I like history. Now, once you’re finished rolling your eyes I’ll tell you that I won’t stay on the topic but just wanted to mention a quick history, in point form, of how Russia came to be.
Was it really that painful? I know I’m missing a lot but I got all this information from walking tours around Moscow. (FYI- Moscow’s nickname is white stone city, Kremlin means fortress and many Russian cities have a Kremlin) okay, I’ll move on.
So what is Moscow like? It is a very grand city. Big buildings, wide roads, amazing architecture and lots of underground infrastructure (to escape the winter) and like everyone says, their metro is world class. I had to develop a system for reading it. Luckily, a lot is written in English now but not every sign so I stuck to Cyrillic and I always found my way. It is also a very fashionable city. I think it’s part of a bolder statement as under communism there wasn’t much choice in clothing. The Moscow weather was in full cooperation and the days were sunny and the nights warm.
Also, I’ve had a very hard time adjusting my body to the time here. Probably the hardest jet lag I’ve ever had to shake off. I’m still not all the way there and it’s been a week.
The Moscow Subway/Metro: Deserves some serious recognition. Marble archways and pillars decorate what was meant to inspire the workers of the communist capital. The metro is also very deep underground. So deep in fact that some people sit on the steps of the escalators until the reach their floor. They’re also very deep underground because they were meant to double as fallout shelters in case of nuclear war. Also, it’s very cheap. 30 roubles buys you one trip. That’s a little less than a dollar Canadian. My system involved looking for the first three letters in Cyrillic of my stop. Lines are coloured so you know which one to take but using the three letters trick I never made a mistake on which direction to go.
Red Square: On TV is looks massive, and it is big, but not massive. I could not get a decent shot since there was a huge military tattoo being conducted in the coming weeks. Most of the Square was setup with bleachers and performance areas. St. Basil’s Cathedral sits on the south side and Lenins tomb sits near the west edge next to the Kremlin wall. You can tell how old it really is by how smooth the brick is under your feet, almost as if it was taken from the sea. The best time to get your selfie in front of St. Basil’s is anywhere from 11pm to 6am. Sound crazy? It is, but there is always someone in red square. So the odds of getting a clean shot is around then. Plus Moscow looks better at night.
The GUM: A huge expensive shopping mall next to red square. Famous for always being stocked with lots of goods even after world war two so that communist party members and family could purchase the things they wanted while the worker class had stamps for one potato and maybe an onion. I tried kvass (pronounced vas) while there. It’s fermented from rye bread and raisins then carbonated. I could only stand a few sips before it was just tongue-torture and the look on my face was a mix of revolt and the surprise of a self inflicted wound. Then I felt like repenting all my sins on the spot. Okay I’m exaggerating but not by much.
Walking: Muscovite’s will give any New Yorker a run for their money when it comes to city walking. My legs were constantly throbbing after a couple days of hitting the streets. Maps can be deceiving, a place can look much closer or much further than it really is. So FYI- on Moscow maps, its further. It doesn’t help that I try to walk to most places in a city I can. But really, I just had to take the metro more. Even the excuse of saving a few bucks is bad defence since the metro is so cheap.
Since I wasn’t able to adjust my sleeping pattern I had a difficult time trying to get to all of the sites in Moscow. However, in my next post I will discuss some of the walking tours I went on. This included a free walking tour, a Kremlin tour, a communist tour and a night tour.
Moscow has a current population of…. ah alight I’ll shutup.