I’ve traveled to a lot of places I had barely heard of before going, often with no idea what to expect, but Moscow was not one of those places. Literature, history, films, current events – talk of Moscow is everywhere. Some people say it’s the best city in Russia, others say it lacks charm and is too overwhelming, and yet others say that it’s simply too dangerous to visit. So of course I was excited to finally visit Moscow and find out the truth.
The truth about Moscow is: sometimes it rains.
After weeks of beautiful sunny skies in Siberia, in Moscow we saw our first gray clouds. It’s amazing, and incredibly unfair, how much weather can affect your experience of a city. I really was impressed with Moscow and in awe of its many iconic sites, yet I struggled to see past all the grayness.
Then again, there was something thrilling about sludging through the misty weather and then looking up to a reminder that, oh right, I’m in MOSCOW!
While my excitement about Moscow stems mostly from an obsession with Russian literature, we were quickly reminded of the city’s political importance as we crossed the bridge where Boris Nemtsov had just been shot.
I had also wanted to visit Lenin’s Mausoleum (morbid, I know), but sadly it was closed. I guess he was due for another round of chemicals to preserve his lovely skin.
Instead we ventured into GUM, a very fancy department store along Red Square dating back to 1893. There we had one of my best meals in Russia, at Stolovaya № 57, a surprisingly cheap Soviet-style cafeteria hidden amidst GUM’s designer shops. If you’ve ever in Moscow, lunch here is a must!
We spent three nights in Moscow, and the clouds persisted into our second day. Luckily the rain didn’t get my spirits too down, because Moscow’s most impressive site is underground!
I’m talking about Moscow’s metro system of course. I love how luxurious the central stations feel, with their intricate molding, giant chandeliers, and beautiful paintings. But I also love how the stations farther from the city center eventually become less decadent and more Soviet.
I was nervous that Moscow would feel overwhelming after Siberia and impossible to navigate, but thanks to the guidance of our wonderful Couchsurfing host Drew, the city felt totally manageable.
Drew is from Connecticut, so it was really interesting to hear an American expat’s take on life in Moscow (he’s learned to avoid vodka and talking about politics). He also took us to a viewpoint of the city near Vorobyovy Gory which ended up being one of my favorite places we visited in Moscow. Well, the view was awful because of all the clouds, but then we walked through an old ski park, down a ski jump!
As a Norwegian I’ve of course spent far too much time watching ski jump competitions on TV, but somehow I never realized that the jumps are quite so high. What are those athletes thinking?!
Finally, on our third day in Moscow the sun came out!
We spent most of the day at Tsaritsyno Park, an estate dating back to the 16th century which was eventually bought by Catherine the Great in 1775, who planned to have a palace built there. She died before construction was finished, so she never actually lived there, but visitors can see a newly restored version of the palace, including a few rooms as they would have been designed.
Tickets purchased at the park’s museum allow visitors to see the inside of the palace, but as it’s newly restored and never actually was a completed palace, I found the inside a little boring. Plus, it’s a museum. The grounds are beautiful, however, and I’d definitely recommend a trip out there if you have some extra time in Moscow!
Have you been to Moscow yet?