Africancrab thinks Russia is quite simply miserable when it get's cold

Moscow Travel Blog

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A map of greater Russia and Moscow

Have you ever been to a place so sooo! cold that your eye lids literally froze upon exit to the outside? If you are an ice skater or ski lover or live in the more cold areas you have probably experienced this, I had never felt cold like I felt here in Moscow.  This was the more unusual experiences I had on a business visit to Moscow, Russia on this September month, I have never been one to push myself to limits especially when it has to do with the cold. I do not like being cold period! I think my phobia for the deep sea could be braved if I had a choice, of diving into the sea or,  braving the cold. In this place that seems to go on without the mercy from above, it is hard for me to feel at ease.

The Grand Dutchy of Moscow
  I was born and raised in the tropics in East Africa where I did not own a sweater until I turned six and got a hand me down from my sister Beatrice, so travelling in weather this cold posed a rather deadly challenge for this little African woman whose comfort levels had been completely broken down. I found out later that, this was one of the few winters in Moscow that hit record cold in many years.

For easier reading, I will divide my blog into two parts: This the first of the two segments will focus mainly on my business movements within Moscow and the outskirts for the short time that I could withstand the cold, the second will focus on my limited effort at sightseeing amidst the cold and dreary feeling all around. I was scheduled to stay until March of the following year, so my colleague from Berlin advised that we plan a trip in late January to attend the Ice and snow festival in Harbin in China were the lead field office for the China operations office would be stationed.

Indonesian Stand at the Otdykh Leisure travel fair in Moscow
I also learned that there was a Great Russian Influence in the Harbin region in China especially the architectural bit of it. All that sounded great, but I had to figure out survival in Moscow first, so first things first I thought!

For starters, getting into Russia as a whole is not a piece of cake. If you do not have a friend or family member to invite you, you must have a confirmed hotel booking, a return air ticket and all the other requirements. I was fortunate that my visa and tickets were handled by my offic and I did not go throught he hassels of applying for the entry visa. Moscow as you may well know is the capital of Russia and the former Soviet Union. It is the largest metropolitan city in the whole of Europe with an urban population that is arguably the largest in the world.

The famous onion domes of the cathedrals
  The city lies on the Moscow River in the central federal district in the region that is considered more European than. What stroke me was that I was to stay not too far from the City and literally minutes away from the Kremlin, one of the few World Heritage sites in Russia. Moscow was always the seat of the Czardom during the Soviet Union reign as a world power. As far back as my history classes, the world wars and later the cold war, I was fascinated by the history of USSR then and how just Russia. I never dreamed of finding myself within reach of what was considered the seat of world power for many years before the USA claimed that title. For those who may not know, the Kremlin is the seat of the presidency in Russia; it is the equivalent of the White House in the United States. 

On arrival in Russia amidst the cold and gray, it is hard to imagine that this is the home of some of the largest numbers of billionaires in the world, they are not a pompous people so the wealth is not readily apparent until one pays attention to the details (the Kremlin is an exception of course). The transportation system is something else, I will not go there because I did not attempt to learn any of it, I was too cold to venture out on my own. I used the business provided transportation with a Russian chauffeur who knew the ins and outs of the city like the back of his hands. His English was fluent, a learned man no doubt but why he was driving a foreign company car (taxi I would say) beat my understanding. He was a rather jolly man. 

Part 1: The Business nature of my travel to Moscow. This was the very first year I had fully engulfed myself in the travel industry starting as a sales representative with a basic commission pay. I was asked to travel with my rather crafty boss then to Berlin, then to Russia to check out the markets there and pick up some contacts that would benefit our company long-term.  My company then had worked in Russia for seven years or so buying and selling everything except tourism: this would be a first for the company. This year a department for tourism would be added to the already existing office in Moscow for purposes of promoting tourism. The primary objective of the office was to try and capture the Russian Market in Adventure Mountain Biking and the Leisure Traveler. Our first order of business was to find out more about the tourism with in Russia, then proceed with finding the process of marketing it. It was easy through the ministry of commerce to find out about the major export industries and what percentages each accounted for. We quickly found out that Moscow hosted a yearly travel and trade show known as the Otdykh Leisure. The oil industry in Russia had afforded more Russians a steady income which in turn they decided to invest in more international travel. Like the many other International Travel trade fairs, the Otdykh Leisure travel and trade show is where the international community of travelers and business owners come to bargain for a piece of the Russian outbound tourism. After ITB Berlin (currently considered the largest Travel Fair in the world) the Russian Market seemed a little small, but that is it, just a little small. With a population of a little over seventeen million in just the city it is amazing what the crowds look like at this fair. This year a little over 97 countries were represented at the fair which took place in late September. The Otdykh LEISURE is the most important and the only big enough  international Travel Fair in Russia and CIS countries which focuses mainly on winter travel destinations like Asia, South America, Africa, Middle East, but also European ski and winter travel destinations. By the time we were investing into the Russian market, the OTDYKH leisure fair was not yet part of the RUEF - Russian Union of Exhibitions and Fairs even though it was being promoted as part of the Euroexpo.

My company had been apart of Euroexpo for many years attending travel fairs ranging from ITB in Berlin to EIBTM in Geneva, BIT in Milan to ATM in Dubai. The African Travel Market in South Africa was closed down due to lack of participation. I worked as the Outbound and Inbound promotions and Marketing Manager for Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. My colleague Peter from the London office was my assistant, very influential in the European market: I was happy to have him with me in Moscow where he had made friends and knew his way around the office. I spent as much time indoors as possible, avoiding the television because I barely understood what they were saying. My shock was in how friendly the Russian people are once they get to know you. There was always the notion that they are not very welcoming and cold (effects of communism it was said). You will read I make mention of the cold a lot, that is because I hate being cold and it was cold in Moscow. Did I mention I was cold all the time? Well I was. By the end of October, we were done with much of the assignment that brought us to Russia in the first place. Reports were in order so we scheduled some sight seeing for November. Peter the less spontaneous of the two of us finally stepped up and booked us a hotel in St. Petersburg where he decided to take me when work was done.  

Carla_Carl says:
Hi Harriet,

I am planning on traveling to Moscow in June this year. I am visiting a friend that will be studying abroad there. While she is in school, I intend on traveling around alone. Did you experience any racism of any sort while you were there? I've read a lot of things about race relations amongst Russians and Africans/African-Americans. I am on the fence about whether or not I should travel there. What are you thoughts? Thank you. ~Carla
Posted on: Mar 10, 2016
lulalovestotravel says:
Do you think it will be cold around May...May 17 to be exact?
Posted on: Apr 17, 2011
Africancrab says:
Yes Margie, I can't have it all. i prefer the heat anytime of course. I loved Russia and look forward to returning when the months are warmer. I toured it during the later part of the year when it was colder. Perhaps summer is more ideal.
Posted on: Jul 06, 2010
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A map of greater Russia and Moscow
A map of greater Russia and Moscow
The Grand Dutchy of Moscow
The Grand Dutchy of Moscow
Indonesian Stand at the Otdykh Lei…
Indonesian Stand at the Otdykh Le…
The famous onion domes of the cath…
The famous onion domes of the cat…
photo by: eefab