Formula Za Rulyem
by Malcolm Dickinson
This morning was a sad occasion. After one final deluxe breakfast buffet (including unlimited fresh fruit, custom cooked omelets, and real coffee) we bid goodbye to the Marriott Tverskaya Hotel. Belongings were stuffed into suitcases, garment bags were zipped and carried downstairs, and we turned in our electronic room keys. A bus took us to the Bogorodokoy neighborhood on the northeast edge of Moscow, where we found our new lodgings, a motel called Otel Formula ”Za Rulyem”, on a street of tall 1950s era apartment blocks.
It turns out the hotel takes its name from a car-racing magazine, “Formula Za Rulyem.¨ It translates as “formula one racing ‘by the book.’” The hotel is clean and safe. In every other aspect, it is the exact opposite of the Marriott. Each room is equipped with two narrower-than-twin beds; the strip of floor down the middle is just big enough for one small nightstand. Showers and toilets are located off a common hallway. Add in breakfast in the windowless basement cafe (2 eggs, a hot dog, toast… and instant coffee if you want to mix some) and the taciturn receptionist, and you have a much more authentic Russian experience than we could ever have gotten at the Marriott! And it is only one block from the subway - our stop, Bulvar Rokossovskovo, is the last stop on the red #1 line.
After dropping off luggage at the new lodgings, the bus took the chorus (less three bleary-eyed baritones who had overslept and were en route from the Marriott via taxi) to the music school for a brief rehearsal followed by a master class with Galina Koltseva, the conductor of the Blagoslovest choir. Also present at the master class was composer Anton Viskov, who had written a piece for us titled “Gospodi, Pomiluj” (translation: Kyrie Eleison). Viskov was very enthusiastic and seemed delighted with our sight-reading of his piece.
After the master class, we left the music school on foot and headed toward Red Square. Splitting up into groups of 6 or 7, we stopped for lunch at various cafes along the way. Everyone met up at St. Basil´s Cathedral, the iconic multi-domed cathedral on Red Square, and many of us bought a ticket to go inside and see the chapels with their incredible icons.
We met up at 6:00 at the Place of the Skulls (Golgotha) next to St. Basil´s. After singing a few songs for the tourists milling about, we all took the subway to a Georgian restaurant called Hachapuri, and had a wonderful meal. We were seated at one great long table and feasted on various Georgian delicacies. Georgian wine was ordered to accompany our meal, which began with a toast to Denis Mickiewicz, the founder of the YRC, “without whom none of us would be here right now!”