08.08.2015 - 04.08.2015 30 °C
Russia...the country where most of people thoughts regarding the place are vodka, bears, vodka, borsch, dolls, ballet...and vodka. Visiting Moscow however, is much more then that..well, minus the bears. I didn't see any bears but that still doesn't knock out the possibility of them being about the city, somewhere off the beaten tourist track.
Moscow, while not as cultural as St. Petersburg is still beautiful, clean and impressively large city. Having arrived at the airport after flying with Air Moldova; an airline that is fine but if your over 6 foot in height, much like myself, then you will curse it the whole way. Never have I been sitting on a chair where my back was fully arched straight and knees bent in a perfectly horizontal position that it ensured there was no method to sitting or sleeping comfortably. Still, a grand airline that provided a coffee and sandwich an hour before landing; provide food and your in my good books.
So walking into the terminal, one gets this instant knowing of how the people are going to be, because not once was I spoken to in English. I was shouted at, and directed where to go for passport control and baggage claim (although the signs are in English, the employees feel obliged to get a word in). To get to the city, we took the train, which is a 43minute journey to the main city metro hub. The price is a set price and cost 430R for an ordinary ticket. The journey is grand, and it even has food carts that are brought through each carriage. Upon arrival, we got the metro to our station, and thus near our hostel. I must say, their metro stations are very impressive. Some of them are indeed worth the look for the sheer beauty of them alone. They go down deep underground and the architecture is very impressive and beautiful to look at.
We stayed in Red Kremlin hostel. I have to say, I highly recommend it. It has free and very good WiFi, free water, you can buy bars, snacks, drinks, alcohol and some food at the desk. There is no kitchen but they still provide all the cutlery and utensils you need. The beds are very comfortable, and the place is clean. There are lockers in each room and the bathroom is grand, albeit there are only two showers and two toilets. This may sound like a problem but we found that people often only stay for one night and move on so there's never much a rush and wait for the bathroom...which is what ya want really.
The first visit I am sure most will go for is towards the Kremlin and Square. And it is a beautiful first stop. There are street stalls selling traditional Russian oddities as well food and ice-cream. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants about the place so you are spoilt for choice whilst there. The square, once one walks into it, just fills ones body with the rush of all it's history and Russian prowess. It's where one would go, sit on the centre and just forget that there are other countries and nationalities outside its walls. The architecture is stunning; a sight to just gawk at. In wanting to visit inside the Kremlin, there are two main ticket options.
The first grants one access to the Armoury, in which one will naturally get to see the weapons, armour and such used. The price is 700R, and an experience I didn't choose because it's not what I wanted to see. The second option grants access to the art and architecture of the churches, and stands at a price of 500R. I chose this option as it's more up my street of things to see. With this ticket, one gets to walk around Cathedral Square and see sights such as the worlds largest bell, a selection of cannons, a quaint little park and obviously, the churches. Inside the churches, every square inch of the walls are painted. Be sure to look up when under a dome and be greeted with a giant painted face of Jesus looking down at you. Some the art and paintings is very impressive, but what was a problem for me, was that it was evident that some parts of the walls had been painted. As in, the frescos have been touched up, and therefore, for a church that is meant to be from the C15, it loses some of its historic feel. It was kinda sad to see.
Outside the Kremlin area, there are plenty of places to visit and see. There are random pockets about the city, where one will see churches with their gold tops, government buildings with the Russian symbol flying strong atop it; accompanied by military guards at the gates and emanating the Russian dominance that so many tie with Russia. One of the churches "Christ the Saviour" (I may be wrong in the name but it's a giant white structure with gold tops...pretty hard to miss), is an architectural wonder to see, but do be warned, that upon visiting the church, ladies must have their shoulders and legs and what not covered, and men cannot enter in t-shirt and shorts. It was quite the disappointment not being granted access because I was in shorts, but in 32 degree heat, I was having it no other way!
One could walk down to the stadium towards the end of the river, and while it is a huge stadium, it's currently just a shell at the moment as it is being completely renovated for the games that are to be held there.
A stroll along the river is something I would recommend. There a park that follows along side, and one will even come across the beach (while it is literally entitled a beach in visitor books, I wouldn't go with much aspiration, as it is a section of grass, at a slope, facing the river). It's definitely worthwhile to take the walk at the weekend. We did so on a Sunday, and there was a festival event on (something which is a weekly occurrence we found out after), and it's great fun! There's plenty of food options, drink, entertainment...the works. My personal favourite was the Star Wars tent at the end, where one can get a photo with characters, get their t-shirt spray painted one of copious design options, and watch different scenes from the six movies on the screen (all in Russian). It was my inner nerds delight to spend time at it!
In terms of nightlife, we couldn't find anything much in the way of pubs or bars or clubs (and being Irish, one can only imagine the pain that such a thing would cause). There a plenty of restaurants but possibly one in ten will have a menu translated in English, so eat at your own risk upon order. I just kept to the wonders that are McDonalds, Burger King and Subway. Can't go wrong with what you already know! With that, Russians don't speak English, and couldn't care less about the fact. I mean you go to a museum and you will see this historic chair, with plenty of Russian wording describing what it is about, and just under will be the English translation reading "Chair". Sure what more information would one want regarding a historic piece of furniture -_- I found myself at one point being laughed at by the McDonalds employee because I didn't speak Russian...yet they are listening to English music and wearing uniforms with English wording and I'm the odd one for not understanding?! But in fairness, you get past the non-English speaking aspect no bother, and just accept the Russian people for who they are...as one should in any new country they visit.
The people and lack of English translation aside, there isn't much I say wrong about Mockba. It's a grand ole city. It's big, spacious, clean and in no way do people try to hide their richness. I understand how people may question your decision to travel to Moscow, in all fairness I would be the same to another, but it was a place I've wanted to visit for years and I am glad I did. I was not disappointed. Three days in the city is more then enough to see. Maybe more if one really wants to experience the museums and what not, but for me, three was enough. Go visit Mockba, drink vodka (pour a shot, drink it, smell a pickle through your nose, breath out through your mouth and voila, the taste of the vodka will hit you), eat Borsch and just embrace what the city, even with it's somewhat stereotypical fashion, has to offer!