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Meet Our Local Experts: Our Gal in Moscow

Jennifer Eremeeva is an American expatriate writer based in Moscow, who writes about Russian history, travel, cuisine, and  culture. She received a bachelor of arts in Russian Area Studies from Columbia University and studied at the Moscow Academy of Photography.  She has lived in Moscow for two decades and speaks fluent Russian.

Jennifer is the award-winning author of Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow and Have Personality Disorder, Will Rule Russia: A Concise History of Russia.  She contributes feature articles and photos to The Moscow Times, Russian Life, and Reuters and serves as the in-house travel blogger for Alexander+Roberts.

1.  Tell us a bit about yourself and your country.  How do you come to be working in the travel business?

I started to work as a tour manager in Russia for Alexander +Roberts when it was General Tours after graduating from college in 1989.  I led tours all over what was then The Soviet Union, and eventually ended up running a Moscow office for the company.  After what I now realize was merely “a seven-year hiatus,” I’m back in a new iteration, as the company’s travel blogger.

I’m married to a Russian man and we’ve lived in Moscow for 23 years.  For much of that time, I’ve worked in jobs that involved somehow introducing foreigners to Russia and helping them interpret the country’s customs and traditions.  It’s hugely rewarding to do that in a country as diverse as the Russian Federation with such a fascinating history and culture.  I studied Russian history as a university student and am quite passionate about the Romanovs.  America and Russia are very different, of course, but we share many things as well, particularly a history of geographic expansion to our natural borders: Russia to the east, America to the west and both countries in to outer space.  I think that gives us a very specific mindset of endless possibilities in other realms of life such as the arts. 

These days a lot of the “guiding” I do is culinary.  I stumbled in to food writing about a decade ago and have become very passionate about Russia’s cuisine, which is enjoying an amazing renaissance despite the current economic woes of the country.  Exploring a country through the lens of food is one of the best ways I know to really discover the soul of a place, and certainly my exploration of Russia’s culinary landscape has helped me to better enjoy living here.  One of the highlights of my week is going to one of Moscow’s famous farmers’ markets and shopping for food.  These are very animated and colorful places with the most amazing food you can imagine.  I lead tours fairly regularly to these markets and I’m always posting photos of my experiences on Instagram.  

2.  What is one thing about your country that foreign visitors find surprising?

Russians can appear very surly, but once you get to know them, they are endlessly hospitable, very funny, and full of all kinds of wit and wisdom.  I think the other things Americans find surprising about Moscow in particular is how modern and hip it is.  That’s been happening ever since perestroika, but the last six or seven years has seen an explosion of cafes, parks, alternative galleries, theaters, and lots of ways to enjoy the city. 

3.  How has visiting your country changed over the years?

In the two decades I’ve called Moscow home, it’s been almost like a tectonic shift.  It hasn’t always been a painless transition, but Moscow is certainly an easier place to visit for tourists than it was when I first worked as a tour guide.  Back then, there were absolutely no restaurants at all - you had to move as a numbered group from the State tourism company and eat meals at hotels for foreigners.  Today, I live next door to a Starbucks with wi-fi and a rent-a-bike stand.  Museums are much more attuned to the needs of travelers and it’s a lot easier to get around on one’s own.  

4.  I’ve got three days to visit your destination.  What should I do?

You have to visit the Kremlin and Red Square - that’s a non-negotiable.  One of the better ways to see the city in summertime is by taking a pleasure boat on the Moskva River.  If possible, take in a cultural performance of ballet, opera, or classical music at one of Moscow’s many wonderful theaters.  If you are interested in architecture, I suggest a walking tour of old Moscow, which still has many of the beautiful 19th century mansions of the aristocrats.  If Soviet history or World War II is more your thing, then visit the sprawling war memorial at Poklonnaya Gora.  Try some Russian food by all means!

5.  How would you characterize your nation’s people?  What makes them tick?

I think the defining character trait of Russians is the immense pride they have in their nation, its history, its place in the world, and its rich culture.  That can be a double-edged sword of course, but I think it is what makes them tick.

6.  What are three books I should read before visiting your country to prepare?

Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes for an overview of Russian culture.
The New Tsar by Steven Lee Myers.
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie. 

7.  What’s your favorite Alexander + Roberts itinerary, and why?

I cut my teeth on Moscow & St. Petersburg!  I used to do it back-to-back for Alexander + Roberts iconic small groups, and I’m delighted that it’s available as a private itinerary as well these days.  That shows just how far the travel business has developed here.  I think it is a fabulously curated itinerary for Russia, which balances the two capitals very well.  You see all the major highlights and hopefully it whets your appetite to go further afield.  Russia is filled with so many interesting places to visit.  

8.  Tell us anything else you think would enhance our understanding of your destination.

I think the best thing people can do to prepare for a trip to Russia is to spend a little time learning the Cyrillic alphabet so that you can read the street signs and navigate public transportation which is cheap and the best way to beat the traffic.  The good news is that most Russians speak some English and they are always delighted to practice it with guests.  That’s Russian hospitality!

Posted: 9/28/2016 2:02:09 PM by Alexander + Roberts