Going to Mexico, Ukraine, Russia

My (international) travels in the coming weeks will take me to:

  • Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Odessa, Ukraine
  • Kiev, Ukraine
  • Moscow, Russia
  • St. Petersburg, Russia

I haven’t been to any of these countries before. If you have any tips, or if you live there and want to meet up, drop me a note!

In the meantime, I will try to rectify my total ignorance of Russia with some Russian lit, and maybe brush up on my Spanish verb conjugations (I’m marginally competent in the language).

16 Responses to Going to Mexico, Ukraine, Russia

  1. Jude says:

    I haven’t been to Mexico in a long time, but things I used to like in Mexico City are the Museum of Anthropology, the Cathedral (especially the catacombs underneath), and Diego River’s murals at the Modern Art museum. Tenochtitlan is out of the way, but really not that far.

    I’ve always wanted to go to Russia, and studied Russian for a semester. I subscribe to a Daily Photo Blog for Moscow link to moscowdailyshot.blogspot.com She’s a good photographer. Come to think of it, I also subscribe to one for Guadalajara, one of the few major cities in Mexico that I’ve never been to. link to guadalajaradailyphoto.blogspot.com

    Before heading to Russia, I’d read *War and Peace* if you haven’t already. I’d also read *Nicolas and Alexandra* by Massie.

    I used to especially love a few places in Mexico–Cholula, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, and the Mayan ruins. Cholula isn’t too far from Mexico City. It’s the town where the Toltecs had 365 shrines, so when the Spanish arrived they built a church on top of each shrine. Everywhere you look in Cholula, you see spires. You can also see Popo and Ixta, the two frequently active volcanoes.

    Also, you might go to Mexico City via Google Earth now that they’ve added photographs of different places. For example, I’ve always loved the main drag in Mexico City, which is called El Paseo de la Reforma. One of the features of El Paseo is El Angel de la Independencia. Google Earth now provides multiple photos of El Angel in the correct location on El Paseo de la Reforma.

    Have fun.

  2. Katie says:

    Few tips for Mexico-

    Taxis are all on a barter system. If you don’t speak Spanish fluently enough to barter, travel with someone who does. Otherwise, you can end up spending a lot more than you need to, and making yourself an unnecessary target.

    If you want to visit a mercado, make sure you find the one that isn’t for tourists. Once there, don’t speak English, and barter. You can find some amazing stuff, and its a great experience, just don’t get taken advantage of.

    Be careful with street food. I mean, this applies anywhere, but the worst night of my life was from Mexican street food, so just exercise caution. If you’re staying in a hotel for foreigners, they should be able to give you advice about potable water, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

    Have a great time!

  3. Hi Ben, If you happen to swing by northern Germany, I’d love to meet up. Otherwise, here’s some tips:

    For Mexico City, go see the pyramids and climb to the top. It’s long way up, but worth it.

    And I’m very jealous that you’re going to St Petersburg now… when I went there to take an innovation course, it was January, 20 degrees below zero and the classrooms were barely heated! But St Petersburg is amazing. If you get a chance, look up TRIZ before you go. TRIZ is an innovation system that predicts the next stages of technical invention. It was based of Genrich Altshuller’s study of thousands of Russian patents. It’s very complex and very good. Several American companies, like Boeing, HP and IBM, use it:

    link to businessweek.com

    As for Ukraine, I might get back to you. My flatmate last year is from there.

    BTW, bring black socks for Europe. We Americans are notorious for our white socks.

  4. mel starrs says:

    Just been to Moscow and St Petersburg. Check out the blog above and this one link to marksworldtour.blogspot.com for top tips and our findings. Take the train between the two overnight if you can – everyone should do a sleeper train in Russia.
    BTW – the metro in Moscow is entirely in cyrillic – learn at least a few characters so you can differentiate which stop is which – no english announcements either, so you need to keep on the ball. The metro itself is gorgeous – art deco frescos abound.
    And as you’re in the vicinity, if you fancy some R&R head for Helsinki or Tallin (Estonia) – (although Tallin gets busy in summer) – both great antidotes to what can be a sometimes glum Russian experience (the architecture in Moscow particularly is a bit ‘brutal’).

  5. Alex says:

    You may need a subscription, but this Economist special report on Russia’s airports is simultaneously entertaining and informative:

    link to economist.com

  6. Jason says:

    Don’t drink the water in Mexico. This includes ice cubes and tap water for brushing teeth. Stick to bottled water at all times, and don’t buy any fruit/vegetables from street vendors either, as they have likely been rinsed with Mexican water as well.

    Practice your conjugations, but also practice the accent! I’ve met countless kids who are excellent grammatically but cannot speak with authentic pronunciation. Watch Telemundo is possible; maybe even listen to Spanish radio stations.

  7. pradeep says:

    ben,
    ya book is awesome

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi again Ben,

    Yulia says,
    “Odessa is a sea port city so he must be very careful and watch out. He definitely should go there to Potiomkinskaya Stairs, Sea Port (just underneath it), then Primorskiy bulvar (avenue), Deribasovskaya St. (the main st of the city), Opera Theater which is one of the best in Europe (or at leat was before) and definitely a couple of museums, e.g. sea museum. war, national archeology etc. People there have really specific sense of humor and that’s why I love it. Plus he can always just walk around and look. Still he must be careful there coz they are huge swindlers! but funny one! OH! and the cherry on the cake – is the main market of the city, Privoz (not far from main railway station) – all the “blossom” of Odessian society get there.”

    She actually just moved to Kiev, so if you want detailed info on that city, she can do that too. Also, I don’t know what your travel situation is, but if you need a contact person over there, let me know.

  9. John says:

    just checked weather.com, gonna be very hot in Guad, if i were u, just can the tourist stuff and just pummel those 9.612 rays

  10. John says:

    just checked weather.com, gonna be very hot in Guad, if i were u, just can the tourist stuff and just pummel those 9.612 rays

  11. Dani says:

    ah, so jealous, I’ve been wanting to see st petersburg for years–there’s a great lit program that goes there yearly, and they should be there right about now:

    link to sumlitsem.org

  12. Tyler Cowen says:

    In Mexico eat street food, tacos with pork, etc., ask the locals. Don’t get into taxis which are not hotel taxis or radio taxis, in Mexico City that is. Read Jane Galt on David Foster Wallace and put the book down, your attempt to give it a second chance is doomed!

  13. mel starrs says:

    Forgot to mention Russian lit – a little more accessible because it’s much shorter than the classics (War and Peace, etc) is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
    link to librarything.com
    It’s an allegorical tale with Biblical backdrop – so not to everyone’s taste. Worth a read for an insight into Stalinist purges.

  14. Michael says:

    Hi,

    I have been to Ukraine seven times and Russia once. We work with street kids who sleep in sewers and other orphans.

    Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is great! Lots to see. Downtown in Freedom Square nice underground mall, statues, old old churches. Monastaries are very interesting especially the catacombs. The slope is a great place to shop for souveniors (right downtown…few blocks over). Don’t drink the water. Buy bottled. They use Hyrvna (dollars) about 5-to-1 U.S. Nice people. We love it.

  15. Alexey says:

    Hi Ben!
    My name is alexey and i’ve been reading your blog for a while.
    I am residing in St-Petersburg, but i constantly move around. I’ll be in Kiev right after OSCE conference ends there, July 7-July 15. Other days I am in St-P and would love to meet if you’ve got a spare hour!
    Enjoy your trip!
    Alexey.

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