From the very beginning, I thought coming to Russia was a bit of the mistake on our part. After all, the government does not make it easy for tourist to come into the country. From our bad experience with our Russian visa at the Consulate in Israel, I was coming to Moscow with unpleasant ideas in my head. My mind was boggled by the fact that we had to register ourselves to the Government if you stay in a city for more than 3-days. The reason, as I was told, is that they are trying to crack down on illegal immigration from former-USSR countries. It just makes it a pain in the ass for backpackers like us that are on a budget.
Well, it is not all bad. Moscow is quite impressive. One of the main things that I like as a "amateur historian" is that the governments that followed the Communist regime kept all of the glorious architecture of that era. We can still see the big Communist red stars and the hammer and sickle emblem carved on the façade of many buildings around the city. Also, if in the city make sure to check out the Metro station. Firstly, they are huge but most importantly they are a work of art in itself.
Like other tourists, we visited the main sites. It included the Red Square. It is really a big squrare with the most recognized building of Russia: Saint Basil's Cathedral. Most tourist usually mistake this building as the Kremlin. We did go into the Kremlin which has lots of churches to see, if you are into that. For me, you see 10 of them, you seem them all. A lot of the area of the Kremlin is out of reach to the tourist but I would really recommend that you buy the ticket to The Kremlin Armoury. This museum was quite impressive. They display some of the gifts that other nations gave Russia during its history and the best is that they provide FREE audio guides which helps a lot.
We visited the Pushkin Museum. During the Communist era it was very expensive to send Art students to other European countries to enjoy their art so they decided to make replicas and put them in this museum to save on money.
Our family and host recommend us that we have to go to see a Russian Ballet. So we did. We enjoyed seeing Don Quixote. They did have some amazing performers. Rebecca loved it and even I didn't fall asleep.
We managed to get our well deserved rest. This is what we call a vacation from our vacations. Believe it or not, backpacking is hard work. You have to wake up early, walk a lot, party hard, it is just exhausting some times. So here in the comfort of our Modi'in home, we are enjoying the luxuries that we can get while it lasts.
We took the opportunity to get some of our paperwork together. I had to get my Israeli passport extended and Rebecca had to get a Russian visa for her Canadian passport.
Apparently, if you are married (male or female) you have to send the certificate to the Israel Consulate. This I failed to do back in Canada. The Consulate decided to return my passport with a little note saying that they have only renewed my passport for one year (instead of 10 years) until I send them the Marriage Certificate. Unfortunately, our time in Canada was running out before the trip and the cost to send "important" papers via mail is quite expensive. So we decided to do the paperwork here in Israel.
Well, the passport officer here did not like my Marriage Certificate because there is no official stamps (nobody told me that I needed to get it stamped!). Anyways, we decided to go the Canadian Consulate to asked them to get it stamped. When we arrived the officer told us that he won't be able to do that for us because he can only stamp Federal documents and a Marriage Certificate is a Provincial one. What the f***. What do we do now? My Israeli passport will expire before the end of our One Year Trip. To wrap things up, the nice passport officer at the Israel's Ministry of Interior gave me a one year extension free of charge so I can get back to Canada and send my forms to the Toronto Consulate.
On with Rebecca's Russian visa. This was kind of a nightmare. We started by going to the Russian Consulate. This was a complete mess, full of people. We weren't even able to get into the consulate. The people at the door would not give us any information. We finally, sneaked into a side door and we got someone to talk to us. We just wanted information about a tourist visa. The very nice woman (sarcastic) said and I quote: "it is impossible", and I said "but how do we get into ..." cutting me off she said "it is impossible", she turned around and left, that was nice. This whole ordeal took about 3 hours just so we can hear that it was impossible to get the visa. By this point we were just thinking of paying the penalty and changing our flight so that we don't fly to Russia.
Anyways, we decided to go to a travel agency to obtain our visa. This is another method to obtain it if you don't have an invitation from a citizen of Russia. Yes, you need one if you don't go through an agency, crazy!
Our intention was to go to Moscow and then St. Petersburg continuing to Riga, Latvia and then back to Moscow. For that we need a multiple entry visa, which the Consulate denied it to us. They are really a pain on the ass! I really think that their country is still a little bit behind in time. So we probably will have to cancel our Latvia section of our trip.
So, we are staying in Israel until the 19 of May when we have our scheduled flight to Athens.
We will keep you posted.