Day 1-2, October 22-23.
The month I spent with my family in Belarus flew by. I have been living in London for over 7 years, so on the average I would visit once a year. The town I’m originally from is very small, with the population of 20,000 people. But, very conveniently, there is a train, that stops in my town on the way to Moscow. It would be cheaper to get there by bus for £20, but I decided to splurge on a train, as I had a long journey ahead of me, so needed a good sleep in a lying position. This privilege cost me £38. As it turned out, my sleeping wasn’t to be, as I had my bed next to an old man, who was snoring loudly all night long.
We arrived in Moscow at 9 am. The night before, my mom saw the weather forecast and urged me to wear her old sweater, which I could then throw away. Apparently, it was already snowing and it was 10 degrees bellow 0. I thought, it couldn’t be much worse than in my town (come on, it only October!) but it really was. When I saw people outside wearing fur coats, with the steam coming from their mouths, I put on all clothes I had in my back pack – 3 tops, 2 shirts, my moms sweater, and a hoodie. Also I was wearing leggings under my skinny jeans. Needless to say, I wasn’t very comfortable, as I could hardly bend my arms and legs. Well, better this, than hypothermia. Even after wearing all those layers I was just about warm enough. I left my bag at the luggage office(£3.50) and went to catch the tube to Tretiakov gallery. The subway was very deep, probably the deepest I’ve seen so far, also every stop was finished in different style with the help of mosaics, frescoes, chandeliers and statues. It is not your modern underground system,it still has a lot of traditional character, reminiscent of the Soviet past. It cost £0.75 one way anywhere in the city.
I really recommend the gallery, as it has loads of masterpieces by Russian masters from the17th to 20th centuries. Russian painters are not widely represented throughout the world, so this can be very educational, as under one roof Tretiakov brothers gathered the biggest compilation of Russian art in the world. I am an avid art lover, I visit galleries wherever I go, and it makes me sad, that Russian painters are not as recognised around the world, as their western colleagues. Many of them are equal in their genius to the likes of Caravaggio, Renoir, Van Gogh and Dali.
If it’s big foreign names you are after, than there is Pushkin museum. It is notdedicated to the great Russian poet, as the name suggests. There you can find masterpieces by such titans as Picasso, Degas and Gauguin.
After I was done enlightening myself, I decided to walk to the Red square. I wanted to cover as much on foot as I could, and have a look at the city life. On the way I stumbled on what I can only call, as love trees. They incorporate exactly the same idea as ‘Love Lock’ bridge in Paris. A couple of sweethearts are supposed to write their names on the lock, symbolising their eternal love, and then throw the key into the river.
After taking the customary selfies by the Kremlin and st Basil cathedral, I started to fear that my nose will fall off from the cold. I couldn’t feel my face. I rushed to GUM( or state department store) to restore some circulation.
What a beautiful store!!! Perfect for designer shopping and having a meal, drink, ice cream – you name it. There, I heard one of the shop assistants mentioning, that it was -16, when she left home in the morning. That explained it!
After warming up I continued to my next destination – Arbat. Beautiful, historical street, full of artist and performers. I would call it a sister of La Rambla in Barcelona. There you can buy all souvenirs you need – paintings, matrioshka dolls, traditional Russian flowery shawls, fridge magnets, wooden hand painted kitchenware, and, of course, fur hats, that cover your ears. Knock yourself out!
Even thought all locals were urging me to take the tube, as Arbat was 45 min away, I’m really glad, I didn’t. I can recommend this walk to anyone, especially in a good, warm weather. It goes through Kremlin, Alexander’s garden, Bolshoy theatre, Duma( Russian parliament), numerous churches – all you need to see.
I was flying from Sheremetievo airport. I had two options: going by airport express train for £7.50 or by bus for £0.55. I went by bus, which you should do only if you have loads of time on your hands. On the transport website is says, it should take 40-50 min depending on the traffic. First of all, the traffic can be really really bad. Moscow is one of the most congested cities I the world. Secondly, the buses should be departing every 9-30 min. Well, I was waiting for 35 min. In addition the crowd at the bus stop was already quite big, when I arrived, so it suggests, it was even longer than that. Thirdly, the terminals are very far away from each other. I needed F, and it took me 1 hour 30 min to get there, instead of 40-50. I really started to panic, since I only had one hour before my departure. On the plus side, they don’t bother you with too many security precautions, so it’s relatively quickly to pass through the check. There I threw away the old sweater, that saved my life, and thanked my sweet, kind, ever-worrying mother.
Regarding the prices… Everyone says, that Moscow is an expensive city, but after living in London, I wasn’t particularly shocked. It also depends on where you go. A cup of tea cost me £0.60 at the train station, but an americano set me back at £3.50 at the cafe next to the Red square. Museums cost around £8. Which is still much cheaper, than €10-20 they charge in Europe. Again, public transport seems to be free, when you compare it with the tube prices in London. Restaurants, though, tend to be more expensive.
Moscow is a very tricky city. This time I had a slight feeling of unease, while walking its streets. There are a lot of immigrants doing all the dirty jobs, loads of people struggling to make the ends meet, at the same time there are those, who use money instead of the toilet paper. Crossing the street was like a proverbial Russian rullette, the cars didn’t stop at the pedestrian crossing, and I was never sure, if I would make it to the other side. If I asked for direction, some people would just pass by totally ignoring me. Also Moscow doesn’t show it’s attractive side straight away, or in all sorts of weather. Early spring, or late autumn are not the best time to visit. Everything seems grim, nasty and in need of colour. All people are wearing dark jackets and overcoats, and, in addition, are not exactly polite.
But come there in summer, or during white, fairy tale winter and it will be an experience to remember.