Russia, Ramblings, Responses and Resources

Updated: July 20, 2007, 2:06 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

Send in your travel questions to Jim Caple

ROAD RAMBLINGS

In the past couple months, Road Warrior has been to the Czech Republic and Russia for a story on Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi and Dubai for the World Cup horse race.

Russia is one of those fascinating places, that as Taurasi says, "the longer you're there, the less it makes sense."

If that really was Lenin's body preserved in his Red Square, he should be spinning 24/7 at what has happened to his former Soviet capital. Not only can American women earn up to 10 times playing basketball in Russia than they can in the United States, the city is now the most expensive in the world, according to rankings by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. Moscow is 34 percent more expensive than New York, which is ranked No. 15.

"The appreciation of the ruble against the U.S. dollar, combined with ever-increasing accommodation charges, has driven up costs for expatriates in Moscow," Mercer research manager Nathalie Constantin-Metral is quoted in a CNNMoney.com story. The story goes on to say, "A luxury two-bedroom in Moscow now rents for $4,000 a month; a CD costs $24.83, and an international newspaper, $6.30, according to Mercer. By comparison, a fast food meal with a burger is a steal at $4.80."

So, if you're planning to visit Moscow, RW suggests you bring plenty of money – you'll need it. But the vodka can be quite cheap, the beautiful subway system is very cheap (and by far the fastest way around this traffic-choked city) and if you're looking for inexpensive nesting dolls and a tasty, affordable lunch, head out to Izmailovsky Park and Market, a fabulous flea market.

As for Dubai, the city-state is using sports to draw tourists; it even wants to host the Olympics. I think they mean the Summer Olympics, but maybe the Winter Olympics; you never know with Dubai. After all, there is an indoor ski slope open 365 days a year inside the Mall of the Emirates, even when temperatures outside are pushing 115. Road Warrior took a ski lesson on the slope, then spent a sublime evening drinking mojitos (booze is legal in hotel bars in this Muslim country) under the stars at the One and Only Royal Mirage Resort's rooftop bar.

THE MAILBAG: ASK THE WARRIOR

My boyfriend's birthday is coming up and I want to do something really special but also creative. I, however, am not that creative. He is a DIE-HARD soccer fan, loves the Red Sox (already saw Yankees/Sox at Fenway, so that's out) and Pats. I'd like to do something on a weekend late this July (could do later in the year though) and I am stumped. I love sports, as well, and would travel definitely anywhere in the U.S. and possibly somewhere abroad if it was worth it and the price was right. I figure if anyone can help me it's you. Thanks!
Duke Ellie, Washington, D.C.

This is just the sort of challenge Road Warrior loves. Here are several possibilities:

If you can hold off until August, the perfect choice is right in your backyard – Baltimore and Washington, D.C, Aug. 9-12. You can feed your boyfriend's soccer jones by watching Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy play at DC United on Aug. 9, then catch the Red Sox and Orioles at Camden Yards on the weekend. Be sure and stop by the Babe Ruth Museum when you're in Baltimore, and also have a Faidley's crab cake at Lexington Market.

If it has to be a weekend in late July, consider the Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown (July 29). Because both Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn are going in, it will be VERY crowded and you may need to sleep in Albany but it will be a memorable weekend. Or consider another weekend when lodging will be more available in Cooperstown, which is a romantic little town on top of the baseball.

Another choice that same final weekend of July is Greenville, S.C., where you can see future Red Sox – the Greenville Drive is Boston's affiliate in the South Atlantic League – play in a replica of Fenway Park. Spend your nights a little more than an hour north in Asheville, N.C. – a wonderfully funky town filled with great restaurants, art galleries, museums, watering holes and historic McCormick Field, home of the Asheville Tourists. Your boyfriend will be impressed when you tell him it's where Ripken once was a batboy and where Crash Davis hits his final home run in "Bull Durham.'' Both the Drive and the Tourists are home that weekend.

Every year my buddies and I from grad school get together and do a sports weekend. It is always during football season and includes a college game on Saturday and a pro game on Sunday. We have done Georgia/Falcons, Longhorns/Cowboys, Wisconsin/Packers to name a few. What recommendations do you have in 2007, especially in September?
Matt, New Jersey

That's an easy one, Matt. Come to Seattle for the Huskies/Boise State game Sept. 8 and the Seahawks/Tampa Bay game the next day. Early September is usually beautiful in Seattle (mid-70s and sunny) and there are few better college football settings than Husky Stadium. Sterngating (tailgating by boat) is a tradition at Husky Stadium, which is located on Portage Bay off Lake Washington. Road Warrior assumes you won't have a yacht, so go to Ivar's Salmon House just southwest of campus for their brunch boat. You get free parking, a boat cruise to the stadium and a brunch that includes Dungeness crab and alder-planked salmon.

(If you have a sports travel-related question or tip, write to the Road Warrior and Jim will try to answer it.)

THE WARRIOR'S BOOKSHELF

Rick Lipsey, a golf writer for Sports Illustrated, spent several months as the golf pro at one of Bhutan's modest course and writes about it in "Golfing on the Roof of the World'' (Bloomsbury; $24.95). Lipsey's love for Bhutan and its people shines throughout this brisk little book that focuses less on golf and more on the growing pains for Bhutan as it transitions from a blissful monarchy to modern democracy. I spent part of the book longing for a return to the humor of the opening pages – his description of the specific, detailed, email requests for golf equipment from a Bhutanese tour guide ("a Big Bertha Steelhead driver, 3-wood and 5-wood; two Odyssey putters; and a set of X-12 Calloway irons") are what sold me on the book. By the end, I was simply ready to book a flight to Bhutan and check out the golfing myself.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His Web site is back up at a slightly different address, jimcaple.net, with more installments of 24 College Avenue. In addition to his book "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," his new book with Steve Buckley titled "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans" is now on sale.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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