POST 2 – October 20th 2018 – Destination
Dobrii-dien Moskva !
I stayed 6 full days in Moscow and was able to visit quite a bit, thanks to the great weather conditions. My first few days were mostly focused on the central part of the city, with the majestic red square and it’s iconic St Basil cathedral, the visit of the Kremlin complex and the « GUM » department store. I eventually managed to visit on my last day the Mausoleum of Lenine, also on the red square (but open only 4 days a week for 3 hours only). Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the building.
360° image – Red square by day
360° image – Red square by night
360° image – The Kremlin, cathedral plaza
360° image – The Kremlin, central plaza
360° image – GUM general store
Moscow is a city loaded with history and architecture, with churches and cathedrals visible almost at every street corners, and monumental buildings from the Soviet Union era located in every part of the city. While some of those buildings are still used by the government, some other buildings have been converted into hotels, like the Hilton or the Radisson Blu.
360° image – Zaryadye Park
360° image – Zaryadye Park, bridge above Moskva river
The traffic being quite heavy in the city, one of the best ways to travel around is to use the Metro. This is clearly the most appreciated way of transportation for the locals : It is cheap, safe, quite clean and it very frequently operates (myself, I never waited more than a minute to get a metro). On top of this, some stations are beautiful. You can actually « visit » the metro ! FYI, the metro of Moscow is, together with the metro of St Petersburg, one of the deepest in the world as it was (and could still be) used as a shelter during the cold war.
360° image – Moscow metro
With the heavy traffic also (and unfortunately) comes the pollution. I have to say that you can really feel the air pollution, especially right next to the main avenues. A good way to escape this is to visit one of the nice parks the city has to offer. Gorky park and it’s surroundings could be one of them. North of Gorky park is the park of « the fallen statues » where you can see some of the statues from Soviet leaders, but also artists and scientists, and other nice(r) sculptures.
If you are into art, and especially paintings and Russian art, Moscow has an important concentration of musuems on this topic, like the Trietakov, and the « new » Trietakov galleries, or the Pushkin museum. Since this is not my biggest personal interest, and considering that the weather has been wonderful during my entire stay in Moscow, I decided to stay mostly outdoors, with the exception of some of heritage sites and churches.
One of the museums I visited was the National museum of astronautics, and the cosmonaut memorial located next to it. It is located near the VDNKh, which stands for « Pan-Russian exhibition center ».
I ended my stay by visiting the cathedral of the Christ-saviour, and thought I would share here its history as it is quite unconventional… The cathedral was initially built in the 19th century, but during the 1930’s, Staline, who was in charge of the country at that time was not a big fan (to say the least…) of having this catherdral around and decided to have it destroyed completely and build, instead of it, one of his monumental buildings which can be seen around the capital.
The cathedral got destroyed yes, but with the second world war coming, and also due to the fact the ground was not stable enough at that time to build a massive building, the area remained for quite some years a… big hole in the ground. In the 1960’s, it was decided to convert this space into the biggest open air swimming pool in the world, but as the Moscovians wanted to see their cathedral back, a project to rebuild it as identical as in the previous century was put in place, and the building came back to life just after a year of construction. But it took some more time to do all the paintings and decorations inside and the cathedral was inaugurated in 2000. In 2012, the pussy riot group got arrested there.
The view inside the building is breathtaking. Unfortunately, pictures inside are not allowed. However, you can climb up the cathedral and have a nice view on the rest of the city.
360° image – Inside the MIR space station
360° image – VDNKh – Pan-Russian exhibition center
To conclude, I was quite happy of my 6 days in the Russian capital and I am glad I started my journey there, with the fantastic weather during this mid-october helping a lot to enjoy the city. However, there are a few things which did not help making the visit more enjoyable : The first thing being the pollution as mentioned before, which is unfortunately a problem in most of the big cities across the world. The second thing I was surprised of is the lack of English information or knowledge. Since I do not speak or understand Russian, and since I am also not able to read cyrillic characters, my ability to communicate with people was sometimes complicated. With the recent world cup, you could notice some improvements though, with some new signs and maps posted across the city and also written in English, and some announcements, in the metro for instance, also made in English. However, most of the locals will have limited, if not non-existant, knowledge of the English language. (But I guess the same goes when Russian tourists would visit a city like Paris for instance – nothing in indicated in cyrillic characters !). Fortunately, my friend Anton was remotely available when needed !
I would like to go back to Moscow, but only in a few years from now, as most of the places I visited were still under construction, redesign, renovation, you name it… Cranes, scaffolds and fences are everywhere across the city and there are some places, like the Novodievitchi covent, which I wanted to see but were completely closed to the public.
Next time, I would also like to visit some of the places outside of the city, like the holy city of Serguiev Possad. I was supposed to do that but did not due to time constraints.
Stop #1 : Moscow, 6 days
Positives : Lots of history, iconic places to visit, I was feeling safe and found the city to be clean (well… besides the air). The destination is also quite affordable currently due to the rouble situation (1 Euro = 75 roubles while it used to be 30 or 40 only in the past…)
Negatives : Air pollution, Could be complex to communicate if your knowledge of the Russian language is inexistant (like for me), City currently being… renovated : Lots of construction going on…
SOON TO BE ADDED ON THIS POST: Episode 2 of the video