Sunday, May 04, 2014

A Week in Moscow

Having heard many stories, anecdotes and even warnings about visiting the Russian capital, I arrived feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Upon arriving at Domodedovo Airport, I quickly familiarised myself with the Russian mantra of 'service with[out] a smile' and proceeded to meet a good friend of mine from Switzerland. Together - equipped with a basic proficiency in Russian and a thirst for vodka - we would explore Moscow.

Standing on the Red Square.

My very first impression of Moscow was, as expected, a mixture of delight and amusement. Within an hour of arriving, I was to experience my first 'only-in-Russia' moment. Sat in a bar on the central Noviy Arbat, I witnessed a Ferrari racing down the pavement, scattering frightened pedestrians, followed by two police vans and, of course, a drunk Muscovite riding a horse! Needless to say, a wide grin plastered my face.

Social bathrooms: not only available in Sochi! Apparently, this was a gimmick inspired by the internet memes.

During the days, we took in the many magnificent sights of Moscow, such as the Kremlin, the Red Square, the Park of the Tsars and the All-Russia Exhibition Park. Whilst the nights were spent sampling Russian beer and vodka in bars and Stolovayas (remember: Moscow never sleeps!).

Inside the Kremlin.

Thanks to a handful of very hospitable, close friends, we had a truly unforgettable time. When visiting foreign countries, I think it is so great to have local friends who know the best hang-outs, speak the language and generally treat you to an experience that is so much more enjoyable than travelling alone.

The beautiful metro system in Moscow is referred by some as 'the palaces of the people'. Pictured: Arbatskaya

Moscow may well be a sprawling and perhaps intimidatingly impressive city, but I felt so comfortable there. Indeed, I saw no cause for the previous well-meaning words of warning I had received. I could imagine returning for a longer period of time as I only scratched the very surface of the capital.

A view of the Kremlin and the embankment.

Me and my travel companion enjoyed our stay so much that we made another of our gentlemen's agreements. After we improve our Russian, we will take the Trans-Siberian Express and discover the beauty of the Russian countryside and the more traditional towns and cities.

The Park of the Tsars.

The changing of the guard.

The All-Russia Exhibition Park.