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Things to Do in Moscow When You’re Dead Inside

A travel guide for [REDACTED] from The Americans

Holly Taylor in The Americans
Anyone know where to get a decent cheeseburger around here?
FX

Warning: The following article contains spoilers about the ending of The Americans and also the ending of the Soviet Union.

The exquisite series finale of The Americans saw Philip and Elizabeth Jennings finally return to Moscow after decades of living undercover in the United States. It’s a bleak homecoming, primarily because the Jennings aren’t able to bring their entire family back, but also because one of the show’s leitmotifs has always been the misery of living in the Soviet Union.
What’s more, The Americans has gone to great lengths to show how Americanized Philip Jennings has become, and how unprepared he is to be back in the U.S.S.R. But there’s no reason for Philip to despair—or rather, there are plenty of very good reasons for Philip to despair, but culture shock isn’t one of them. With the help of the 1985 edition of Fodor’s Soviet Union, we’ve found places where the head of the Jennings family can recapture some of that American magic without facing some of those American espionage charges.

Getting Around

The Pangolina 444GT: As former spies, the Jennings can probably jump to the front of the line for one of those new GAZ-24-10s, but for Philip, the one-time owner of a Camaro Z-28, a blocky Soviet sedan isn’t going to cut it. There’s no exact Soviet analogue for an American muscle car, but for motorists with lots of moody, aimless driving ahead of them, it’s essential to have an automobile fast enough to give the illusory feeling of escaping the past. We recommend the Pangolina 444GT, the Soviet supercar designed by Alexander Kulygin in 1982. Admittedly, the Pangolina has a few downsides compared to the Camaro: Only one was ever built, entirely by hand, so maintenance will be a nightmare. Plus it’s spectacularly ugly. But for travelers with years of experience stealing cars and the KGB connections to avoid criminal penalties, there’s really only one choice. You can see the Pangolina at the end of the music video for Olga Voskonyan’s “Автомобили” above.

Places to Shop

The Dom Knigi bookstore in Moscow.
Aleksandr Plyushchev/Wikimedia Commons

Dom Knigi (26 Prospekt Kalinina): According to Fodor’s, this enormous book store features a decent selection of English paperbacks. While the newest bestsellers like Red Storm Rising or The Cardinal of the Kremlin may be hard to find, this is an ideal location to stare blankly for hours at a shelf full of English books, idly wondering which ones your children might be reading while trying very hard not to admit to yourself that you’ll never speak to them again.

The interior of the Detsky Mir department store, featuring a merry-go-round and a giant teddy bear.
A. Savin/Wikimedia Commons

Detsky Mir (2 Prospekt Marksa): Conveniently located just across Dzerzhinsky Square from the Lubyanka Building, Detsky Mir is the ideal place to pick up a few things after visiting former co-workers from the Centre at KGB headquarters or its attached prison, depending how the aftermath of that coup attempt plays out. Detsky Mir has one big advantage for recently-exfiltrated Soviet spies over better known department stores like GUM: It’s a toy store. Whether you’re remembering the children you left behind in the United States or imagining the life you might have had with the child you left behind in the Soviet Union, there’s no better place to wander the aisles openly weeping until the security guards make you leave for frightening the other customers.

Places to Eat

The exterior of the Kosmos hotel in Moscow.
SteveInLeighton’s Photos/Wikimedia Commons

Galaktika (Kosmos Hotel, 150 Prospekt Mira): Theoretically, Soviet citizens are barred from the Kosmos, which is for foreign tourists only, but according to a 1988 newspaper article in the Tampa Bay Times, passes are readily available in exchange for hard currency. What will you find at Galaktika, one of the hotel’s four restaurants? Who cares? The name is vaguely reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica, an American television program that Henry Jennings would have been about the right age for, which means everything on the menu is suitable for taking a few tasteless bites, bursting into tears and rushing out of the hotel, wondering if you’ll ever enjoy anything again.

Alison Wright as Martha on The Americans.
FX

Not at Martha’s Apartment, That’s for Damn Sure: That bridge is burned. What are you even thinking? Just leave her alone.

The Year 1990 (Pushkinskaya Square): Not so much a restaurant as it is a year, The Year 1990 is the best location in all of Moscow for Americanized Russians to get a taste of their adopted homeland. Here (and then), authentic American delicacies like the “Big Mac” are prepared in the traditional manner, just as they are in the suburbs of Washington. And getting there is a breeze: simply travel to Pushkinskaya Square and wait a long time.

Places to Country Line Dance Your Sorrows Away

Matthew Rhys line dancing on The Americans.
FX

Nope (Nope): Nope.

Things to See

The CSKA Ice Palace in Moscow.
A. Savin/Wikimedia Commons

CSKA Ice Palace (39 Leningradsky Prospekt): Does the very thought of ice hockey fill you with bone-deep sorrow, shame, and self-loathing? At the CSKA Ice Palace, you can watch one of the Soviet Union’s best teams play for hours on end, as the familiar sights and sounds of your son’s favorite sport slice what’s left of your soul to ribbons.

Spaso House in Moscow.
Valeriy Yevseyev

Spaso House (10 Spasopeskovskaya Square): It may be harder to feel connected to your earnest, church-loving daughter while living in the Soviet Union, but non-denominational protestant services are available every other Sunday at Spaso House, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador, and on second thought, forget it.

Matthew Rhys on The Americans, looking glum.
Eric Liebowitz/FX

The Empty, Joyless Years Stretching Ahead (Everywhere, all the time, forever): You really blew it, Philip Jennings.

Read more in Slate about the finale of The Americans.