Tuesday, February 19, 2013

домой из Москвы (home from Moscow!)


With only 72 hours in Moscow I was determined to soak in as much as possible, and mission extremely accomplished! The city of Moscow has so much history to offer (not to mention window shopping) that you constantly have something beautiful to look at. A note for the boys, the women aren't bad either (okay, they're amazing).  We visited a lot of the major landmarks and a few tailored to us...

First up was obviously Red Square. Despite the red of the buildings, the name actually translates from Russian (Красная площадь) as beautiful square. But the word Красная can also mean red, pretty convenient coincidence right? Okay so there is a LOT of history about red square itself, and the different ya know, military things that happened, and if I were to try and tell it to you, I'd royally mess it up. So! Let's just talk about how pretty it is yes? 

The style of the buildings is Moscow Baroque which dates back to the 16th century. St. Basil's Cathedral is a great example of this and what I was most excited about seeing. I had been looking at pictures of it since playing Candyland and couldn't believe I was actually there! On the square you will see the Kremlin, St. Basil's Cathedral, GUM department store (a large mall which was scheduled to be torn down until the wives of the men who worked in the Kremlin had their say), the restored Kazan Cathedral, and Resurrection, or Iberian Gate.

St. Basil's Cathedral

Iberian Gate

Tip: Outside of Iberian Gate is a bronze plaque in the ground marking kilometre zero. Our guide said that this was placed there for tourists, and the actual kilometre zero was at the post office building a few kilometeres away.

Kazan Cathedral


And a kitschy ice skating rink. I kid you not, when we first walked into Red Square as I was bee lining it for St. Basil's I stopped dead in my tracks and realized I was listening to PSY sing Gangnam Style. I don't know which surprised me more, the song or the fact that no one was doing the dance!

We walked around GUM (ГУМ in Russian) and was vaguely reminded of The Forum Shops at Caesar's in Vegas. This is where I got my first hit of 'I guess this is why Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world!' (if the Ferrari dealership across from our hotel didn't give it away). We went into a store and started perusing the liquor section. A prime example of the extravagance is in the below picture. The liquor on the bottom shelf is $1,000 and each shelf goes up by $1,000!

Beautiful architectural details

A little Caesar's Forum-esque, no?

I've never seen bottom shelf liquor be $1,000!

GUM currently has an exhibition (not sure how long it runs for) on Soviet advertising, below were two of my favorites.

When researching what do to in a city, I always like to read about a culture's traditions on love/marriage/dating/etc. Turns out Moscow, like a lot of European cities, has a few lock bridges were couples put a lock on and throw the key into the river below. Moscow turned this into an art installation (and a way to preserve their bridges) by installing these lock trees, made of thick wire that you could put your lock on. The bridge that we went to was across the Vodootvodny Canal. I've read that this bridge is nicknamed the 'Bridge of Kisses'.

As for what mr A was excited about, the Cosmonautics Memorial Museum! We didn't actually go into the museum (it's all in Russian) but the building itself has the Cosmonautics Memorial which is quite a sight! This memorial is located right next to the VDNKH metro stop on the orange line.

We also visited the Izmailovsky market, which unfortunately didn't allow photos. This is a multi-level market where the bottom level is extremely geared toward tourists but as you move up you find more common flea market items (kitchen items, household goods, etc.). That being said, this is where I bought my ushanka (the fuzzy hat) and matryoshka doll. Nick found an original newspaper from the day the Russians went into space!

Tip: Make sure to negotiate the price! We usually start at half the price the vendor first says

The market is easy to walk to from the Izmailovsky Park metro station (our guide mentioned that it was also called Partizanskya station depending on what map you're looking at) on the blue line. In the winter there are less stalls open than in the summer, but there was still plenty to look at. No matter what time of year you go, make sure it's on a weekend.

Can't go to Russia and not bring back Vodka!

Matryoshka Doll

While doing some research of things to do in Moscow, it was hard to avoid Moscow Free Tour. It was mentioned all over trip advisor. And after doing the tour's it's no surprise why. Our guide was Airat, an extremely knowledgeable and personable guy with a noticeable passion for history. Sometimes that could come off as boring and tedious to listen to, but Airat was able to keep everything interesting and light hearted. We only had a limited amount of time in Moscow (three days) so I was worried that devoting an entire day to tours could be a waste but it was the exact opposite! We learned so much and received excellent service (since we were with the same guide all day, he stopped with us between tours to grab a bite!). I can absolutely recommend them with zero hesitation!

A quick note about getting around ...
We used the metro system and found it to be extremely close to everything we wanted to go to. I'd say our biggest issue was that the metro maps that we had (that we got from the metro website!) were all in 'English', while the station's were all in Russian. We spent a lot of time trying to match up letters and guess which station we needed to get off at so bringing a map in Russian would be very helpful.

As for getting from SVO to Moscow, taking the Aeroexpress (sheremetyevo) which leaves every 30 minutes and drops you off right next to a metro station. You can purchase your ticket either at the airport, or online prior to your arrival.

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