Cruising Down the Moscow River

View of the Kremlin from the Moscow River

The wind whipped the sort of ripping chill that makes you wish had another coat to go on top of the one you’re wearing. I was standing on the bow of a dinner boat in the Moscow River in the middle of winter. The water had long since iced over, but … [Read more...]

Plunging into the Russian Bath


I had heard just enough about the Russian bath ritual to mildly terrify me: Most of all, the cold plunge. Stepping from the heat, a bather must find a source of frigidness and jump in. This can be, and often is, a snow bank outside the bathhouse or … [Read more...]

Touring the Famous Moscow Metro

Entering the Moscow Metro (courtesy of Emma Gallagher)

The Moscow Metro first hit the rails in 1935. Back then, there were only thirteen stations and not even seven miles of track. These days, the Metro ranks as one of the world’s top three busiest transits (Tokyo is an unstoppable first in that … [Read more...]

Playing at Gorky Park in Moscow

The Space Shuttle in Gorky Park (courtesy of Emma Gallagher)

When teaching English as a foreign language, some standard Q-and-A combos tend to come up. How are you? is always followed with Fine, thanks, and How old are you? elicits the full answer of such-and-such years old, whether the student is four or … [Read more...]

Visiting Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia

Catherine Palace Amber Room in Pushkin

I'm a child of the Cold War: An eastern European refugee father, elementary school air raid drills, the certainty that whether it be the Cuban Missile Crisis, Prague Spring, the Vietnam War, or socialist Nicaragua, the Commies were coming. So it … [Read more...]

What to Buy in Russia: Souvenir Shopping in St. Petersburg

Baltic Amber

Some 20 years after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, I found  myself engaged in the most capitalistic of interactions: trying to figure out how many rubles equals how many dollars while negotiating the purchase of a pair of painted wooden … [Read more...]

St. Petersburg’s Peterhof by Hydrofoil


Summer in St. Petersburg: white nights, cruise ships, guided tours...  and crowds everywhere. Museum queues are reminiscent of bread lines during the Communist years, tour groups are marched through the palaces as if on a conveyor belt, and in some … [Read more...]