Moscow, Moscow......

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Where I stayed
Maxima Panorama Hotel
What I did
UNESCO sites

Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Thursday, May 5, 2011

After four nights and three days on a train, heaven is a shower with abundant water pressure. The only problem is that while I am busy showering away the grime, there is a song that keeps going around in my head and it just won't go away. Remember the catchy, stirring song used by Australian TV stations for the 1980 Moscow Olympics??  some of the lyrics are: 

Moscow, Moscow
Drinking vodka all night long,
Keeps you happy, makes you strong ho, ho, ho hey.
Moscow, Moscow,
Come and have a drink again,
You will never leave again. Ha, Ha, Ha Hey!

Moscow, Queen of the Russian land.
Built like a rock to stand.
Proud and divine.
Moscow, your golden towers glow,
Even through ice and snow.
Sparkling, they shine.

We arrived in Moscow at 4.11 am in the cold pre dawn, and were met on the station platform and taken to the Maxima Panorama Hotel, where, joy oh joy, we could go straight to our room for that shower, rather than have to kill time until 2pm check in. 

Moscow holds many surprises. It has an extremely affluent feel and people are quite helpful when we can't find our way. We had read that Muscovite's are aloof and unhelpful, but this was certainly not our experience. We nearly always found someone to help point us in the right direction. The Kremlin is a surprise. The word actually means fortress, and it is a triangular shaped piece of land surrounded by high fortress walls, with many opulent buildings, churches and parks, making up the interior. Most old Russian cities have a Kremlin.  

Another surprise was the ease of getting around to see the sights using the subway. This marvel of transport was one of the first subway systems in the world, built in 1935 and the interiors are like being in palace buildings. Some 6.6 million people travel a day on the system  (7 million on weekends!) with 182 stations. The tunnels go as deep as 84 metres. The trains are old and scream, rattling at alarming speeds along the tracks and then screech to a very abrupt stop. Every long train on the system runs every 90 seconds. In our 4 days we don't think we once saw another non- Russian on the metro. I am sure fellow travellers were using it, just not in our carriage, or in the station in the same 90 second time frame when we were. Unfortunately there has been 7 major bombings by extremists, the last being only a year ago when 50 people were killed and more than 100 seriously injured. 

What is truly amazing is the variety of styles of dress we see in Moscow. I see perfect replicas of outfits I wore in the late 60's and early 70's alongside the latest and most up to date Paris fashions. Any period over the last 40 years is up to date fashion in Moscow. But the shoes are just the most amazing of all - the highest of heels I have ever seen and often with a platform as well AND they manage to walk long distances, even in the snow!

We spent three busy days sightseeing in Moscow.  First up, we had a 3 hour walking tour with a guide to show us the main areas and how to use the subway. Then we took off on our own to see two UNESCO World Heritage sights, at opposite ends of the city. The first, Church of the Ascension, at Kolonmenskoye was more easily found and we enjoyed wandering around the beautiful gardens it was set in. There were frequent park benches alongside the path and we kept thinking of all those spy movies, where the spy sat on a bench pretending to read a paper and the informer slipped him some information or new identity papers!

The  second UNESCO site, the ensemble of the Nordovichy Convent was a harder to find and after leaving the subway we were given complete wrong directions, so walked about 6 kms in the wrong direction. All was not lost though, as we got to see Gorky Park (of the movie and book fame) by accident. Finally we got to the convent and enjoyed the amazing buildings and even eavesdropped on a traditional Russian Orthodox wedding in progress.

On our last day we put our luggage in storage when we checked out at 12.00 and went out sightseeing again until our evening train to St. Petersburg. This time we paid to go inside the Kremlin but Red square was closed due to preparations for Victory Day celebrations coming up .   

As we headed off on the subway, with our backpacks, to take us to the train station, I can still hear that song "Moscow, Moscow" in my head and we are sad to be leaving. It has been an enjoyable and educational few days but we are looking forward to the grandeur of St Petersburg and the last rail journey for awhile.   
Travel Tips: Pick up a free copy of "Moscow in your pocket" from your hotel, an excellent up to date guide.

Warning: under Adult Entertainment section is a listing for a club called Rasputin, boasting a fine restaurant and better than average stage show. We decided to eat there and took the subway to the address, the entrance has no sign other than "Karaoke". Not sure if it was because of our age, our nationality or because we were a couple, but we were refused entry on the excuse it was closed. The ad advises open 24 hours, and with a girl and two blokes on the door and a waitress in the background, we know when we are not wanted.

There are several Expat clubs in Moscow including the Australian and New Zealand Social Group (AUSKI)  

Footnote: Kremlin and the Red Square, Moscow and Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye and Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent are all UNESCO World Heritage listed. Red Square was also an official Finalist in the New Seven Wonders Of The World.
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