It’s time to write something down about Moscow, the capital of Russia and formerly the whole Soviet Union. Being a history addict I wanted a hit, I couldn’t wait to see the marks the USSR had left on this city and I certainly got my fix! Moscow is a big big city, I guess as it’s the main city in the world’s largest country that shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, when we do short trips into Europe the places are often small and I guess I was still in this mindset when we arrived, the size was bigger than I expected. As Moscow is certainly nearer the likes of London and New York than Copenhagen etc I’ve decided not to write in too much detail as it’s just too big, I’m going to do a top 5 things to do on a shoestring budget instead. Here it goes…
1. Stroll around Red Square (in our case, literally around it as we couldn’t go in)
In Italy last year we were plagued by scaffolding throughout our trip, 2015 has hit us with more bad luck – Red Square, the main place in the whole city, was off limits for the public for the whole of our visit. Russia suffered more deaths than any other country during the Second World War, every year a big parade is held to commemorate the efforts of those who fought. This is a big deal in Russia and the whole square is cut off so people can rehearse their lines. So sadly we never stood in the middle of Red Square but even walking around it you could take in it’s beauty. St Basil’s Cathedral is the prettiest building you’ll ever see. Ivan the Terrible, the Russia ruler who commissioned it, blinded the architects when they told him they were able to build an even more beautiful structure so he’s the reason you won’t find a more aesthetically-pleasing building! St Basil’s isn’t the only attraction in the square, you’ve also got GUM – a luxury department store, the fancy state museum and a wall of the Kremlin too.
2) Stare in awe at the fabulous underground stations
This one sounds a bit mental but hear me out. I live near London so it isn’t a novelty for me to use an underground, I’m not being easily impressed here – Moscow’s metro stations are incredible. They seemed to be incredibly deep, apparently they were meant to be emergency bunkers in case of a nuclear attack during the Cold War. The stations were built for the people and they were treated to beautiful pieces of art to enjoy on their commutes. As the stations were built under Stalin’s rule the focus is naturally on communism(or at least Stalin’s warped version of communist), there are plenty of hammer and sickle signs. Below you can see a sculpture of a dog, touching his nose is good luck – as you might’ve guessed by his shininess.
3) Visit Putin, enter the Kremlin!
Okay, okay… so we didn’t see Vladimir but entering into the Kremlin via Alexander Gardens was still well worth doing. Alexander Gardens are impeccably well-kept, as we went in spring time the flowers were blooming and gardeners were out adding the finishing touches. There is a cool mix of buildings inside the Kremlin, we saw plenty of Orthodox Churches and then the government buildings, as you’re quite high you get a nice view of Moscow river too. We didn’t stay there too long as it was near the end of the day, I’m sure there’d be interesting things to see if we gave it more time. Below are pictures of Alexander Gardens and a view of the Kremlin across the Moscow river.
4) Take in some (more) history in the Fallen Monument Park.
For those who aren’t too interested in history this park might not be of much interest. It’s basically a collection of statues and monuments that were around during the Soviet era, there were an army of Lenins and Stalins but sadly no Trotskys. Some of the statues are 80 years old, I was impressed with their condition. The park itself is nice even if the statues bore you, the view across the river was lovely.
5) Eat Soviet-style in GUM department store
I’ve tried to keep this post to things to do that don’t cost anything, only visiting the Kremlin came at a price so to finish I’ll chose another free thing I enjoyed in Moscow. Our tour guide on the free walking tour recommended eating in a Soviet era canteen on the top floor of the fancy department store. GUM is full of designer shops so this modest little canteen tucked away at the back kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. I was worried that I wouldn’t have much choice as a vegetarian but I had a great meal, I tried buckwheat for the first time. I was glad I got the chance to try some authentic Russian food, the ‘borscht’ we had ordered on the first night turned up with meat in it – every ingredient but the meat had been listed on the menu!
There were plenty of other things I’d recommend doing in Moscow, learning to read Cyrillic is one of them – by the end of the trip we’d become much better at working out metro station names in this funky alphabet! Here’s one more picture to finish the post, it’s of the Bolshoi Theatre, it’s too pretty to be left off this post.
I can’t type in Cyrillic so I’ll try to write goodbye as it sounds in English – dos-vid-dan-ya! If you’ve read this far, have a vodka on me.