Day 1: Amsterdam - Moscow
Moscow Travel Blog› entry 2 of 34 › view all entries
Last Friday afternoon I joked to one of my colleagues: in 48 hours I will be walking on the Red Square. The words sounded strange out of my mouth and gave me a mild panick attack. I always felt some form of excitement shortly before all of my previous trips, but this was really the first time that I was rather nervous, largely because I did not have a clue what to expect from it. Russia just seems such an otherworldly place when you think about it...
I must say, the awkwardness did not disappear on my first day of this tip.
The flight to Moscow was all swift and efficient - only two and a half hours in a plane and we'd crossed the first two time zones on our trip and entered a completely new world.
Moscow has now become the most expensive in the world to live in, and the difference between rich and poor is clearly visible when looking at the cars in the streets alone. The Ladas and Volgas that once characterised Russian roads are still there, but you will see just as many BMWs and Mercedeses in the streets as well. And Bentleys... and Jaguars... and even a Maybach! Yes, a Maybach - there is no way you could ever see one of those in the wild in the streets of Amsterdam I am sure!
Our car that brought us to the hotel was an Opel Vectra though.
Moscow is a big place as well - the drive to our hotel took over one and a half hours before we finally reached our destination. The hotel was indeed how I had anticipated Russa. The Vega hotel is part of a complex which was built for the 1980 Olympics, and consists of four identical Soviet style concrete towerblocks. 28 years later the staff is still happy to point out it was once the largest hotel complex in Europe and it even received an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for that.
Our room on the 28th floor was absolutely awful and looked like it hadn't been refurbished since it was first built, with worn down beds and a carpet full of cigarette burns. Yet somehow it fit perfectly in the whole atmosphere of past glories that this city seems to breathe.
In front of the hotel complex is the Izmailovsky market, a huge souvenir and handicrafts market housed in a Disneyland style collection of buildings that were built to look like medieval Russian architecture. We spent a pleasant couple of hours walking around in this area, and settled for dinner in a wooden church/sawmill shaped restaurant. Unfortunately this place also caters for tour groups, and prefers their clientele to speak Russian with that so we didn't feel particularly welcome here. On top of that about half the menu was sold out (Russian custom, as we learned later) so in the end we just had a couple of beers in this place.
As it was getting later, and we were getting tired (despite the two-hour time difference which actually made it early evening for us) we couldn't be bothered to find anything else and opted for one of the five hotel restaurants instead. Our first meal on this trip was a rather drab and tasteless affair. It reminded me once again to never eat at a hotel restaurant.