My Russian Cartoonist Visit
Cartoonist Visits Russia
Although my Russian cartoonist visit was a spontaneous idea, Russia was definitely on my list as a country I wanted to see and experience, even if for a short duration. It was very interesting to say the least and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The weather was great. Bright warm sunny days in both Moscow and also south in Volgograd.
I will try to encapsulate some of my thoughts along with various photos I will share in my article here, in the hopes of shedding some light for others who may be thinking of making a trip there.
First and foremost, I highly recommend a visit if you can do so. Any questions you may have, prior to making your travel plans there, just contact me and I will answer as best I can, based on my own experience.
It takes some planning and preparation of course and you’ll need to have a visa to enter the Russian Federation, issued by a Russian visa application center.
Russian Cartoonist Visit
I first decided to travel to Great Britain and brought a cartoon project with me that I wanted to work on.
The project consisted of over 60 separate cartoon illustrations I needed to pencil in, then ink in and prepare for colorizing at a later date when I returned to the cartoon studio, having access to Photoshop.
Creating Cartoons While Visiting Russia
This specific project consists of career cartoons I will write about later in a different post but these were long overdue in producing them, and taking these concepts along kept my “creative mojo” percolating!
In the meantime, I studied the necessary paperwork needed for entry into Russia, and discovered there is a Russian Visa Application Center in central London. Darn convenient!
The process involved is relatively simple where you are guided through a series of questions and answers that are set up on a computer by the staff at the center.
All of the employees there speak fluent English. So getting answers to specific questions is a breeze.
The process takes about one hour to complete and then it will require that you get a separate and updated photo to include with the Visa.
You will pretty much know right after you complete your forms that your visa will be accepted, as the person at the counter you’ll be directed to, will ask to keep your passport for additional processing of your visa.
It will take you roughly one week of waiting by which you return back to the center with your receipt of payment (which is roughly $250usd for a short duration visitor’s visa).
You’ll need that printed receipt with you and you’ll have to present it at a numbered counter, in order to pick up your passport which will contain the visa.
A Russian tourist visa is good for about 30 days. Ample time to plan out visiting many places!
What they did in my case, is apply the visa directly onto a page within my passport which is in the form of a sticker, containing all of my data and “entry” date and “departure” dates.
The departure date meaning when you will have to be out of Russia. You cannot be within the country after that departure date.
There are other types of visas issued to enter the Russian Federation such as a “business visa” etc. Normally, a “tourist visa” is what you’ll require for a short visit.
When you get the visa, it will have an entry date and an “exit” date the visa will be good for. As I have emphasized. you will want to make certain you leave before that “exit” date.
Now I realize this may seem like a strict procedure and a regimental way of allowing visitors into their country, but I can see it works. They know who is coming into the Russian Federation and when they are expected to leave.
It would be great if America could run some of it’s borders this way since I realize how much sense the Russian procedure makes.
They do want foreign visitors and see tourism as another way of stimulating their economy, so don’t be intimidated and don’t forget to ask questions at the application center if you’re applying in person.
I set up my flight into and out of Russia with a travel agency by the name of Flight Centre in Romford, England.
While there, the agent found me a hotel in central Moscow for the first 24 hours after entering the country and my very last day at the same hotel prior to my flight back to London. It was up to me to figure out the rest of my travel plans during my time there.
Although I have to admit, it was a bit “too” fancy but it was a roof over my head!
Both hotels in Mockba and Volgograd had phenomenal breakfast buffets served by on-site kitchen staff. Scrambled eggs or eggs sunny side up with a variety of breads and muffins, baked beans and hot sausage or prosciutto.
They also served a hot mixture of vegetables including cooked cabbage, zucchini, bell peppers and onions so if you were on a budget, you want to make sure breakfast will be your meal of the day! Large urns of tea and coffee are easily nearby including iced decanters of fresh orange juice and ice water.
Most European hotels make these buffets inclusive to your daily or weekly room rate.
So make certain you take advantage of this aspect of your stay. And you never know who you might bump into as other travelers I met were from New York state, Ohio and Washington State and it was great to ask questions and exchage ideas and stories.
During my time there, I planned on flying 600 miles south of Moscow to Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) to visit something I always had wanted to see.
The Motherland Colossus or “Mamayev Kurgan” is a phenomenal monument, a statue the size of a skyscraper which stands atop a mountaintop overlooking Volgograd.
The way it is built makes it even more impressive as it’s mounted atop a massive pedestal at the very center of the hilltop overlooking the city.
This excellent video about the history of Mamayev Kurgan (please make time to read some of the comments section) will provide you with further insights on this war monument.
The overall monument is a work of art and when I first read about it many years ago after it was made public, I hoped to see it someday.
I love the Statue Of Liberty and what it stands for, but our country didn’t build it. As most realize, it was a gift from the French and it had to be assembled, once it was shipped here.
I have to admit, when I first encountered this colossus, my jaw dropped. I’ve never viewed any kind of monument like this and it was always in the back of my mind to see some day.
To help put this statue in some perspective, the sword she is holding weighs fourteen tonnes alone!
After all of the hurdles and stumbling blocks America has endured, I only wish our country could someday build something similar. Ironically, many of our smaller war memorials and statues here in the states are being taken down.
My Russian cartoonist visit wouldn’t have been complete without visiting this colossus though, and when I wasn’t sight – seeing either in Moscow or in Volgograd, I stayed busy penciling and inking in new cartoons.
After visiting Volgograd which is centered between The Ukraine to the west and Kazakhstan to the east, I felt my Russia cartoonist visit was complete. I flew on Russia’s Siberian Airlines which is a very top of the line air service which I noticed takes travelers to all points within the Russian Federation.
Sort of their version of Jet Blue of Virgin Atlantic! Longer intercontinental flights will serve you drinks and food as your flight progresses.
My only detriment while visiting this unique and beautiful country was the fact I wasn’t familiar with the language. I didn’t let it stop me!
And before my visit, the Russian Federation hosted the 2018 World Cup Soccer playoffs. The host cities of Samara, Moscow, Volgograd were filled to the brim with tourists from all around the globe.
I thought it was a prime time for me to try and visit since so much was going on. An unexpected discovery was when I used the taxi cabs as my main mode of transportation. I initially thought I would rely on broken English to communicate with the drivers.
Or even drawing quick cartoons on a notepad to get my point across (which I had done a couple of times!). But thanks to technology, I noticed many used the iPhone app “Google Translate”.
One of the first drivers I ran into, began speaking into his phone and handed it to me to read. Voila! We were talking back and forth and it was so cool….I got tips on what to avoid, places to eat and so forth.
I also learned a little about the cost of living in Volgograd….landlords rent houses and apartments by the square foot. One of my drivers (Alexiev) had a landlord who was a nurse and she lived and worked in New York City!
In summing up my visit to Russia, it’s not what you’d expect and very modern and the cities I visited are clean and well structured. I think if I were actually a Russian cartoonist living in Russia, I’d have an unlimited resource for ideas to create humor from…just like here in America.
And believe me, there is NO place like home and NO place like America where we live in a country that allows us these great freedoms that include traveling to such interesting countries! Be thankful and take advantage of some of those freedoms if you can.
Get more up close with Moscow’s International Business Complex as this video provides the best live walk-through videography. I’m certain you’ll be amazed. Wanderlust, what can you say about it aside from it being so darn great!