Archive for June 4th, 2009

Touring Moscow

June 4th, 2009

MOSCOW, RUSSIA–As I write this entry and the following few, I’m deep in the Russian woods in a small “field house” with no internet connections.  I will post this entry and the others when I get the chance and back-date them so they show the day they were written, not posted.

This is a brief cultural note before the field accounts to come.  Andrey and Veronica Dronov picked me up from my hotel and gave me a wonderful tour of the primary Moscow sites.  We started with the Kremlin walls and then walked around Red Square.  Stalin and Lenin appeared to be posing for photos, so I checked their last resting places and confirmed that they are indeed still dead.

Afterwards we had a minibus tour of the city, another walk through parks, and then a Tajik dinner (lamb kebabs for me).  My first impression is how very deep the history of this city is, from buildings erected by Ivan the Terrible through the drama of “Soviet times” to today’s attempts to soften Moscow’s public image with massive reconstruction of churches and other pre-revolutionary buildings.  This is also a city which is not easy for visitors to negotiate on their own.  I admire my daughter Amy even more for spending her junior year here.

The Miracle of Wireless

June 4th, 2009

Somehow I stumbled upon a wireless connection in my Moscow hotel room this morning. I shall post quickly before it vanishes. It disappears now and then, but I’ve thus far been able to retrieve it.

First, a couple of images from my recent neighborhood:

My hotel on the left.  On the right is some statuary they forgot to knock down.

My hotel on the left. On the right is some statuary they forgot to knock down.

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in the airport and met my new friend Andrei Dronov from the Russian Academy of Sciences. It was a bit of a trick because he sent me a photo of his face for me to recognize and I learned quickly that there are many Russian faces like his at the airport! But I found him and we set off for the city center. Riding the Metro was an adventure in itself. It was like being shut up in a rocket and blasted into the darkness, although maybe a bit faster and noisier. It all worked out, though, even while schlepping 57 pounds of equipment.

The tiny bit of Moscow I’ve seen in the last few hours is very much like any megacity, save for the Cyrillic signs. The traffic is extraordinary, and the noise from it lasts through the night. There is plenty of food available from stalls on the streetsides. The blocky Stalinist buildings (like my hotel) are relieved by the occasional pre-Revolution stonework and the bright golden-domed churches. There is a streetcar system just outside my room which looks ancient, but it is fast and apparently efficient.

This evening I go with Andrei by train to St. Petersburg and then the Volkhov region to the southeast of the city. He describes our lodgings there as a “field camp”. It is an unfinished house taken over by geologists because of its prime position on a famous Ordovician outcrop. I doubt very much I will be posting through wireless from there!

My goal on this trip is to explore the Lower Ordovician hardgrounds and fossils to test some hypotheses I’ve developed over the years in other regions.  These Russian rocks are among the best exposed earliest Ordovician in the world.  I also want to see how feasible it will be to bring Independent Study students to these sites.