Thursday, August 24, 2006

Part III - Moscow - Bringing Babushka Back!

Well, we arrived in Moscow after a relatively pain-free overnight train. We (Erik) once again haggled for a taxi and wound up at the Wallmart of hotels (actually, Erik believes it is more like the Giant Tiger of hotels, for those who remember this chain). We kid you not, this place is the funniest thing ever. There are 4 monstrous ugly grey buildings that are mostly linked together. Inside, you can find dry cleaning, several restaurants, bars, internet cafes, post office, a strip bar and even a bordello. All prices are overinflated (duh) but some of the services are convenient. With over 2000 guests PER hotel, car alarms are ringing 24 hours a day. And don't even start about the packs of wild dogs roaming the parking lots barking at people and cars. Scary.

One of the places we've been dying to see is the Red Square: revolutions, history, Ivan the Terrible, Soviet governments, even Lenin's tomb. It's all there and it is breathtaking. We've visited the Red Square 4 times so far and we still have about 24 hours left to go. We just can't get enough of it (and that's saying alot given that there are no benches).

Because of the plane crash a few days ago, Russia was in a period of mourning. Consequently (and due to regularly scheduled closings), Lenin's Tomb was not open. Erik was very disappointed. However, we did get to see Lenin live! (See below Lenin, although not pictured, was Putin. Yes, they were having quite a lively discussion, or so it seemed!)

Lenin LIVE at the Kremlin!

One of the higlights of this trip so far has been the food (who knew!). We've really lucked out in our choice of restaurants. From the obscure yet delicious Senate in St. Petersburg to this swanky splendor of the Metropolitain Hotel (pictured left), we've tasted some of Russia's finest foods. The Metropolitain is a venerable institution in Moscow. Everywhere you look do you see, golden trim, marble, stained glass and a beautiful water fountain. The service was also impeccable. It was a wonderful evening. Tonight we dined at an artsy cafe called FAQCafe where the service wasn't as great but the food was, and a third of the price of the Metropolitain at that.

We spent some time wandering the streets of Moscow today looking for souvenirs and fun items to bring home. We hit the jackpot at the Arbat where the streets are lined with street vendors, artists, boutiques, cafes and all kinds of other junk. If we saw 1 matrioshka doll, we must have seen over a thousand. We even saw matrioshka dolls made in the form of political figures. AWESOME. After a few hours and a few purchases of art, matrioshka dolls and soviet propaganda posters, we left with empty wallets.

One of the strangest things that we both realized is the vast difference that exists between Moscow and St. Petersburg. While Moscow is the capital of the country and the epicenter of all things Russian, the "happening place" appears to be St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg, everyone was friendlier, sexier and filled with a joie de vivre that doesn't seem to exist in Moscow. In Moscow there appears to be less English (thanks alot Frommers, you suck!) and more abrupt. behavior. St. Petersburg brings the sexy back while Moscow just brings the babushka out of people.
Tomorrow, the Kremlin in detail, Russian baths (hopefully) and our trek to Siberia begins.


Erik still at work.