This trip I have learned more Russian than I did on all of my previous visits. I found this program (called “before you know it”) which is computer based and has lists of “flash cards” with the transliterated Russian word and a picture on one side and the English word on another. This has been invaluable to me this trip.
My hotel in Rostov was a typical Soviet hotel. Long dark corridors with 50 or more feet Persian runners along the hallway. I stayed in the “comfort” section which (I guess) has slightly higher security …in each section there is a “floor lady” who sits at a desk and who guards the keys. You get a card which you give to her each time you come to the room and she gives you the key. Instead of a minibar in the room, there are large refrigerators at the entrance to the comfort section where you can buy things – more expensive than in the store, but much less than what you would spend at a US minibar.
Russia has had much economic growth. Everything is much more expensive than my first trip. The US Dollar has devalued. During my first trip in 2002, I think it was almost 40 rubles/$. In 2005 it was 35rubles / $; this trip….24 rubles/ $. The hotel I stayed in in 2003 in Moscow (Marriot Grand) was $250/night – which I thought was outrageous but worth it after doing a homestay in Rostov, I was so ready to have some Western pampering. I understand from a girl who just completed her adoption that it is > $750 (US) per night now!! I don’t need pampering that much anymore!!
Breakfast is included in the price of the hotel stays. I don’t think I will ever understand these breakfasts! On the hot buffet; fried fish, fried chicken, sausage (but not like we would consider breakfast sausage). On the cold buffet: salami, ham (that looks like salami), and sausage (I guess pepperoni); sheep cheese; bread and butter (and jam in Moscow), caviar, peas, broccoli, pickles, a typical Russia carrot salad and coleslaw – – A veritable feast made for a king!!
Coffee in the region was “instant”! I had read about this in 2002 when I was first looking into adopting from Russia but I hadn’t encountered it until this trip. There is no: blue packets or yellow packets or even pink packets of sweetener…only sugar! And they only have cream-10% milkfat and in the little containers – though most people drink it black with sugar. No wonder more Russians drink tea than coffee!
It snowed last night in Moscow but the roads look okay. The weather was nice in Rostov. I’m looking forward to going back and it being spring – though with no snow and apparently only rain in the previous week, everything is mud covered. I saw a lot of signs of “potential” flowers though with people out in the 40-50 degree days cleaning out the flower beds (old painted tires with dirt in them) along the sidewalks. There is a nice little park with a playground behind the hotel which I hope to be able to take my daughter to …but we’ll have to see if I will even have her for that long in Rostov!
Here is another sneak peak for those of you who can’t wait to meet her. She still is a little camera shy so…