Russia Diary #6: Moscow part I

Saying goodbye to Murmansk, we returned to city life with our last destination – Moscow. Although we were tired after an early morning flight, the sun was shining, so we took advantage of it by walking to Red Square. You don’t know how much you’d miss the sun until you don’t see it for days on end – in Saint Petersburg we only had 6 hours of daylight each day (and it was barely light, as the sky was overcast most days), and in Murmansk even less, while in Moscow we actually had nearly 9 hours of daylight. What luxury!

Anyway, my first impression of Moscow is that it is a livelier and more urban city than Saint Petersburg – as fitting its status as the capital – despite being nearly 600 years older. Also, it feels more Russian than Saint Petersburg, which has more of a European feel. This is probably because Moscow’s architecture is more traditional Russian, especially around Red Square. As it was a bit late to go into the Kremlin, we just strolled around looking at all the colorful buildings and popped into GUM Department Store to warm up and try its delicious ice cream (made with the same recipe since Soviet time!)

Classic view of Red Square, with the Kremlin on one side and St. Basil’s Cathedral on the other

Lenin’s Mausoleum – it’s free, but we didn’t check it out. We have our own mummified leader, thank you very much

GUM’s facade is being taken over by a Winter Festival, which will be up until March (they love their Christmas celebration here)

GUM’s interior and its delicious ice cream – caramel and chocolate are two of the best flavors

A wedding photoshoot outside GUM

Moscow River

The very Russian interior of Varenichnaya No. 1 restaurant

I highly recommend visiting the Red Square at night as well – it got all lit up and was exceedingly pretty.

The next day, we went on another walking tour. Though we’d walked around ourselves the day before, it was still fun to learn more about the city from a local guide. For example, he advised us to lower our expectations for the interior of St. Basil’s Cathedral – because it’s a series of chapels built next to each other, it won’t be the large, grandiose church inside. For that, he recommended the Church of the Savior, which is free to enter (we ended up going to neither, since we’d had our full shares of churches in Saint Petersburg.) We also got to see the Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was great fun (though I felt sorry for the guards, having to stand there in the cold for an hour each day.)

Two of the many churches of Moscow (near our Airbnb)

St. Cyril and St. Methodius – the ones responsible for the Cyrillic alphabet

Murmansk’s “Hero City” plaque and one of the Kremlin’s towers

The Changing of the Guards (too bad the monument itself is under renovation)

After lunch, it started snowing quite heavily, so we took refuge in the famous Metro stations of Moscow. Armed with a map, we simply traveled around the circle line (which has the most beautiful stations) and stopped at whichever station that caught our eyes. A ticket costs only 40RUB and you can change lines as much as you want (as long as you don’t exit the station), so this may be the best and cheapest thing to do in Moscow.  I was blown away by the level of workmanship and artistry at each station. Each is truly like a mini palace. We didn’t get to see them all, but we did get a good glimpse of them before the rush hours started and we had to head home.

Prospekt Mira station

Novoslobodskaya Station with its stained glass windows is my favorite

Krasnopresenskaya Station

Arbatskaya Station

Kievskaya Station

Ploschad Revolyutsii (Revolution Square, aka Red Square) Station – rubbing the dog and the rooster is supposed to bring you luck

Stay tuned for the last installment!

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