Monday, 19 May 2014

Magnificent Moscow

Day 49 - Moscow - 17,160 km travelled

Moscow has been awesome.
I think we both expected to like it but were expecting it to be quite grey, bleak and dramatic more in a post-Soviet kind of way. In fact, it's a really beautiful city with a vibrant cafe culture, lots of lovely parks, and amazing architecture on top of the cathedrals and museums it's famous for. For me, our few days here have been one of the highlights of our trip.

We've spent a lot of time just wandering round, stopping for coffee and beers along the way.  There are a number of lovely parks that run along the river, that are really popular with tourists and locals alike. They're full of nice bars and cafes, lounge chairs and hammocks, bike paths, exhibitions, sports grounds etc. And at this time of year there were stages being set up everywhere for the festival of the white nights, which runs from the end of may to July.

One of my favourite spots was Vorobyevy Gory, a park near Moscow State university which is full of joggers, cyclists and picnickers in summer but turns into a ski park in the winter - with an enormous ski jump that looks like it lands in the river! From the top of the park you get an amazing panorama of the city, where you can spot the 'seven sisters' - seven sky scrapers designed in the Stalinist style (see photo).

We've really lucked out on three fronts in our four days here - we've had amazing sunshine, our visit has coincided with international museum day, which means all the museums were free, and we stumbled across a free concert by The Bolshoi theatre orchestra after enjoying an afternoon at the New Tretyakov gallery, which houses a brilliant collection of 20th century Soviet art. Julian and I usually have a two hour limit in museums and galleries but we happily spent most the day here as there was so much to see.

Yesterday we enjoyed an afternoon at the Pushkin gallery and then whiled away the rest of the day at a terrace cafe enjoying a bottle of wine and a couple of beers, indulging in some serious people watching. Muscovites are seriously well dressed - I've never seen such a concentration of stiletto heeled beautiful people. We both felt somewhat out of place in our quick dry t-shirts and hiking shoes. Slightly tipsy, we went back to our hostel just as six fire engines arrived to extinguish the kitchen fire on the third floor. Guess where our room was? Yes, next door!! Luckily, the fire didn't spread beyond the kitchen, which was completely gutted.

We were advised that no trip to Moscow is complete without a trip to the All Russia Exhibition Centre - a massive park with monuments to agriculture, industry, education, etc. and pavilions for each Soviet Republic. It was mostly built under Stalin to depict the achievements of the USSR and glorify the ideology of communism. All of the buildings were closed but the park was still full of tourists and locals alike, many of whom were roller blading.

In Moscow, it seems all the young beautiful people's preferred method of transport is roller blades and, since the exhibitions were closed, we (Julian) decided it was only right to rent some. I was pretty apprehensive - I've never never been rollerblading and wasn't sure that this was the time to find out how good/bad I am at it. I'm pleased to report that after a shaky start I actually wasn't too bad. I might even get a pair!!

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