To Russia With Curiosity Part 3: Moscow: More than just a Capital – Moscow, Russia

To Russia With Curiosity: Part 3: Moscow: More than just a Capital
Moscow, Russia

Ah! Moscow! I never thought I would set foot on this the capital city of Russia. It would have been great if I visited in the communist days to see the difference.

Red Square
Red Square
Our bus dropped us off under a bridge. We walked up a bit of a steep hill making our way to Red Square. There was a buzz of activity. We were told at about six that evening, the Olympic Torch was to pass through. Too bad we wouldn’t see it as we were scheduled for the Moscow circus. Darn, that would have been so cool!

Around there are many impressive and well-known buildings such as the Kremlin, GUM (Gosudarstvennny Universalny Magazin) or State Department Store – a fancy shopping mall in Moscow.

Red Square. I had to pinch myself standing on this famous landmark and staring at the colourful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, built between 1555-1561, to celebrate Ivan the Terrible capture.

Red Square. Once Soviet rulers had parades through here such as Nov 7, 1941 parade when tanks rolled straight off the front line outside Moscow. Another was during the Cold War to remind the west of Soviet’s military might. Ouch!

Not being a huge circus fan, and wished to see the Olympic Torch, to my surprise I actually enjoyed the trapeze, balancing act, and acrobatics. I didn’t particularly like the animal acts. I was kind of bored and felt sorry for them.

The last two days in Moscow rained. We went inside the Kremlin (built 1485-1500), considered the heart of the country. Inside the Armoury are lots of treasures from the Grand Dukes and Tsars. Rich ornamented weapons, clothing, jewels, carriages transported the elite. The list is endless. Walking from room to room, my head was spinning trying to see everything.

The ladies at the front desk on the riverboat weren’t too keen on my roommate and me going on the subway alone. I’m glad I went. I had the photocopy of my passport though I wished I had a cell phone (and I hate cells) so if I did get stopped by the police, I would call my embassy – the tip I read about. But no one batted an eye.

The weather kind of cut our morning short. Red Square was blocked again like the day before; therefore we couldn’t visit the Lenin’s Tomb of the embalmed leader. Neither of us cared to shop though we walked through GUM, most Russians unfortunately can’t afford the over 1000 stores of imported goods of big names. Instead we would have rather explored the parks. We walked until the rain got to us, stopped for a hot drink along the way then took the subway back to the riverboat in time for lunch.

Ukrainian Themed Metro Stop
Ukrainian Themed Metro Stop
For the afternoon, I signed up for an optional excursion to view different subway stations which could pass for museums rather than a subway. We hopped on and off the subway to visit these stations. And to say it was busy was an understatement. Over nine million use the metro a day – more than London and New York City combined. The first station opened 1935 with early works driven on by project manager Nikita Khrushchev, making thousands work around the clock in dreadful conditions. Many of the stations were built so deep because they were designed to double as bomb shelters.

One station we passed through had Ukrainian theme of different paintings on the wall and ceiling while the next station had various stained-glass arts.

Arabat St. is a pedestrian mall with pastel coloured merchant and tourist-oriented shops and cafes. Hard Rock Cafe is here. As I walked, my umbrella kept turning inside out thanks to the wind.

The last day. Luggage ready to go. I wasn’t. We hung around one of the bars for a couple hours has our taxi ride to the airport didn’t leave until noon. The sun was threatening to come out, which would have made me a little upset since the last two days it rained. But then I couldn’t complain with the unexpected nice weather we did have throughout most of the trip.

Did you read To Russia with Curiosity Part 1 St. Petersburg: Patience is a Virtue? I had problems coming into Russia. Was my lack of visa paper going to be a problem? The travel agent not only had a different flight but left from Sheremtyevo Airport. My flight to London, England departed from Domodedovo Airport.

Since I was helping a gentleman on our tour taking the “extra” bottle of vodka out he bought, I told him, “If I don’t leave Russia, neither will this bottle.”

Custom officer didn’t bat an eye. He took the handwritten exit visa (which I was to have a typed exit visa from Canada) and stamped my passport. Alas I was sitting on the 5:00 p.m. flight.

Read the previous two parts to this story by clicking on the author’s name below.