I managed to get the airport train, and metro with two changes to arrive at my accommodation only to discover I didn’t have my wallet; just a minor issue! All I could think was that when I was flustered trying to communicate with the ‘english speaking’ metro ticket officer I must have left it on the bench. So, back I went retracing my steps only to have the ‘English speaking’ ticket officer not understand me again and try and sell me another ticket … I’d kept my calm to that point but with a lack of sleep I felt myself start to waiver.
Thankfully, a young Pakistani international student came to my rescue, took me to the police and explained my situation. They looked at me blankly and then a metro worker came over and when the student explained he mumbled something, threw his hands in the air and walked off. That was it, I was convinced I’d just lost $500 cash and was in for a world of hurt cancelling and getting new travel and credit cards.
Then the student turns to me and says “I think they have your wallet, we are to wait”. The worker returns and the student translates a description of the wallet. The worker then hands it to me and proudly indicates to check it. I do and every bit is there! I give my first kisses in Russia and make their day with a generous reward. Couldn’t believe I’d been so careless and so lucky within a couple of hours of each other. I knew from that point I was going to love the Russians!
A new day…must say I felt a little out of place without rollers in my hair while using the hostel kitchen! I’d noticed while strolling last night how smartly the Moscovites dressed. I’d arrived on City Day – Moscow’s weekend of celebrating its birthday and thought it was just the formality of the events but obviously not!
I ventured out mid morning to find the streets reasonably empty. I was surprised given the weekend celebrations. Then I realised the bridge was closed and then a motorcade with a black limo zoomed into the Kremlin. Mr Putin is in the house.
I wandered along part of the Kremlin fortress wall through the lovely Alexander Garden passing the shrine of the unknown soldier and into the Red Square where there were thousands of tourists!
The buildings in Moscow are very grand and none more so than here. The GUM department store was beautiful, housing all the high fashion labels. Thankfully, no tolerance for carrying a new handbag yet!
I had my eye on the wonderfully colourful Cathedral of St Vasily the Blessed (St Basil’s Cathedral). It was lovely inside and out. The mixed colourful onion domes dominating the exterior and the interior full of Icon paintings surrounded by lovely folk art adorned walls. Just lovely.
I made my way toward the river where I came across the very modern Zaryadye Park, which showcases the four climates of Russia. Being a bit of a cold frog I passed on the ice cave!
The boats were luring me next so I jumped on for a couple of hours round trip. We travelled along Gorky Park, which is like Southbank on steroids and turned just after the gondolas that take people from the stadium to the other side.
The Moscow metro carries 7 million people a day and is the size of New York and Paris metros combined…in other words it is huge! It is also known for its beautiful stations so, not scared off by my earlier metro experience, I ventured off with my list of the best stations to visit. From bronze statues lining each column to stained glass window columns and ornate mosaic pieces on the ceiling. A fantastic way to spend a couple of hours for five dollars!
Jet lag was still affecting me but it works well to be up exercising before fellow guests are occupying the spaces. Fed and watered it was off to the Kremlin.
The four main features of the Kremlin that can be visited are the Armoury, the Cathedral Architectural Square, the Ivan the Great Belltower and the Diamond Fund. I was up for all.
The Armoury was amazing with its incredible display of gold and silverware, armour (even the horses’ stirrups were bejeweled), carriages, thrones and the amazing gowns of former priests and royalty. It was spectacular.
The Cathedral Square didn’t disappoint either – the interiors of the Cathedrals (rearing place for numerous czars and other dignitaries) were like nothing I’d seen in the world yet. They were stunning. The climb up the Ivan the Great Bell tower was worth it for the fantastic view of the square.
Finally I got to ogle at the diamonds in the Diamond Fund. You were essentially ushered into a safe – it was just amazing.
With the Kremlin done I decided to wander up to the Bolshoi Theatre and the Metropole Hotel. En-route I was approached by a couple of dapper looking older gentlemen who introduced themselves and asked if I’d like to join them for a drink or a coffee. While I was impressed by the qualifying their linen suits I politely declined.
My feet and legs were killing me from all the walking. My room mate, Angela from The Netherlands, was feeling the same so we ventured off to a nearby local cuisine restaurant that’s part of a chain. It was a bit of a laugh being adorned with the oversized costume headwear and quite a surprise to see what we would be served. Thankfully my herring salad prices a winner!
Last day to just wander. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was around the corner from my accommodation so I started there. As the main Cathedral of Moscow it was even more impressive than those in the Kremlin. I took the roof terraces option for a birds eye view of Moscow. It had a lift up to the offices located st the very top of the Cathedral but of course they opted to make visitors walk.
Next I got to the queue in Red Square for a viewing of Lenin in the Mausoleum only to be told the person in front of me was the last who’d be allowed in for the day. I’d tried to get there twice before to find it closed so obviously wasn’t meant to visit!
By now I was feeling a little hungry so jumped on the metro to visit a recommended restaurant in the well heeled district of the Patriarch Ponds (noting there’s actually only one pond!). My first borscht experience and it didn’t disappoint.
I spent the early evening sitting by the river in a lovely park watching the locals walking and thinking about how different Moscow had been to my imagination. There are few remnants of communist Russia here instead there’s a real air of wealth and affluence from what seems, at least on the surface, a prospering capitalist society.