Saint Basil's cathedral
Moscow - where to begin? Well, to start with, it is maybe worth pointing out that this is the capital city of the present-day Russian Federation, and the economic and political hub of the entirity of the former Soviet Union, so clearly the largest city located in the world's largest country is a prominent place for sure, and was worked into this traveller's ongoing itinerary. Moscow is an immense place for sure, and a city of superlatives, but sadly, those statistics also include those lesser attractive facts such as 'priciest city on the continent', and 'city with the world's highest average hotel room cost', so to combat the high costs potentially incurred, a hotel in a suburban location was booked, and I was determined to get my teeth into Moscow and see what it all entailed.
The Bolshoi Theatre
Red Square and the Kremlin are as good a reference point as any with which to commence one's itinerary, and in this very area, Russia's most photographed building, Saint Basil's cathedral, is located, which is photogenic for all the right set of reasons. This is also the area which hints most at Moscow's status as an economic powerhouse, and those with cash a-plenty might well be spotted wandering around the stores located in Moscow's legendary Gum department store, now closely resembling a collection of high-class stores in upmarket shopping mall format. Heading off in any direction from this area is where Moscow's famous landmarks are located, such as the Bolshoi theatre and the cathedral of Kazan
, to name but two.
One of seven Stalinist skyscapers
Walking down Tverskay Street reveals more of the type of traffic-clogged urbanization with which you would associate the city, but thankfully, the city's main tourist drag, the souvenir-store flanked Arbat street is pedestrianized, and thus allows for a relatively stress-free stroll along it, without being overly concerned about the urban chaos necessitating the 'eyes in the back of your head' to pop out. In some respects, the more the journey unfolded, the more I began to draw parallels between Moscow and Tokyo, as in essence, both are capitals of prominent nations, and both are indeed enormous cities which are actually easier than you would think to break down into manageable units, as they come across as being cities composed of a cluster of villages, each with their own identity.
Cool architecture of Arbat street
The usual hunt for foreign CDs actually enabled this kind of discovery process to take place, and yielded such treats as visiting the cool-looking district of Novokutsnaya, with a commercial and social hang-out kind of atmosphere which I would associate with select areas of Tokyo. Moscow's eateries can be on the pricey side, depending on the area, but on the more positive end of this scale, look out for the chain of restaurants which goes by the name of 'Moo Moo', as they are ubiquitous in Moscow and fulfil their intended purpose as an enhanced cafeteria with filling and reasonably-priced food. Seven Stalinist skyscrapers are dotted around various areas of Moscow, outlining the city's preserved past, and areas which formerly buzzed, such as Gorky park, are now more sedate and are far more than the youth hang-out spot of times gone by.
Riding Moscow's monorail is a great way to see a couple of landmarks in the area of the Ostankino TV tower, such as the museum of astronautics, and the majestic park areas located close by. The trek around present-day Moscow ended with a jaunt around Izmailovo market, effectively a showcase of all the souvenirs and memorabilia with which you would associate Russia through the ages, and was thus such fabulous scope for browsing, that it concluded the Moscow experience exactly as was originally intended - very memorably. Moscow may not actually be for everyone, as it can indeed be tiresome getting from A to B, although if the immaculate designs of the metro stations interiors does not appeal, then I fear for the state of your cardboard heart, plastic soul and vastly diminished sense of imagination. So in a nutshell, this must-see city delivered, and I was left with a sense of fulfilment which validated the airfare alone, so with that in place, Russia gets my casting vote because of the nature of the substance it is composed of - with or without the furry bearskin souvenir hats.......