I’ve now spent nearly 50 days living in Moscow in the last calendar year. Having spent so much time there, and seeing how much information I’ve come across in research that either didn’t help me, was inaccurate, or just plain didn’t exist, I present to you my top 7 thoughts about traveling to Moscow, Russia. Some of these topics could easy become their own post (such as food!).
My first view of Moscow was late at night; approximately 12:30am is when we left. Over 24 hours into my visit to Russia, I had some jet lag to fight. This was a partial reason for my delayed entrance to Moscow’s City Centre.
As with any big city, and even at one in the morning, we waited through about 15 minutes of traffic just a couple of miles down the main freeway. (Do Muscovites call those major road freeways?) Luckily, we were mostly on our way after the unexpected and annoying delay.
Before I knew it, several minutes later, we had reached the center. Driving the different streets of the center of Moscow, I saw aspects of the big tourist spots: the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and various other places.
My first impression was noticing how similar this was to most other major cities to where I’ve been: traffic, companies everywhere, pubs/bars, crazy drivers, flashy signs and billboards. It was also noticing the differences: position of stop lights, how many crazy drivers there are, uniqueness of buildings, banner advertisements hanging in the middle of the streets. Moscow was so similar yet so different.
My first real taste of Moscow was a ride down the beautiful subway system. Moscow arguably has the most beautiful subway in the world. Many of the stops have beautiful architecture with a lot of attention to detail. It was as though most inner city stops were planned to be lavish. As you travel outward, at least to the north on our line, the stops lose their appeal.
With a quick stop to exchange my money, we were on our way to eat. My first meal out to eat in Moscow? Underground mall fast food! Under the Kremlin area is a huge mall. Once you depart the subway looking area and enter the mall area, it’s very similar to any other mall you’ve ever been to. There are several levels of shops to peruse or at which to window shop. It was so unusual but quite fascinating.
The Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the rest of central Moscow was my tourist climax. It’s where all people must go, it’s where most tourists take photos and it’s the very well kept up. Being that it was the holiday season, lights were on many buildings and an ice skating rink was setup by the GUM (mall). There I was, standing in front of St. Basil, the icon of what Russia was to me.
In general, central Moscow reminds me of most larger metropolitans like New York City, Boston, or Washington D.C. Some would find it a little dirty, most would pay more attention to the uniqueness of its architecture and layout. For instance, sometimes you can’t cross the road. You literally have to take a tunnel to get to the other side. It’s these differences which kept me wondering what I was going to see next.
I will finally update my blog very soon with photos and blog posts about my trip and my impressions. Russia is not at all what the Internet wants you to believe, the language is beautiful and very difficult to learn, and I didn’t see nearly as much as I wanted to.
Another trip back? Maybe…
In just thirty days, I will be touching down on international soil for the first time since my trip to Germany. My thirst for traveling has finally caught up for me and I need to quench it with a last spontaneous trip to see a land of which I know so little.
It hit me mid last year that I really wanted to get out of the country for a while to see something new. Germany was quite an eye opener, and my appetite was whet for more. My urge to travel abroad has only grown in the last year, but knowing I didn’t have the funds to make it happen was my main crutch.
Over a month ago, knowing I had a lot of friends all over the place, I began looking around, pricing plane tickets to several different locations such as Germany, Italy, UK, South America, and Russia. With the US economy in such disarray, and with regulated airline companies fighting to survive, I expected very little.
Then, on a random weekday in September, I saw it. My golden ticket.
Conferring with my Russian friend, I asked whether I could crash for a couple of weeks while touring around. With the green light lit, I quickly snatched my place on the notorious airline Aeroflot and booked a two week ticket to Moscow.
Upon booking my plane ticket, I had absolutely no idea that I was required to get a tourist Visa in order to visit. On top of that, it costs exactly $131 to purchase this Visa just to visit! To turn the tables, Russians require an American Visa which costs them a pretty ruble.
As you read this, I am still waiting from the Russian Consulate in San Francisco to mail me my Visa. With travel abroad and especially to Russia from the US being limited, I expect to receive my Visa within the next two weeks.
So, in one month, I will be wandering the streets of Moscow. I will be riding the train to St. Petersburg. I will be trekking the neighborhoods of Veliky Novgorod, and learning about our misunderstood Russian neighbors. St. Petersburg especially excites me because of the rich musical history. My trip to Novgorod is a devious attempt to see where my favorite Russian Composer Rachmaninoff was born and about his childhood.
The next month will be one of my busiest this year. I shall be researching Russian history, consuming all the trivial and nontrivial facts I never knew, working, and preparing for what shall be another life changing trip across the ocean.