too short visit to Russia, I was off to a neighboring country not too happy with Russia:Ukraine, first stop Kiev! Seriously this trip was too short. I had planned this back when I planned out my trip across Canada and was going on a 5 day per stop schedule. What with travel days that only gives you a few days at each place which is just enough to get out and train at a few clubs or one club a few times but no time for sight seeing. With traveling through Europe I had since increased my time at each to give time to take it all in. With my stops being closer to a week long at each place now I was looking forward to taking in the culture and all the Ukrainian food I had come to know and love while living in Canada. Now I was about to see how the real thing compared!
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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