Milling around Moscow

22 Sep

Moscow is a big city. I liked it. Don’t want to move there. But, I the gray grows on you. It’s progressive, fast and commercial. I’m amazed it’s now one of the most expensive cities in the world. They’ve been open for business – officially – for a little under 20 years.

Advertisements line the buildings. High priced shops. People walking fast. Clicking of high heels. Someone said that 15 or 20 million people live in Moscow. And over 1 million ride the metro everyday… I believe it. It feels congested. Feels big.

We technically had two full days in Moscow. We woke early and headed out – to “do” the city. More importantly, do the Kremlin, see Lenin’s dead body and dance in Red Square. The overnight train from St. Petersburg arrived into Moscow at 6 am. We checked into our hotel around 7 am and headed out looking for food around 8 am. Mash, our clueless leader from Mongolia took us to an overpriced coffee shop that serves “pancakes” (aka fried bread) to get our day started right. None of us had showered in days. Super grime was setting it. Yes, the smelly, bloated and caffeinated were taking on Moscow in style. Buyer beware.

We took the amazing Moscow metro to Red Square. On average, over 1 million folks ride the Moscow metro. Impressive. More impressive was its architecture, cleanliness and assurance that the weak or disabled can ever step foot in the place adorned with marble stairs extending to the heavens.

We get to Red Square. It’s misty. Rainy. Wet.  Yes, the sun comes out later… Thank God!  I believe we’re there on the day everything is closed. A line had formed at Lenin’s tomb. Is he really in there? I mean, embalmed and all? I had no desire to see a dead Lenin. Let alone, pay money for the cause. I’m glad everyone in our group felt the same.

Red Square is impressive. We strolled. Took pictures. Acted like we knew Soviet history. Ran from the rain. And, talked about our next meal. It’s always about food and $$ with the backpacking set. Our little Mash said he was going to get us a tour guide for the Kremlin. He was not fluent in Russian, nor knew much about history. So, we needed to pay extra for the revisionist history by a a true, well-paid Russian tour good. He gold us to wait. We did… We did wait… An hour later, Mash came back smiling but with no guid. We’re annoyed. Another thing about the traveling back packing set, don’t screw with our time and $$. We could be spending our time on a bench, getting lost or talking about what happened 12 minutes ago.

All of us are slightly annoyed. Mash asked if we’re willing to pay $5 a person for a Kremlin, certified guide. There’s a hitch. This Kremlin guide only spoke Russian – and I can bet he does not have laugh lines either. What Mash is telling us is that we would to pay extra $$ for an English translator. Let’s step back for one moment…..Let me remind you that the man responsible for taking 15 people across one of more inaccessible countries – and I will add hostile to foreigners – does not speak Russian and therefore, can’t translate to English. I smell danger… More on that later.

Anyway, the hitch was we need to pay more $$. Well, you have to remember the young bucks of the backpack set travels on a tight, tight budget. Spending more than $1 on water is extortion. We asked Mash was this tour $$ worth it. He said, “No, not really…No, I don’t think so…” WHAT! We’ve been sitting here an hour – waiting on you – and you tell us that we really don’t need a guide…

Peeved at Mash. We all bolted. Bought tickets. Went through metal detectors. Got inside the Kremlin. Not overly impressive. The Kremlin architecture mixes old Tsarist buildings with “screw you” Soviet architecture. The area is closed during most of the week, so we’re lucky to be here on Sunday. We sauntered around. Maria bought a touring tape in English to help us sort out “what’s what and why.” We should have known, the voice on the tape only talked about inane things like the types of plates, saucers and bells used by previous Czars. Who cares. It’s misting even more. e’re all tired. Dirty. And, the feeling of hating Moscow is in the air.

One part of the group heads back to hotel to nap and shower. Hell no. Not our group…. Emily, Hannah, Maria and I vow NOT to go back to our hotel and stay in Moscow until 7:30 pm – it was the group dinner time. Our thought was if we go back to shower, then we may not want to leave the hotel.

After the Kremlin, we walked over to the mall on Red Square. It reminded me of the Bellagio in Vegas. Elaborate. Amazing. Large. Expensive. I’m sure Stalin murdered million here in it’s hey day. I mean, Lenin’s body is a stone’s throw away from Cartier…what do you expect.

The dirty, smelly travelers were in search of food. We found a cafe. Ordered. Food did not come for at least an hour. Russia may be trying their hand at Russian corrupt capitalism, but they’re lacking in service. No service. They seem displeased when they see customers – highly annoyed actually. That communism – you can’t fire me – attitude is pervasive.

I pulled the American card and returned my food because the waiter pissed me off. He promised me no mayonnaise. They sprayed the sandwich with mayo. I took another 30 mins for the sandwich. I’m sure they took turns pissing on it out back.

After a bad lunch, we decided to do the walking tour in Lonely Planet. It’s a 10 km walk through Moscow – to Gorky Park and through old neighborhoods. The walk was invigorating. We crossed over one bridge to an expensive area of town. We could tell by the number of Land Rovers, BMWs, etc…

The rich were in line vying for flats on the river. I guess these were kids of the mafia or Russian oil money. Who knows. But, highly entertaining. I took pictures. Mind you – we have not showered in 2 days and walking through upscale, billionaire areas. I’m surprised the fashion police did not pick us up.

We happen upon Gorky Park. I thought it was just a park. Made for a great movie… I had NO idea it was an amusement park. BLAST! Rides. Roller coasters.

Women where out in their three inch platforms with their baby strollers. Other women, were looking for husbands. Other men, were drinking vodka.

All at your typical Moscow amusement park. We had a blast walking around, riding rides and taking in the scene. It was a scene…

By this time, it’s time to meet the group. They are clean. We’re dirty.

We go BACK to the mall for dinner. I’m annoyed. We’re in Moscow and we’re having dinner at the mall. Really? It’s buffet style. Even worse. I voiced my opinion and asked if there was something more Russian around? Mash shrugged his shoulders and led us to the mall. Fine. I just wanted to get home, shower and go to bed anyway. Chicken. Rice. Beans. That works. No worries, the ugly American rears its head much later.

After dinner, we jumped on the magnificent metro and headed back to our hotel. It was a long day. Yes, Moscow is manageable. But, my heart is in St. Petersburg. Nicoli was right – Moscow is built on messy money. St. Petersburg is built on Russian class…

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  5. Carlos 23/10/2010 at 1:38 am #

    I loved the metro. couldn’t stop taking pictures even though we were told we weren’t supposed to. the art in some of the stops was better than anything above ground!

    • A Day 26/10/2010 at 10:54 pm #

      I love the metro too. I took thousands of pics! Only posted a few. Love the old “communist” memorabilia too..Thanks for your post!

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  6. elly 27/09/2010 at 10:46 pm #

    One of the best thing about Moscow was the subway. Also an Opera Plus the Baptist somewhere in the vast city where a strong Christian witness has been present for many years. Yeltsin engaged our group when i was there. He was a tennis afficianado.

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