The Brazilfooty team (i.e. me, who runs this blog and does most of the writing, and my girlfriend Tatjana, who offers ‘tactical’ advice) arrived in Russia on Saturday.
Normally, most foreigners need a visa to visit Russia. However, with a Fan ID – which you can get if you have tickets to games – you can get visa free access to the country during the World Cup. For us, getting through immigration was hassle free. All we had to do was show our passports and Fan IDs and through we went. No questions asked.
We got here in the early hours of Saturday morning and after clearing immigration the first thing we needed to do was negotiate the price of a taxi. After an initial quote of 4000 roubles (around Â£50) to go from Domodedovo to central Moscow, we ended up paying 1600 roubles (around Â£20) thanks in no small part to Tatjana’s fluent Russian. For those coming to Russia be warned: some eager taxi drivers will meet you as soon as you walk into the arrivals hall offering their services. You can negotiate the fare down but even after much haggling, they will probably still rip you off. Apparently some Mexican guy paid 400,000 roubles (nearly Â£500!) to get from the airport to central Moscow. Don’t be that guy! We used the Get Taxi App – they have a counter in the arrivals hall and the guy at the desk helped us make the booking.
We are staying with Tatjana’s Auntie, who lives in Moscow, and we were treated to a feast for breakfast on arrival. That included a selection of cold meats, cheese, red caviar, Russian bread (dark, very strong and similar to other Eastern European breads), fruits (three different types of cherries), vegetables (like tomatoes, cucumber and peppers) and herbs (parsley, dill, purple basil, etc). All of it very fresh and delicious. I’ve been told that some foods are not available in Russia due to sanctions, but they still produce a lot of good food themselves. And yes, that’s right: Russians eat fresh vegetables and caviar for breakfast!
After catching up on some much needed sleep for most of the day on Saturday, we inevitably ended up experiencing Moscow’s infamous nightlife that evening, which continued well into the early hours of Sunday morning. Party like a Russian as Robbie Williams would say. Before hitting the club we met some of Tatjana’s friends at a Georgian restaurant where we devoured some lamb, chicken shashlik, dumplings and more fresh vegetables. The club was a trendy joint with good music (80s-style Italian indie apparently) and a quirky, fashionable crowd. What happens in a Moscow nightclub probably ought to stay in a Moscow nightclub, although I was guilty of uploading a few clips to social media of us dancing and drinking shots. The final act saw us drinking shots outside, with the sun well into to the sky, along with a dude with a red hat from Belorussia, Dennis, who works for a basketball team from Krasnodar, and a group of Mexicans who were here with Mexican TV for the World Cup.
Needless to say, I spent nearly all of Sunday lying in bed with a hangover. I got up for a brief few moments to have a little bit of Auntie’s borsch (Russian soup). Although I didn’t have any appetite I forced myself to have some, partly to be polite and partly because the ladies were convinced it would make me feel better. It probably did, although I still felt terrible. Unfortunately my recovery time was cut short and by 5pm I had to look presentable and respectable since we were going to Moscow’s famous Balshoi theatre to see the ballet. People always dress up very smartly when they go to the theatre so I had to be on my best behaviour. I made it though, and really enjoyed the ballet.
It was great to wake up without a hangover on Monday and I was looking forward to exploring central Moscow and also possibly checking out the Luzhniki Stadium as well as the Fan Zone. The day didn’t exactly go to plan, since we belatedly realised that as visitors, Tatjana and I needed to register our presence at the local registry office. That’s a thing in Russia: foreign visitors always need to register themselves so that the authorities know their whereabouts. Probably a relic of the cold war. Normally this is taken care of by your hotel although since we are staying at Tatjana’s Auntie, we needed to go and do this with her. To cut a long story short we ended up trekking around the city for a few hours before finding the right place. And when we did finally find the right place, we spent several hours photocopying documents (every single page in our passports!), filling out forms (in Russian) and generally faffing around. To cap off the frustration, the television screens inside this place played pictures (on repeat) of people queueing at this place. Think about that for a moment.
We may have wasted a huge chunk of the day, but all was not lost. At least we managed to successfully get ourselves registered with the authorities and avoid any fines. Also, it wasn’t too late for us to hit the centre of the city and we still had time to see the famous Red Square, the Kremlin and other central attractions.
There was a really good atmosphere downtown. You could see and hear quite a few fans of different nationalities and there were several TV crews from different countries out and about. I didn’t see any fans of European teams, but there were loads of South Americas: Brazilians, Argentinians, Peruvians and Colombians. And there were Mexicans (with sombreros, of course), Australians, Iranians and Moroccans too. The excitement and the buzz has begun. Moscow is alive with World Cup fever. And on Thursday the action on the pitch begins. I can’t wait.
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