Moscow and St Petersburg
Trip Start May 02, 2012
64Trip End Jul 31, 2014
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Where I stayed
But WOW – Moscow is AMAZING!! Our hotel was very close to the Red Square (the so-called heart of Moscow historically, geographically and spiritually)
On our first day in Moscow we joined The Free Walking Tour of Moscow and spent about 3 hours being shown around. The guide depends on tips as payment for the tour and it was extremely well done, and gave us a good idea of how and when to see things. Although our Moscow sightseeing was limited to the tourist area around Red Square, we got the impression that it is a clean, wealthy, well-run city. There is lots of renovation taking place, and everything is kept in good condition. The streets and sidewalks were being cleaned regularly with spray hoses from big vehicles and the gardens in every area were in top condition. We saw more very expensive big black cars than we have ever seen in one place before, and the shops are stocked with everything. The exclusive shopping centre on Red Square – called GUM - has all the top brand names including Tiffany and De Beers. (GUM was the showpiece shopping centre in Soviet Russia and existed in a time when there was nothing on the shelves in other shops, and people had to queue for days at GUM in order to perhaps buy food or clothes…). We did find a good restaurant in GUM that served typical Russian food, at reasonable prices. The other supermarkets in the vicinity of where we stayed were worth a visit just to see the wide range and choice of goods on offer
We also enjoyed watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier alongside the Kremlin wall. Every hour the guards change and we saw it 3 times – as we were often in that area of the Kremlin alongside the Alexander Garden, which is a favourite gathering place for Muscovites! We also enjoyed a pedestrian precinct called Arbut Street. It was always busy with musicians, artists, curio stalls, food and coffee places, bikers, and instead of Elvis lookalikes, they had Stalin lookalikes – dressed in full military regalia!!!!
An interesting thing in Russia is that no tobacconist is allowed to display his wares – the shop windows are all covered over with plain paper, and in the supermarkets the cigarette "boxes" above the cashier were blanked out. ID had to be shown to buy cigarettes ….. and yet you can buy vodka freely anywhere!!!
Unfortunately we had to leave Moscow after only a few days. We could have spent a lot more time there.
We caught the renowned “Red Arrow” train (Krasnya Strela) at midnight from Moscow to St Petersburg
We arrived at 8am in St Petersburg, too early to book into our hotel, so leaving our bags at the hotel, we took a hop-on-hop-off bus around St Petersburg. WOW again!!! These cities are just so full of serious history and serious bling!! In St Petersburg our hotel is again very central – close to the main avenue, Nevsky Prospekt. And we have been walking and walking again. I think that I may have lost a bit of weight, but I certainly am a lot fitter. To cross the wide, busy roads (especially in Moscow) we have had to often use the underground steps – up and down …… quite a challenge for the unfit!!!!). The drivers in Russia drive VERY fast but are particularly aware of pedestrians, and you just have to be anywhere near a pedestrian crossing for them to slow down and stop to let you cross.
They call St Petersburg the Venice of Russia and aptly so…. I didn’t realize how many rivers and canals there are here. The city is spread over a number of islands
Yesterday we took the underground and then a 40 minute minibus (marshrutka) ride, to visit Peterhof – a palace built by Peter the Great as a country retreat. It is located just outside St Petersburg on The Gulf of Finland. Having seen enough “bling” we decided not to go into the Palace itself …. in any case the grounds, with over 140 fountains, is the main attraction. We returned to St Petersburg by hydrofoil – again a wonderful outing! We have enjoyed the “white nights” here with the sun hardly setting, and sunglasses needed at 10pm
So we have come to the end of our time in Russia, and feel that we have hardly scratched the surface of what there is to see… perhaps we will return one day to spend more time here.
Tomorrow we leave by plane for Paris, and then to Bordeaux where we join up with Andy’s brother Ian and his wife, Elspeth, to barge for a week with friends of theirs who live in France. Then, finally, to England for the wedding in 10 days time of Andy’s nephew, Andrew.
So I think that this may well be the last blog on this trip… but if there is time I may post from the barge!!!
So, with a rather cheesy ending - from Russia with Love!