I found myself, rather surprised, last Friday morning sitting on a plane with destination Moscow. It’s not like I didn’t know I was going, I just wasn’t sure whether I would get my visa in time. Therefore, I didn’t really want to tell anyone that Moscow was the aim of my Bank holiday, what if my visa was declined and I had to stay in rainy London?
Luckily, Moscow was sunny. Moscow was beautiful. Moscow was a food haven. And The Red Square was closed.
Yes, you can imagine my reaction when a guard told me that I couldn’t enter the square because they were preparing to celebrate Victory Day, a day of festivities to commemorate Germany’s defeat in World War II (He didn’t actually say all this in English, but that’s the gist). Rosie and I were determined to at least take a photo of St. Basil’s church, so we entered G.U.M, Moscow’s answer to Harrods, which runs along the Red Square. They had of course blocked all exists, but when we’d walked past the whole store we saw it: the famous onion domes! And it was absolutely beautiful.
Later, we discovered that if the guard had notified us about the parking lot behind St. Basil’s Church with an excellent view, we (or I) hadn’t needed to fret so much among the Paul Smith, Burberry and Cartier shops.
As Victory Day, and Putin’s inauguration was looming, the Kremlin was also a no-no. No Kremlin Palace, no churches and no Putin (the latter would have been a long shot, but still). So we wandered past the Kremlin walls alongside the river and ended up outside the Cathedral of Christ the Reedemer. This cathedral was demolished by Stalin in the 30s and later re-built in the 90s. It’s incredibly imposing with its white-washed walls and golden domes. We didn’t go in, but were happy enough to have lunch nearby in its presence.
Looking back, Rosie and weren’t great tourists. We were so busy eating and figuring out next place to eat, that we didn’t actually discover much other than the exterior of buildings. We lived right by Pushkin Square, which meant that we could walk everywhere. And we did. We only took the tube once, to peek at the chandeliers and grand interior, but navigating the tube with its Cyrillic letters was a nightmare and meant that we took taxis wherever we could.
The taxi situation on the other hand, was interesting. People had warned us about random taxis without signs cruising the streets. Obviously, we were exposed to them on our first night. We had enjoyed a nice dinner and dance in an area that Rosie described as ‘industrial’. We left the premises and asked for the staff to call us a cab. They were not helpful and we were faced with two options: either jumping into an unknown car (and the ones that asked us for a ride had cars that had passed their expiry date) or walking.
So we chose walking. Let’s say that we explored the Moscow river, the Moscow streets and a Moscow bridge before we managed to find a taxi outside a train station. That was basically our only mishap and after that night it was smooth sailing.
Moscow was all I ever dreamt of and more. I’ve had a fascination for Russia ever since I was a geeky kid, reading about the Russian revolution, and seeing the buildings, the streets and monuments coming to life was something I will never forget. Next trip: St. Petersburg.