Beautiful spring days in Moscow

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 10, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Ibis

Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hi everyone

Ly here, well I thought I'd start with a happy positive title but on the whole Moscow has been one of my least favourite places to travel. If it weren't for the beautiful warm weather, I'm not sure there would be too many positive things to say. I'm actually quite surprised by how warm it is here. I always imagined Moscow to be a bitterly cold place and I know that it snows heavily here in winter with temps as low as -30 degrees. Definitely not a place to go in winter.

Well today we had another late start. We had a very greasy ham and cheese crepe for breakfast from one of the little stands near our hotel. We are very quickly starting to come to the realisation that most Russian food here is bad for you either being really greasy, creamy or rich. Today was actually quite warm and we tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. We caught the metro to a Muzeon Sculpture Park and the Tretyakov gallery which was rated as the number one thing to do on Tripadviser. The sculpture garden is in a park which is basically a dumping ground for statutes from the Soviet Union that lost their places in Russia's parks and squares following the collapse of Communism. The park has over 700 sculptures which we thought were mostly soviet era looking with lots of men holding guns, shovels and hammers. I personally thought most of the sculptures were ugly and there were just randomly dumped around the park. The park itself wasn't well maintained with weeds and long grass in certain places. I did enjoy sitting on a park bench under a tree where I could put my feet up and enjoy the quiet breeze. There were other visitors around doing a similar thing either reading or sleeping on the various benches.

After we wandered through the park we noticed a magnificent sculpture/monument of Peter the Great. The monument was in the middle of the Moscow river and stood at least 100m tall. Without doubt the monument was quite impressive and its placed right in the centre of Moscow near the Kremlin.

We then wandered down to the Tretyakov gallery and again were served by a barking russian lady who didn't speak any English. We were quite surprised because there are never any english speaking ticket stall holders at any tourist attractions in Moscow. We are usually met with very grumpy Russian women (which is at times debateable) who look so unhappy to serve you. They know we don't speak a word of Russian and yet they still scowl and as we walk away with our tickets it sounds like they are cursing us! In the foyer of the gallery were some interesting posters depicting nationalistic propaganda. There were pictures of Nazi blades held at crying children and terrified mothers and Russian tanks crushing Hitler and his military leaders. The rest of the gallery was rather ordinary. There was one room which looked like it was out of a school fete with dolls, teddy bears and old clothing on display. There were a lot of art dealers in the gallery with little shops on every floor. The artwork wasn't amazingly impressive. Not knowing anything about the artists or the paintings meant that we couldn't really appreciate what we were looking at. Everything was in Russian and there certainly weren't any audio tours or brochures explaining anything about the gallery.

After the gallery we caught the metro to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which is a Russian orthodox church also on the Moscow River. From the outside the church looks rather magnificent with the gold top domes. It's quite an impressive church standing from the outside, but the inside was incredibly colourful with the beautiful frescos and gold writings on the wall. Inside the church was a choir singing a very lovely but haunting tune. Women were required to cover their heads inside so I wrapped my head in a scarf. Many of the Russians bought candles to light at various stations around the church. Every bit of wall and ceiling is covered in amazing ornate detail. The floors are a heavy and cold marble. The walls are decorated with lists of awards, battles, lists of those who died and awarded in the war with Napoleon in 1812. The whole ambience of the church was beautiful and I think it was the choir and their gentle hymns which made you feel like you were in a beautiful and spiritual place.

We then walked to a busy street called Arbat known for its restaurants and live acts. We had been walking for hours and I was just dying for a cup of hot tea! When we got there we noticed how much nicer the buildings were and the number of young people everywhere. There were young boys and girls giving out free small cans of coke and fanta - it almost seemed like soft drinks were a new thing here! I spied a lot of Japanese restaurants and have noticed that Japanese cuisine seems to be very popular with the Russians here! I’m guessing because the Japanese use a lot of fish, caviar and fish's roe on their sushi. I wasn't too keen on another cream filled Russian dinner so was keeping an eye out for busy Japanese restaurants. Daniel on the other hand found a pizza place and needed a desperate fix so we went in and found it easy to order by just pointing to which pizza slice we wanted and indicating how many we wanted. The pizza was ok, the base was a bit soggy but the toppings were good. I didn’t have much of the pizza so we wandered down further and found a busy Japanese place where the young people were smoking from hookahs which is this tall glass stemmed thing where you smoke tobacco and the smoke is filtered and cooled through water. Just about every table had one and the young people would just each take turns inhaling the smoke and breathing it out. The smoke doesn't smell too bad and quickly dissipates.  Apparently smoking hookahs is very popular here.

We quickly ordered sushi and I was really impressed with my tempura lightly fried rolls with prawn, avocado, cream cheese and salmon. I also had a spicy scallop sushi which tasted fresh and spicy and I finally got some hot red tea with lychees. After dinner we wandered around some more and found ourselves listening to mostly awful street performers. After realising that we had been walking around for over 6 hours we decided to head home after ducking in for some ice creams and some beer for Daniel. It's now 9:30 at night and the sun is starting to slowly set. It's strange for there to be this much light at this time of night.

I haven't found Moscow to be very friendly and it's really hard to get around. Their alphabet is very difficult to read and to decipher. It's definitely not a city catered for tourists, in fact I don’t think I have really come across any tourists here! I would recommend anyone thinking of going to Moscow to book themselves into a tour. A lot more is gained when you know what you are looking at and it's significance to the people.  The city itself is quite dirty and most of the buildings are quite old and run down. The underground train stations on the other hand are quite amazing with marble ceilings, beautiful lamps and artworks. It's definitely one of the better underground train stations I've ever been to. The trains themselves are very old looking and are rather rough and loud.

I did think that the underground walkways in Moscow is a great idea. Because many of the roads in the city have up to 8 lanes, it’s near impossible to cross a road, unless you want to walk about a 1km to the nearest traffic light with pedestrian crossings. Instead there are these underground tunnels you can use to cross the road. Inside these underground tunnels are little tiny holes in the wall where people sell socks, makeup, handbags, hair clips, magazines, sweets, books, computer equipment etc. There is an amazing amount of stock jammed into these little stores and you cant actually touch anything because its all behind glass. You have to point to what you want and the little saleslady takes your cash through a tiny little window opening. I felt claustrophobic just looking at their tiny space. There are also quite a few old lady beggars in these underground crossings but overall there doesn't seem to be as much poverty as I thought.

Russians in Moscow seem very grim. The males tend to look angry and very serious. The women always seem to be looking down or avoid looking at you. No one smiles here and every time I see a policemen I keep thinking he's going to ask to see my documents evidencing my visa. Daniel and I have been carrying copies with us. Today I did notice a policeman who stopped a young guy and ask to see his official documents. The police generally aren't carrying around heavy guns but seem intimidating nevertheless.

We're off to St Petersburg tomorrow. After two days in Moscow, we've seen everything we came to see.

Love to you all

Ly & Daniel

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Aunty Pete on

Gosh guys I'm exhausted! Seems a shame to have daylight until 10 in a city with not much to offer, but I guess its worse if you live there - seems that people there are existing and not doing much living. Travel safe. (p.s. Ms operation was a success!) Love you heaps, xo

Andre. on

I'll take a bucket of POCTHK'C chicken please.

Adam on

Alas the russians have not had is so easy since the fall of communism, so it's understandable if not a bit disappointing that the locals are a bit surly and things are run down, still you can say you've been :)

Hopefully St. Petersburg a.k.a Leningrad is more hospitable and interesting...

Guest on

The city has a lot to offer. No wonder a person like you filled with prejudices and
bad expectations didn't notice it. You should be more open-minded

Kara on

Wow I spent 3months in Moscow and could still go back and see new things! And I loved the fact that for once it was actually worth learning a foreign language and people made the effort to understand you and not just talk over you in English. There are always surprises round every corner and small cafes which look dodgy from the outside but inside may have silver service tableware and violin music!! The people just dont smile but its best not to take it personally, its just their way and not personal. Its one of my favourite cities in the world :) I hope one day you go back and have a better experience!

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