I suppose its the architecture that is the most reminiscent of Poland from the 80’s. Grey, soviet buildings, that were quickly built post war. But where as Warsaw has recently renovated and painted many of these buildings, the ones in Moscow I saw where still in their shabby grey state. There is also just a general feel that Moscow is about 10 years or so behind places like Warsaw (which tells you how far behind it is of other cities).
Its true what they say about Moscow, it is a city of two distinct classes. The new rich Moscow with its glitzy posh restaurants and cafes patroned by a crowd ostentatiously dripping in designer wear. And the old Moscow, the poorer Moscow, with the old babushkas waddling down the street in giant fur hats.
I will say, generally speaking, the stereotype that Russian women are beautiful seems to be true. Its hard to say if it’s because they are exceptionally well put together, or if its a natural beauty. But there are an exceptionally large amount of thin young women, strutting down the street on a lazy sunday afternoon dressed for the fashion shoot in giant stilettos with a face full of dark eye makeup. Their handbags ooze expensive showiness, but are carelessly slung on their arm (which to Jason and I is a notable relief as bag snatching must be pretty damn low to be that casual).
Intermixed between the drab soviet architecture are the impressive historical buildings. The Kremlin was as impressive as I had expected. Although, the red square was smaller than i thought it would be, and believe it or not, a much more distinct rectangle. The churches really are a work of art, and deserving of every bit of photography they get. The onion topped domes are really pretty, and in many cases the church is an absolute spectacle in excessive colouring. Maybe they used all the paint on the churches leaving nothing for the grey apartment blocks?
For food, we tried to stick to Russain food, or at least food of the (former) Russian empire. Most impressive was the Georgian restaurant we went to – absolutely exquisite. Uzbekistani, interesting but not as good. The Moscow obsessive love for Sushi is a bit shocking, literally every restaurant or cafe will serve it. The pierogie were excellent, as was the borscht – to be expected. Sunday brunch buffet at the Park Hyatt was interesting. Seems normal to bring your pet dog, chow down on sushi, but not be served eggs.
Riding the metro was a highlight. First for the massive brain exercise of figuring out the map whilst testing my Cyrillic reading skills. But second for the visual display of the metro stations. We’d read that they were built to be a celebration for the worker. Marble walls, chandeliers, some of these stations were quite done up.
The one thing we didn’t do was go to the ballet or symphony. But that wasn’t due to lack of trying. Tickets on the internet were going for around 200 USD per person – a bit excessive if you ask me. We tried our luck at the theatre box office, but found giant queues of people (blobs like at the airport) and everything in Russian. In the end we couldn’t stomach the patience we’d need to get to the front of the blob to find out that tickets were likely that same 200USD price seen online. Its hard to tell if the theatre buildings were architecturally nice or not, they were all covered in scaffolding.
Overall, a good couple days in Moscow. Not my favourite city in the world, but fascinating to see, especially from a historical perspective. I wouldn’t want to spend more than 3 days though as you do run out of historical sites to tick off that list, and really you’ll break the bank if you stay much longer. And tonight, the trans mongolian express.