While my newsfeed is filled with Christmas glory from other bloggers, I am still trying to catch up with November. I can’t believe it has already been a month since I came back from Russia. But I will do my best to recall my impressions of Moscow.
First, let me say that although many people wish to travel for work, it isn’t for everyone. While it may be a fun and inexpensive way to explore the world, it is still work and work will need to get done. However, I still consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to visit Moscow.
Just a little background for those of you who don’t know me well: I was born in USSR, but not in Russia. I spent the first 13 years of my life growing up in Ukraine before moving to the United States. Before my trip, my mom joked to bring her back some wallpaper and other household items because only Moscow had the latest and the greatest during Soviet times. (I mean who hasn’t seen the pictures of crazy Soviet lines, the McDonalds line alone made it to Guinness World Records).
I and my coworker arrived in Russia on a Wednesday afternoon. We got picked up by a company car, which was really nice, since neither one of us were familiar with the area. And although I speak the language, I am not too familiar with modern Russian culture. Our hotel was just inside the MKAD loop in Izmaylovo area.
The first few days were spent at the hotel and the work site, outside the city center. I felt a bit of a prisoner to the hotel. Because it was fall, it was cold and got dark quickly so I was not going to venture out on my own at the end of the day. But in the mornings this was my view from the hotel.
It may look like the famous Moscow Kremlin to some, it is not. It is actually a replica of the Kremlin, which hosts shops and craft sellers. It’s called the Kremlin of Izmailovo and is a great tourist attraction if for nothing else, but to buy souvenirs.
It was the end of November, so everything looked a bit gloomy. We were there for almost two weeks and it never snowed, but we did get to see remains from the earlier October snow. This is the front of the school that was my work place for the duration of the trip.
On that first Saturday we got to finally venture out downtown to the Red Square. We took a stroll down the Arbat Street, which has lots of little shops and places to spend your money on trinkets and such. And if you miss home, there is a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts. (That’s Dunkin Donuts in Cyrillic).
We also strolled by the Russian State Library. The library is required by law to keep one copy of every book published in Russia! That’s a lot of books!
We then stopped to warm up at a Ukrainian restaurant Korchma, which was located right off the Red Square.
The food was delicious and fresh! I apologize for the crappy iPhone photo. What you see in this photo is a traditional Ukrainian “snack” – cured lard with pickles. Of course there was vodka, or horilka in Ukrainian. What you don’t see is fresh borsch and vareniki (also known as pierogi in US). They also had live entertainment in form of Ukrainian singers.
Apparently there is also an affiliate location in New York! I can’t vouch if it’s good or not, but if you live close enough, definitely give it a shot and report back www.tarasbulba.us!
The following day, on Sunday, we had a little bit of spare time before our big workshop at work the following week, so we hopped on the metro to explore Red Square in the day light.
Speaking of the metro…
They have some of the longest escalators I’ve ever seen, but the locals say that they are nothing in comparison to the ones in St. Petersburg.
We did not get to see a ballet performance at Bolshoi Theatre, but at least we got to look at it :). (This is where work travel is not fun, you’re so limited in your timing).
What is in summer months a fountain, was now a display of Russian kid story characters.
We then stood in line for about 30 minutes to get our tickets to go inside the Kremlin, which hosts five cathedrals. We were due to approach the ticket window in another 10 minutes when we realized that there was a “do-it-yourself” pay station, which did not have a line. Arghh, Russians must really love their paper and not trust the digital machines because everyone was standing in line for the ticket window! We finally got our tickets!
I kind of a little bit sort of… was not supposed to take the photo inside the cathedral, but I was too fascinated by this chandelier. I did get caught though and was politely asked to put the camera away. Whew, not deported to Siberia. 🙂
After Kremlin we grabbed lunch at GUM, a huge Russian mall with Louis Vuitton and other famous brands that I cannot afford. 🙂 But they did have this awesome Soviet style cafe where you could get blinchiki s myason (crepes with beef), red caviar, kompot (boiled dried fruit juice) and other wonderful things from my childhood. My US born coworker seemed the enjoy the meal as well!
After lunch we walked around a bit more and then it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for a busy work week.
Oh, and of course the St. Basil’s Cathedral. The iconic image of Russia.
My overall impression of Moscow is slightly underwhelming and I am not even really sure why. It might have been the fact the this was a work trip and I was not entirely free to explore everything I wanted to explore, or the fact that it was the end of October when the leafs have fallen off the trees, but the snow has not fallen yet. Something left me yearning for more. Perhaps another trip is required to find that something. 🙂
Oh yeah, and if you’ve ever heard about the crazy traffic in Moscow, it’s true! The city is huge with many drivers and very few highways and freeways. There are a lot of street lights and weird turns, so if you’re planning to visit, stick to the metro!