The flight from Berlin to Moscow Vnukovo was pretty normal and I slept most of it anyway. It took a while to get through passport control at the Moscow airport though it was pretty cool to see the page numbers and harps go psychedelic under the ultraviolet light. I took my time getting out of the airport. It was only 1500 and I was happier looking around and finding the right way to go rather than heading off into the blue yonder. Managed to pick up some money from an ATM. Yipee. So I headed out of the terminal (which I didn't want to have to enter again as I would have had to go through security and get my bags x-rayed). Turned left and followed the picture signs for the train.
My hostel is in this street.
Unfortunately they stopped without any sign of a train or trainstation! Time to try out the little russian I know. So I asked someone did they understand english! *grin* Ok, that IS all the russian I know! Anyway, they pointed over to the multi-storey car park and said the train station was behind it. At this point there were a few people walking off past the car park so I thought I'd follow them. So, found the station, got a ticket (76 rubles = 1pound 50p) and waited for the train which only seems to go once an hour. Very comfortable train. Took about 35 minutes to make it to Moscow - kievsky station which is also a metro station. So, then I had to get a metro ticket - actually very easy since one ticket = one ride, costs 16rubles! Then, down into the metro - just keep going down.
Looking up into Red Square.
Very impressive escalators. You go down very deep to reach the trains, but then the metro stations can act as bombshelters! Thankfully I've used the tube quite abit and understand the standing to the right bit! By the time I got to the trains it was rush hour. Ick. me and my full rucksack and daypack trying to get onto a metro train. They sure loved me. Anyway, I waited for a couple of trains until a less full one came along and squeezed in. The doors close very quickly and without any warning. I think I may have been pulled further into the train by some russian so that my bags didn't get caught in the doors!
I had to change lines, which would seem to be a relatively easy procedure, but considering the signs are in cyrillic and you are having to try to figure out which train goes i your direction, and then also the fact that the same train station has different names on different lines! So slightly more difficult that the tube.
One of the Churches at the Kremlin - the Annunciation Cathedral
But I managed fine (which impressed some of the people I met at the hostel when I arrived - thought it was very brave to tempt the metro on arrival *shrug*)
The hostel was abit scary at first. It's a brown battered, well armoured door in the side of a building. You ring reception from there and they open the door. Then it is up well-worn, strangely yellow and green painted stairs that are broken and chipped and in a dark stairwell. You really wonder what you've booked yourself into. Still the people, the hostel staff and also the other travellers, are all very helpful and friendly and the bed is actually very comfortable - then again it is from IKEA! There are alot of americans. But also some english and australians.
At one of the other churches in the Kremlin - Assumption Cathedral.
My first day in Moscow was really just spent wandering around the neighbourhood and relaxing. I was somewhat stressed out just before going on this trip so this has been my first time to try and calm down, catch up on sleep and relax. Not far from the hostel is a small theatre and opera and it has a nice little park in front of it. I went there and watched the russians enjoy their Sunday. The park is full of tulips. All different colours. They make a very very good show. In fact I have now noticed that russians seems to really like tulips as they are everywhere. The really keep their parks in good order, and there is alot of planting going on all the time. Oh, just remembered than in Berlin I found the city very clean - you come out of the underground and are surrounded by the smell of trees.
Church at the Kremlin - the Annunciation Cathedral
Moscow is perhaps not as clean as Berlin but I wouldn't say smelly or dirty. Certainly not like London.
On my first day of sightseeing, I went with a couple of girls I've met at the hostel - Laura and Zayera. We toodled off to try and get into the armoury at the Kremlin. This is more difficult that it would appear. There are only set times when you can get into the armoury and tickets supposedly only go on sale 45 minutes before the 'tour' time. We tried 2 different ticket booths but they said it had sold out and that tickets for the next session were not yet on sale..Doh. It was more than 45 minutes before the session that had sold out. Anyway we then went to the entrance to the kremlin where there are a couple of soldiers and metal detectors and told them we needed to buy our tickets inside at the booth there.
At the Kremlin - Poteshny Palace.
I'm not sure what Laura actually said but we were allowed to go through and we did manage to buy tickets. Horray. Since Zayera and myself had not seen the Kremlin and churches we also bought tickets for there and went to see some of those before going into the Armoury. You can only have a look inside the various churches, which are very impressive - see the photos. I think I am going to get sick of churches very quickly as they are 'on every corner'. Still at this early stage the decoration and ornate styles are impressive if not beautiful. In the Armoury, you get to see a lot of things like, dress through the russian ages, carriges of the tsars and tsarinas, armour, jewellry, icon decoration, tableware, etc....
Looking out from the Gate in the Kremlin Wall.
... Some of it is pretty. But I guess, particularly coming from Europe where there are many museums with this sort of stuff it's not that impressive (or maybe I am just a heathen and don't appreciate it). While walking around the kremlin, if you step of the pavement or walk on the grass or basically where you are not supposed to, you get very sharply whistled at and a guard waving his baton. Sometimes, the very scary men in black appear - dark suits and sunglasses! It is all very orderly and you are most definietly going to see only what you are let see.
Time for some additions. Sorry for the spelling mistakes so far - I can't be bothered to fix them now!
OK, so after the Kremlin, we walked round to Red Square which is literally around the corner.
World Art Fair is on in this building. Moscovites like their tulips.
At this point it started to rain. Actually, the heavens opened and continuously poured buckets of water on us. Luckily I was prepared with my trusty blue rainjacket. Laura was not so prepared and was dressed in shorts and T-shirt! It got quite cold as well! Anyway, Red Square is a large rectangle of cobbles, Lenin's Mausoleum is on one side, GUM department store is facing the Mausoleum, St. Basil's Cathedral is at the bottom of the square and the State History Muesum is at the top. Although we didn't go into any of these buildings on this day, I'll mention them now since I did visit them later in the week.
St. Basil's Cathedral - this is the church everyone associates with Red Square, the one with the brightly coloured domes.
It is actually very nice inside. Not as ornate as all the other churches I've seen, but it is like a little maze of small rooms. Very oldy-worldy, walls are dusty red and not so many paintings on them. There are alot of tourists in it so not a very 'peaceful' place but more so than the churches in the Kremlin I felt.
GUM department Store - full of international shops so quite expensive. It is beautiful inside and very quite so a nice place to find a seat and rest, away from the bustle of tourists outside. There was an exhibition to Leonardo Di Vinci while I was there - models of alot of his drawings. The man really was an unbelievable genius. The roof of the building is glass and there are huge chandeliers handing from this.
Red Sqaure in the rain!
It is very very elegant and I'm sure the cafes and bars in it are very expensive! One thing I noticed was, that you can easily get to the next floor by escalator but then to get back down you have to try and find the stairs which are cleverly concealed!
State History Museum - Nice red coloured building. Don't know what it is like inside. *shrug*
Lenin's Mausoleum - This is not open everyday. When it is open, Red Square is barricaded so you can only walk around the perimeter. You queue at the bottom of a hill, the police let through about 10 people at a time. You walk up the hill to a side door in the State History Musuem where you check in your bags,cameras and mobiles that have cameras on them (you can take an ordinary mobile with you?! Supposedly you aren't allowed a camera/camera-phone as someone tried to blow up Lenin with a camera.
St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square.
....doesn't quite follow why you are allowed to take a basic mobile with you!). Then you walk over to the soldiers and the metal detectors. I went with Zayera this day and she was wearing steel-toecap shoes! The guards had her walk back and fro through the detector.... I was laughing alot since obviously it didn't matter how many times she went through she was still going to set it off! I finally managed to point at her shoes. The guard, at least, found it funny too. This is at the bottom of Red Sqaure so you then walk to the Mausoleum. There are alot of soldiers inside. They are all very very respectful of Lenin and make sure everyone else is too. No hats, no hands in your pockets, no talking, no stopping and standing for more than about 10 seconds.
I was very impressed. It was a very peaceful place and the Russians have great respect for Lenin.
Other places in Moscow I visited:
Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery - A lovely old convent made up of 4 or 5 buildings inside a wall. Most monasteries/convents were built like forts and many still have these outer walls though maybe in different states of repair. It was a very peaceful place. The buildings are intact thought they are showing their age. There were many yound artists sitting in the grounds drawing. Access to the cemetery is down the road from the convent. Maybe I really am strange (don't all jump to agree) but I really liked the cemetery. Orthodox cemeteries generally have a lot of trees growing everywhere - the graves seem to be pebble-dashed through the trees.
This makes them peaceful and restful places so 'nice places to be buried'. The gravestones are ornate by our standards - statues, pictures of the deceased engraved, other relevant engravings. Some marvelous headstones. You can buy a map to the graveyard which highlights a number of the famous people buried there. Unfortunately it is so vague that you haven't much of a hope of finding the exact grave. I did find Prokofiev's grave.
Another Church worth seeing is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This also has the advantage of being free to get in, although you have to go through a metal detector. Again, the security people make sure you are suitablly respectful. The church is beautiful both inside and out.
There are many statutes adorning the walls outside (of which I have numerous photos!) and inside the gold is rather more tasteful than in the other churches I've seen. It is close to the river and you can get a fantastic view of the church from the bridge.
Zayera and myself took a riverboat cruise down the river which lasted about 1.5 - 2 hours. (I can't remember exactly). This is really nice as it requires alot of sitting down! It also gives you really good views of the Kremlin and the other 'important' sites in Moscow. It passes the Olympic Stadium (was it 1956 that the Moscow Games were boycotted??) which is now used as a big sports centre.
So now I've seen Moscow. To be honest, it is not a city I think I will be back in.
I've been here, seen it and now for something else. I guess coming from Europe where there is so much history and fantastic buildings and artefacts to remember it by that Russia seems lacking in something. The Kremlin in Moscow should be impressive but if you didn't have time to see it, you haven't really missed much. It is hard to get a sense of the history, hard to be overwhelmed by the heritage. Seemingly though, you really need to spend some time in Moscow to get to know the real Moscow so maybe I have missed something.....