We had perfect weather in Moscow- cool temperatures and beautiful blue skies with lovely clouds and sunlight shining on gorgeous architecture. I felt as if we were walking inside of a classical painting. It was our first city that felt European. It was also our first experience of being mistaken for locals- people asked us for directions many times, at least we think they did, since it was all rapid Russian and we could not understand! Our rental apartment was comfortable and we cooked there, we could get delicious cheese and bread and fruit from a grocery store, we had a giant bathtub and great views from the 12th floor, the highest in the building. We used the subway, which was inexpensive and had frequent trains. People were usually helpful when we asked for directions but somewhat standoffish in general- we were rarely given unsolicited smiles and no one asked for a photo- but occasionally we were approached by English speakers who were quite friendly. We knew we wouldn’t be celebrities like we were in Asia but people weren’t as stern as we expected either.
When we first arrived, it was 4am and though the sun shone brightly, the subway wasn’t even open yet. We had a break at a diner where patrons were enthusiastically drinking beer despite the early hour. We found our rental apartment after some wandering, left our bags and headed back out. After a detour through a very swanky shopping district (we needed a computer store), we went to Red Square.
Shopping district (above) included an entire mall with children’s shops (below)
I was drawn to St. Basil’s Cathedral like a bug to a flower and wow what a flower! The place is colorful with unexpected dollops of more color and exuberant design. Strange that it was begun in 1555 to commemorate Ivan the Terrible’s war victories. Apparently he built several churches for this reason. Anyway, now it is a museum and I feel very lucky we got to go inside and check it out. We also watched a changing of the guard at the Kremlin wall that day. A different day we returned and went into Lenin’s tomb, where his 100-year old corpse is preserved to celebrate communism and freak out the younger generation.
Mao’s mausoleum happened to be closed while we were in Beijing so this was our first experience like this. It was creepy but also interesting to contemplate the importance of this one person who’s relatively short life (he died in his early 50’s) affected millions. The kids got yelled at by a guard for talking, by the way.
St. Basil’s inside and out:
One of the buildings is a very fancy mall. Fiercely outside, fountain inside:
It’s a beautiful whitewashed stone structure with a wooden roof. It served as a merchant and trade building for a time and when later the traders became ambassadors it was a court. It was restored in the mid-1990’s when Queen Elizabeth visited. I’m not sure I would recommend it (cost more and not a lot to see relative to other sites nearby) but it was nice and the kids were interested so I’m glad we went.
Gorky park- I mean Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure has rental skates/scooter/bikes and many paths. Bring your passport or they won’t rent to you! We found this out the hard way. We were at the western end of park, which runs on the east bank of Moskva River. We crossed an amazing bridge to get there.
Bridge and view from the bridge:
One more thing I have to mention- ‘kbac’pronounced kind of like ‘kras’. It is a grain-based, mildly sweet, beer-like drink with a negligible alcohol content. It looks fairly easy to make and I want to try to make it at home someday. So delicious! This post brought to you by KBAC!