Moscow, Moscow, join us for a kazadchok! Posted on Sun 17th Oct 2010
[Check out more photos of Russia at The Travel Room s Russia Travel Photos page here]
We arrive (me and the long suffering partner) and the first thing it does is snow, in October...not heavy, but bona fide snow. This was after we ventured off the most artistic and deep subway system I have ever seen and maybe in the world. It took 2:59 to ride from the bottom to the top of the escalators...and they were quick. We then headed to our hotel, which, for Moscow was cheap and cheerful. £50 here will get you a box room, just big enough for one small double bed, a hook on the wall and a window. All facilities were shared. Welcome to the new, expensive Moscow, recently rated as the most expensive city on earth. Once you get over the price sticker shock and the fact that sushi is now the mainstay of the average Moscow restaurant, you’ll do just fine! Most young Muscovites speak at least a rudimentary amount of English and everyone seemed more than happy to play charades, always helpful if you don’t speak much Russian. Though Spasiba (Spas-ee-ba) and a smile will get you far (thank you!). Under the gruff exterior is a usually friendly Russian just waiting to break free. What’s to see in Moscow? Well standing in Red Square and looking like a fish out of water amongst all the Russians is de rigueur. So is forming an orderly queue to go and see the waxy, lifeless visage of Lenin. Is it him? Is it a dummy? It is unbelievable. You too, like me, will get moved on by the cold eyed, emotionless guards as you stare open mouthed like a carp at the static show that is now Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Outside his Tomb are the lesser notables buried in the wall and ground, including Uncle Joe Stalin, who spent the first few years of his death next to Lenin, till, as the story goes, one of the original revolutionary women said Lenin had come to her in a dream and said it's either me or him…so under the weight of this impressive piece of evidence, Joe was evicted.
St Basils's Cathedral in the Red Square. Moscow, Russia
You can then buy a ticket to go into the Kremlin and go from church to church to church. Did I mention there were a few churches in Moscow? For a country that had 6 generations of atheism, they have taken 5 minutes to restore all the churches and build some new ones. Though when you stare at the multi coloured onion domes of St Basil's in Red Square there is an air of spiritual believability! (The sucker punch of this vision is that you expect all Russian churches to be like this... they aren’t) The highlight in the Kremlin churches is Ivan the Terrible who decided to kill one of his sons (buried there too) and repented on that for a while. Also inside the walls is the mother of all bells that was broken as it was finished. Someone whose life would have been ended for them soon after they spilt water on it whilst it was cooling, caused a 12 ton piece fell off, thereby ending the life of the bell simultaneously. This is next to a gun that was basically too big to ever fire, but not big enough to take the cannon balls in front of it. There’s also a treasury that’s full of…treasure, and for which you have to book and queue.
Everywhere else you go in the city you’ll see the 7 sisters, 7 huge building which dominate the skyline in a gothic style, ordered built by Uncle Joe to rival the west and now owned by Western Hotel chains etc. Moscow drips in irony.
You’ll pay up to £10 ($16US) for 2 coffees and cake and £5 for a beer. You’ll even pay £10 for cheese with beer if you have drunk too much of that beer and are a bit silly. But you’ll not find an easier, nor easy to make sense of, introduction to Russia. The real danger here is, that not too far in the future, Moscow will be granted its wish and be just another European capital. See it now before that wish is granted.
Life sometimes is too short. And one piece of treasure looks the same as another to me! Wander down the river and you’ll find the 7th biggest statue in the world. It really is Christopher Columbus, but no country of the Americas had the money, bad taste or desire to purchase it from the artist, so his mate, the Mayor of Moscow coughed up the millions for it under the guise of it being Peter the Great and stuck it in the middle of the river. One word best describes it, craptacular. It’s so bad that the Muscovites offered it to St Petersburg, the spiritual home of Pete, and the good citizens of St P were so offended by it, they took up a petition to politely ensure that this monstrosity never set foot within their city. It’s a must see. Across the road is statue park, always good to see statues of discredited Soviet leaders and wander through to Gorky Park, in winter a cold desolate place, but home to the failed Soviet Space Shuttle, which is now a sad spectacle of a ‘ride’.
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