I had two and bit days in Moscow to explore and I managed to have a good look round the city. I spent most of the time in the normal tourist places, Red Square, Kremlin and so on. . .
First up though is a list of things I observed, I couldn’t think of how to link them all in a post, so it’s in a list.
1. Expect hard stares from people, until they love you and call you their brother.
2. It must be one of the most profitable places in the world to be a florist. The men are very much romantics.
3. Moscow is a smokers paradise, pack of twenty costs less than a can of coke and you can still smoke in most bars and restaurants.
4. Beer seems quite steep at US$11 most places. Perhaps I was only hitting the tourist places.
5. All the tourists maps use the English alphabet but all the road signs are in Cyrillic. Making it close to impossible to navigate.
6. British/Irish pubs are very popular.
7. On every menu, in a separate column from the price there will be the weight of your order. 100 grams of green peas please.
8. The Red Square and Kremlin look very good at night, well light.
9. You may struggle to get into a nice bar in the evening, due to Face Control. If you’re male and you are besuited or wearing all black with a leather jacket and have arrived in a German luxury car stinking of cologne d’cash you should be ok. Or if female, you need to be about 6 foot, weigh less than a 100lbs, straight blonde/black hair to your arse, decked out in Gucci and if you tripped on your 9 inch heels there needs to be a good chance you could gut someone with your razor-sharp cheek bones.
My shabby ginger beard and crumpled t-shirt didn’t get me far.
10. There is a heavy police presence on the streets, they don’t as a rule, like cameras.
11. Pigeon feeding in parks is a popular pastime, even if it is with a KFC.
12. Tracksuits are acceptable for all genders and ages as long as they are complete and no athletic endeavours are attempted in them.
13. People hate politicians, it seemed to be pretty much the first thing they say. “I love Russia, but I hate Putin” or “I was born in Moscow and the Mayor here is a terrible man”.
14. Sushi is incredibly popular, it’s everywhere.
15. Russians love a squared jawed chap looking into the distance cast in black metal for their statues.
The Red Square, as the Indian tourist I overheard said, “is the purely iconic Russian place”. I had a good look around there on Monday. Unfortunately they were preparing for some event and a temporary stadium was being built. This detracted from the size of the place and ruined photo opportunities. It would be great to go back early in the morning on a snowy day before many people were up.
It’s surrounded by historic buildings, on the west side it’s the red wall of the Kremlin and it’s towers with Lenin’s Mausoleum halfway down.
On the east side there is an incredibly grand and expensive shopping mall for the local oligarchs and their mistresss, with shoe shine boys and historic toilets no less.
In the north there is the state museum housed in an impressive red building, the small Kazan Cathedral and gate house are next door.
At the opposite end is the fabulous St Basil’s Cathedral, another iconic building. It’s a bizarre building with so many different shapes and colours.
You can look around inside, for a fee and the interior decorators certainly didn’t calm down with the colour schemes.
I was also was fortunate to be in there when a mens choir was singing, it sounded magical the sound echoing all round the little brick walled rooms. When I found them it was a surprise to see there was only four of them singing, it was that loud.
I walked down the river to another huge building which dominates the Moscow skyline, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. It was rebuilt after Stalin decided he didn’t like it and destroyed the original, he replaced it with the worlds largest swimming pool.
On Tuesday, I went down to the Kremlin to have a look inside. Its the home of the Russian orthodox church as well as the seat of power in Russian politics.
There are many buildings inside the red brick fortified walls but as a tourist you are only allowed access to the cathedrals, armoury museum and a stroll round some of the garden.
Proudly, they have the worlds heaviest bell and largest cannon in the grounds. Neither of which have been fired or rung, respectively. Which seemed a bit strange to me, if you built a 100ft car and it couldn’t move, could you say you have the world’s biggest car?
Wandered round the worlds biggest silver collection in the Armoury, but once you seen one silver platter I think you have seen them all.
Outside is Alexander Gardens, all very nice and a popular place for Muscovites to have a stroll, feed some birds perhaps. At one end there is the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, which regularly changes guard. The soldiers march in a manner reminiscent of John Cleese’s Ministry of Silly Walk’s, unfortunate for such a somber place.
All in all Moscow is good place to visit but I think a visit with someone who knew their way around would greatly increase your enjoyment of the place.