Country#9 Russia – Moscow
As someone once said, you can’t help but fall in love with Moscow. A world city, a megapolis, a former imperial capital, a major business city, a cultural centre and a vibrant one. And it is BIG!!! To give you an idea on its size and pace of life, consider this: it is more than one and half times the size of Delhi in area, and has six ring roads running around it. It also has 4 million fewer people than Delhi, but is still perpetually gridlocked.
We came into Moscow during its current spate of construction, in preparation for the FIFA World Cup in 2018. The infrastructure is great, and being made even better to put Russia on the world tourism map, something it has never managed before. A fact which surprises us given that the largest country in the world has so much to offer, but more on that later.
Moscow has something for every kind of traveller: immaculately preserved monuments, museums, art galleries, cultural events, a night life, cruises, shopping, motorcycle and car clubs, exhibitions, theatre, ballet and a world class university. The tourism pitch must be working a little, going by the ubiquitous groups of Japanese and Koreans who come here in large groups much like they do in India.
The city so enthralled us that we stayed an extra day just to watch Russia Day celebrations on the 13th of June at the Kremlin, preparations for which had been on ever since we arrived. And what a show it was! Soldiers in World War II uniforms standing next to period war machines, with a concert in the background and an extraordinarily colourful, noisy and bright fireworks display to end it all. We were lucky!!
For those of us who like fast things, check out the car drifting at Moscow University and super bike gathering and their theatrics and antics. Remember what we said about Russian cities on rivers? Holds true for Moscow too. Take a night luxury cruise down Moskva River, visit the vibrant Arbatskaya – a metro station that was built to double as a bomb shelter in the event of a nuclear war.
Don’t even dream of missing the Kremlin, home of Russia’s tsars and emperors. The word kremlin means ‘fortress within a city’, and many Russian cities have kremlins, but this is THE Kremlin, the seat of power in Russia (home to its President ), modern and historically. It is certainly built like one: five palaces, four cathedrals enclosed within the Kremlin Wall.
On one side, it overlooks the Moskva river; on another is St. Basil’s cathedral, and a must-visit too. Don’t forget the Red Square (remember that Russia was the heart of a Communist empire after all!) on the third side either; we could go on and on about the places to visit and things to do. I wish we could have gone to the Bolshoi Theatre and seen a ballet, but some things are just not meant to be. Sigh. Maybe next time!
Moscow is also a city of contradictions, as one writer pointed out. it’s a city in which you trip over history at every turn, and where within a few yards of Vladimir Lenin’s tomb is the most expensive shopping in Russia. I read someone else who described Moscow as the most beautiful mistress one could have. I have to agree about the beautiful! Dosvidanya, Moscow! Until we meet again!