My trip to Russia spawned thoughts, some of them tangential to Russia herself. I thought it would be best to collate them all on a separate page here.
Getting a Russian Visa
For Brazilian and most other South American countries, travelling to Russia is easy, notwithstanding the distance; for tourist stays of up to 90 days, no visas are required. The same is true, less surprisingly, for all the post-Soviet countries. For those with a passport from a EU member state country, or those with an American, Canadian, Australian, Japanese passport, then a visa is required in order to travel to Russia. And getting a visa can be an arduous process. In fairness to the Russian government, though, their visa policy is based on the principle of reciprocity, and the reason it is hard for Europeans to travel to Russia, is because Europe makes it hard for Russians to travel to Europe. The lack of a mutual visa policy between Russia and the west is a hangover from the Cold War, and consequently Russia remains largely unexplored by – in shorthand – Westerners.
Rebel Rebel is on in the background. Not the original Diamond Dogs Rebel Rebel, but the bonus track version of Bowie's Reality album. I'm in David B. cafe, and the walls are peppered with pictures of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, leaving me in no doubt that the B in David B. cafe stands for Bowie. I'm in Russia, but apart from the Cyrillic text on the menu chalk board, this could be a scene from anywhere in Western Europe. The barista – bearded, tattooed – froths some milk for a latte, while the five or so people sat in the cafe continue browsing their Apple laptops, engrossed. The coffee machine quietens down, and Bowie is no longer playing, but Queen instead. Freddie Mercury is declaring that he wants to break free.
Laika, the humble mongrel, would probably have been embarrassed about being the subject of a statue, so it is perhaps fitting that the one dedicated to her is small and modest, and tucked away in a courtyard at an obscure military research facility several miles outside the centre of Moscow. Red Square it isn’t, but it’s a sweet memorial to Laika’s sacrifice. Laika, the stray dog, once roamed the streets of Moscow before going onto become the very first animal to orbit the earth, and may she rest in peace.