We flew into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and took the airport express train into the city, passing plenty of what can only be described as “Soviet era” apartment buildings along the way (i.e., uninspired, old, graffiti-covered, gray ugliness).  That was one of the first things I noticed about Moscow—there isn’t really a defined skyline, but rather clusters of identical, often rundown apartment and business towers scattered throughout an enormous concrete landscape.  It’s not a pretty city by any stretch of the imagination, although there are a few stunning architectural pieces here and there.

Our hotel was a Holiday Inn conveniently located about five minutes from the nearest metro station, which was excellent because we relied heavily on the metro system during our stay.  I might argue that what Moscow lacks aesthetically on its surface it more than compensates for underground, because some of these metro stations were quite spectacular (there are tours in Moscow that focus solely on the metro stations, if that’s any indicator)—not to mention that this was, by far, the most efficient subway system I’ve ever seen.  We never waited more than three minutes for a train (some of which looked like they were right out of the 1940s (and probably were)—think metal cylinders with wheels, and goodness, were they ever loud since the small windows near the car ceilings were always open because air conditioning?  Who needs air conditioning in Moscow?).

Bags thrown into room and executive lounge refrigerator raided for bottled water, we then met up with our other trip members in the lobby and set off that evening for our first park of the trip, Happylon…


…which began by descending into the bowels of the earth.  No, really.  Those subways are deep.



And you get another picture of a metro station because we became quite acquainted with them early, as it took longer than expected to find Happylon.  We made a mistake and took a little offshoot of the light blue line, so to deter you from sniggering about five confused tourists trying to make sense of printout walking directions and questioning the presence of a river that wasn’t supposed to be there and wasting twenty minutes walking up and down a filthy-smelling sidewalk because everyone in this country smokes and finally attempting to understand a kind Russian commuter explain/gesture/point where to go and bloody hell I’m getting hungry, why did I only bring one package of fruit snacks with me oh right because I didn’t think it’d take an hour and half to find this place, just look at this architecture instead!  By golly, aren’t those some fabulous chandeliers!



But we eventually figured it out.



Happylon is located on the top floor of a mall that contains roughly every retail store known to man.  There was even a supermarket in there.



It’s a FEC with a medieval theme.



On the whole, it’s a nice, colorful place with a decent collection of rides and attractions—drop tower, Frisbee, bumper cars, arcade games and a large climbing play structure, to name a few.  It’s obviously aimed for the younger set, although for a Friday night, it wasn’t that busy.



Which is why I’m sure it looked rather odd when one of our group approached the ticket counter and tried to convey we needed five tickets for the roller coaster with absolutely no children in sight.  I would have gladly volunteered for this task, except I’m not sure how to say, “Hi, in fact we are five adults seeking a ride on your children’s roller coaster because we are pathetic and sad but this is what we do and if you’re just willing to alter your definition of ‘normal,’ I promise this would totally not reek of weirdness at all; take our money, now, please?” in Russian.



But hey, we managed to buy five rides without too much difficulty and we were even able to start climbing these stairs to the loading platform before getting yelled at in Russian!  The poor ride op was trying to convey something—maybe that they only run the ride at certain times and now was most definitely not one of them?—but realized she was getting five blank stares back at her.  She relented and let us through.



As for the coaster, a junior ride from Vekoma called Babylon, it was surprisingly good.  It seemed to have decent speed for what it was, negotiating its various helices with extraordinary smoothness.  It was really quite good fun.


DSCN9864And besides, what’s not to love when you have this adorable creature running you along the track?



Well, me apparently.  I was admonished in Russian some more (for pulling my feet up on the seat so Richard could get past me to exit the train to take these photos).  I mean, it’s only fitting that a milestone like this is reached in the country where roller coasters (or at least their ice slide predecessors) originated, so getting yelled at in the local language to commemorate it really authenticated the experience for me.



When I was maybe three or four, I distinctly remember squeezing a small, white butterfly between my fingers for absolutely no reason at all beyond the fact that I was curious.  According to the Finnish band HIM, this should save my soul.



It did this to my soul instead.



Happylon?  More like Sadlon.  Creepylon.  PsychologicallyDisturbingLon.  TheStuffNightmaresAreMadeOfLon.



…which is apparently all stored in this room when not in use.


I think it’s time to go now.

Moscow was now one for one.  I had made it to 500 credits.  Let’s eat.



Just maybe…maybe not here.

Opting for the Hard Rock Café over Crapdogs (come on, that’s what you saw too), we enjoyed some Megan-compliant food (let’s just put it out there now that I hate most food.  My eating preferences resemble those of a four year old.  In other words, I starve when I go to foreign countries) before setting out for a nighttime photo session of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Red Square.  I’ll include those photos later because we returned in a few days to properly tour these places.  For now, that’s a wrap for day one.  It was time to rest up for the approximately 86 miles we’d be walking the following day.