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      01.12.2009 17:24
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      A place that seems completely foreign but also nearby

      Moscow is a city that seems to do its best to deter me. My travels have always been on business and I doubt if I had been paying for the trip myself I would have bothered to fight the bureaucracy of applying for a visa and paid the astronomical hotel bills. And when I finally arrive I normally end up with a taxi drive stuck in the horrendous traffic for a couple of hours with a driver who at best either just smells or wants to constantly smoke but usually a combination of the two. That would be an arrival on a good day. Worse still I could have queued up for over an hour on a warm night at passport control at the outdated Shermentayo airport as the hard faced border guards painstakingly comb through each passport before reluctantly letting you through to collect your bags. Or in my case queue fro another hour because my bags hadn't arrived to realise that it was in fact my fault that they hadn't arrived and the 10 strong booth of ladies doing nails and even sleeping had much better things to do than help me.
      So why on earth I wonder do I actually find myself missing Moscow when I arrive home? Maybe its remembering entering the resurrection gate and seeing Red Square for the first time. Or perhaps turning a corner and finding the snow topped onion dome of a hidden cathedral. Or more likely that the cold front of the Russian people quickly melts after a couple of Vodkas to find a warm a friendly people who just happen to be living in a city that is always too busy trying to catch up with itself without waiting for the infrastructure to follow suit.

      If only arrival was the first thing you had to worry about..

      First of all you need a visa to enter the country. I have to be honest and say because my visits have been on business I haven't had to worry too much about getting this sorted for myself although like everything Russian it seemed very bureaucratic. Also make sure you allow plenty of time to complete the process. The process seems to get longer when one of the regular diplomatic spats occur between the UK and Russia. That said it's not a one way street on that front, apparently it's just as difficult for a Russian to get a visa to the UK.
      And one final note - photocopy your passport and visa for travelling around Moscow. At some point you may need to hand over your passport to your hotel to register yourself in Russia but even then travel with copies of documents on you at all times. Things may have changed, and it hasn't happened to me yet, but police/militia do "randomly" stop people to check there paperwork.

      Arrival and departure..

      Unless arriving from another Russian city on train you are most likely to arrive and depart from one of the two main airports serving the city - Sheremetyevo or Domodedovo. To make your trip to Moscow that bit more pleasant and to avoid early frustrations try and fly to the more modern latter option. Everything seems to be more efficient here including the aforementioned passport control. Having said that moves are afoot to try and improve Shermentato and new shops are currently being built in the departure area and a rail link has now been completed to the city centre. It's worth knowing that depending on your airline you simply might not have a choice - for instance KLM fly to Sheremetyevo while BMI fly to Domodedovo. Aside from that location may be a key - Sheremetyevo is north of the city while Domodedovois is to the south.

      Staying..

      Prices for hotels in Moscow are horrendous. There are not enough hotel rooms to go round at the moment so until that time most hotels seem to be able to charge a premium. On my last visit I paid over £150 per night for a stay at the Hotel Milan which could be described as a good quality tourist and business hotel geared up for western visitors but was a half hour from the centre of Moscow on the Metro. The nearer the centre the higher the prices. Slightly better value was the Hotel Izmaylovo-Alfa again on the outskirts somewhat. This could be described as more "Russian" perhaps with interesting and admittedly new "70's" decor. The key point when finding a hotel even if on the outskirts is to make sure you are close to a metro stop. Paying for hotels in Moscow may also seem strange. I have yet to pay at the front desk on checkout and have paid an invoice to somebody I have never seen and in the case of the Izmaylovo been asked to visit a strange room on one of the floors to pay. Generally don't expect to be able to charge items in the hotel restaurant for example to your room.

      Getting around..

      As far as I am concerned you can forget taxis unless you want to sit in traffic. By far the best option is a combination of the metro and walking. The metro is cheap, clean, efficient and perhaps most importantly in my opinion safe despite the large number of generally placid after work drunks. A trip from the furthermost points to the centre of Moscow will take around half an hour. Aside from travelling on it the metro is almost an attraction in its own right. Most stations are ornately decorated to a socialist theme with the help of anything from mosaics to chandeliers. During the day you are unlikely to wait more than 2 minutes for a train to arrive and around 10 minutes late into the night. Tickets cost 22 rubles (currently around 90p) for a trip (a trip being the complete journey even if you have to change lines etc). 5 tickets can be purchased for 105 rubles working out at less than 50p a trip. I should say at this point the metro is easy enough to use as far as line numbers and colours go. However you may have a problem knowing which stop to get off due to the written Russian Cyrillic alphabet. Now I am not suggesting the Russians should put English versions of the station names on the walls after all we don't put Cyrillic versions on the London underground. The problem occurs because most guide books will have the English version written down. Try and find a map that has both or better still learn a few of the key letters you need to switch around. Knowing even a few will help. Examples of a couple of stations are Teatralnaya and Arbatskaya which look totally different in Russian. If in doubt just try and count the number of stations you have been through.
      Whilst in the centre of Moscow you are more than likely to just want to walk. On a side note apart from official taxis you should never get stuck outside a club at silly o'clock in a morning. Stick your hand out and a gypsy cab will pick you up within minutes - someone just out for a drive prepared to take you back to your hotel for a jointly arranged number if rubles.

      The sights..

      Red Square.
      I am now at an age that meant in my younger days we saw Russia as the enemy and Red Square a place we saw on the news with a military parade of missiles rolling through in front of the Politburo. Entering the square was therefore a bit of a surreal moment for me. The square itself could not be surrounded by more contrasts. On one side you have the walls of the Kremlin, at the southern end what is surely the most famous symbol of Moscow and Russia itself St Basils Cathedral and on the other side the consumerism the GUM department store now selling designer everything in a location that once showed people queuing for a loaf of bread. If one place showed the changes in Moscow in the last 20 years then GUM is maybe it. Incidentally the name Red Square has nothing to with communist red as I think most including myself would presume. It is fact derives from a Russian word that can mean both red and beautiful.
      Needless to say each of the above are attractions in there own right. A Kremlin in Russian is a fortified citadel or castle and although the word seems synopsis with Moscow and the government many Russian cities do in fact have a "Kremlin". With that in mind it may seem less surprising hat the fortress contains four palaces and four cathedrals all worth a visit in their own right as well as being the official residence of the President of Russia. As with the Russian nested matryoshka dolls the Kremlin seems to break down into mini attractions of cathedrals that in turn once inside reveal there own mini must sees.

      On the Red Square side of the Kremlin is Lenin's Mausoleum. This contains the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin. The mausoleum is open most days (exceptions are Monday and Friday at the moment) and there is no charge. Expect long queues however.

      The Cathedral of Intercession of Theotokos on the Moat, better known as the Cathedral of Basil the Blessed or even better St Basils is like I say the one image of Moscow for me. Built between 1555 and 1561 it has however obtained its many vivid colours throughout the years. This Russian Orthodox cathedral was built to celebrate victories abroad and sports stunning onion domes. If you have to take one picture to say "I was in Moscow" this is the one.

      Needless to say Moscow offers many more historical and artsy attractions but for me some of the best are free and for myself I find the Soviet architecture worth exploring. A couple of good examples of these are the Seven Sisters and the VDNKh Park.

      The seven sisters are skyscrapers built in a Stalinist style which now home a very different mix of occupants - for instance Moscow state university, the Hotel Ukraina (the tallest hotel in Europe) and the Red Gates Administrative Building. The buildings are hard to describe but think of a gothic cross between the Royal Liver building in Liverpool and the Tower of Terror "ride" at Disneyworld if you can. What seems strange to me is to see a building so high that also looks so old. All are grotesquely beautiful a contradiction that seems to also sum up Moscow for me.

      VDNKh is made up of a number of pavilion that were meant to represent different regions such as Georgia and Armenia. The entrance is a Russian style monumental gateway which opens up to the central pavilion and also includes elaborate fountains. Statues include those featuring the gigantic figures of a man and woman holding together the famous "hammer and sickle. Nearby is The Cosmonautics Memorial Museum located inside a monument to the explorers of the cosmos with a silver rocket shooting into the sky as its architectural centre piece. Aside from the obvious exhibits you can also see the stuffed remains of the some of the dogs.

      Shopping areas..
      Again plenty of choices. The "main street" of Moscow is Tverskaya Ulitsa heading north west from Red Sqaure and once the road to the city of Tver and onto St Petersburg. This has all the big name chains as well as pleasant surprises such Yeliseevs Emporium an opulent food shop. Not just for shopping but worth a walk in there own rights are the old and new Arbat Streets and if its raining the massive underground shopping area in the Manage Square a stones throw from Red Square is worth checking out.

      Eating and drinking..
      If you are expecting cold peasant food you might be surprised but not disappointed at the choice of cuisine in Moscow. Sushi seems to be de facto eating out choice of the hip young locals and you will always find it hard to find a seat in McDonalds.
      A number of good value chains also abound. One example is Yolki Polki serving traditional food at good prices.
      Service can range from friendly and excellent to surly at best. Things are changing but its still quite surprising to find a lack of English spoken even in the big chain city centre restaurants.

      And finally..
      Moscow still feels a more foreign city to me than even say Singapore or Hong Kong. Maybe it's a lack of spoken English, the fact that it was once "the enemy" maybe the different faces from the West but also the very North, East and South. Things are changing and after all this is a city trying to pack a centuries worth of change into a couple of decades. The underground signs will be up in English one day no doubt and maybe everything will just get less complicated to visit. More reason to visit now I think. As for me I am all Moscowed out after the traffic and bureaucracy but still sit at home sometimes, have a glass or two of Vodka and wonder what it will be like. Next time.

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      • More +
        18.11.2002 01:50
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        • "Awful weather in the winter"

        One of my biggest regrets is never having to been to Berlin whilst the wall was up. Amanda, my wife, once managed to visit East Berlin - with no papers - but that's a different story! Since the demise of Communism, I've been behind the former Iron Curtain twice. On this occasion, we visited Moscow. There's a lot to say about Moscow and I won't be able to say it all here, naturally - but I'll do my best to give an informative glimpse of this fantastic city. I can't comment on hotels because we're lucky enough to have friends who own a flat in Moscow, and that's where we stayed. Let me try to tempt you, anyway! I guess the first thing to say is that the currency is a little confusing - in the sense that you're never quite sure whether to use US dollars or Russian roubles. Most of the time it's fairly obvious but it helps if you have a companion who is "in the know"! We arrived at Sheremetyevo airport, late, after our flight from London with Aeroflot and got through customs remarkably quickly. Our friends were waiting for us at 5am, with a taxi. Wow! Forget the roller-coasters in Florida and just go for a ride in a Russian taxi instead! They make dangerous driving look so very easy! Having refreshed at or hosts' flat, we decided to head off to see the Kremlin and Red Square. Another exciting taxi ride. There ARE official taxis, but what you should do (if you're brave enough) is simply stand by the roadside and stick your arm out. Almost immediately, you'll find a private car will pull over and negotiate a rate for a ride. Don't do this alone. Don't do it if you're nervous. And definitely don't do it if there is already someone in the front passenger seat; wave them on - you are just NOT interested, and no offence will be taken; you're simply observing the unwritten - yet well understood - rules. Following these few simple rules, we managed to get ar
        ound Moscow quite easily and very safely. What's more, we felt part of it; we'd dipped into the culture of the city. The number of times that drivers on their way home from work would turn around and head in the opposite direction just to give you a lift was staggering. Interestingly, the one time we used an "official taxi" the stench of marijuana was just unbelievable! It went some long way towards explaining the driver's somewhat unique driving style!!! The other way, of course, to travel around Moscow (other than on foot) is by the Metro. You absolutely MUST do this. It is very efficient and the stations are breathtakingly beautiful, often decorated with marble and crystal Chandeliers. If you can't get to grips with the cyrillic alphabet, get a map, make sure you're on the right (colour-coded) line, count the number of stops and just concentrate hard! The station at Red Square is well worth a visit; it's got loads of interesting marble statues of revolutionary figures. Don't take photos at metro stations, by the way! It's illegal. We did (but please keep THAT a secret!!) and lived to tell the tale, although our host was certainly more than a little nervous! Red square is staggering. I'd often seen news pictures of steely-faced communist leaders braving the bitterly cold snow to see thousands of tanks drive through it, but today it was hot and sunny and somehow extremely welcoming. GUM, the huge department store is to your left and has some very up-market shops; we bought a Russian version of the famous board-game, "Monopoly" there. It'll be fun trying to fathom that one out! St Basil's Cathedral is in front of you, with its brightly-coloured spiral spires, and on your right is the Kremlin, with its golden domes, and Lenin's tomb. There's an awful lot to see and do. Getting into the Kremlin involved fairly tight security and we were glad to have had a native Russi
        an speaker with us. My wife was pregnant at the time (my fault!) and was not too keen on walking through the security scanner. Anna managed to negotiate an alternative with an extremely officious security guard - the only really unfriendly person we met during our stay. The Kremlin is, anyway, well worth a visit and you should take your time. It's a jewel. You'll undoubtedly queue if you want to visit Lenin's tomb but it's well worth the wait. No cameras are allowed. It's a strange and very serene experience and I'll let you decide for yourself whether it's really him or not! As you leave, you walk past the tombs of many other (in)famous Russian leaders such as Brezhnev, Kruschev and Stalin. It's a superb experience and I'm glad I queued up! Not far from Red Square is a really nice park where you can sit and enjoy the sun, people-watch and enjoy an ice-cold beer or three. Note, incidentally, that the Russians don't consider beer to be an alcoholic drink! That accolade is reserved for the more serious stuff. Yes, I'm talking about Vodka! Vodka with a "W". Don't sip it - just knock it back in one go and you'll delight your host! Just make sure that you brace yourself first! Drink is readily obtainable and represents very good value. We had booked tickets on the "Red Arrow", a sleeper train from Moscow to St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad). It's a truly great and thoroughly memorable experience which really shouldn't be missed. First class tickets get you a great twin-bedded compartment and, at about US$100 return, offer absolutely superb, unbeatable value. You get the transport and two nights' comfortable accommodation. It's quite an adventure! You just cannot go wrong! Sit in the restaurant car for an hour or so, with its lace curtains and elegant table decorations, and you could be on the Orient Express, but at a mere fraction of the price. The cavia
        r is cheap (if you like it, that is - personally, I can't stand the stuff) and the Champagne is about $3 per bottle (and I love it). Anyway, the train leaves at midnight (in each direction), so we needed to find something to do for the evening. Now don't get me wrong - I am NOT into ballet at all(!) but we just HAD to go and see "Swan Lake" at the Bolshoi Theatre. The experience was captivating. Don't try to get tickets at the box-office unless you're booking way in advance, because all the tickets will already have been sold to (hush!) the local Mafia, who then hang around outside, making a handsome profit selling tickets with a face value of a couple of dollars for about $50. It hurts, but it's about the only way to get in! We enjoyed the show, then got a "taxi" to the station, bought some food and some vodka and toasted the night away on the train to St Petersburg! When we got back to Moscow, there was yet more to see. Gorky Park, immortalised in the film of the same name, is apparently really nice. We turned up to find thousands of guys in Green hats wandering around looking drunk and decidedly dangerous. Apparently it was a national holiday for the National Guard and they'd decided to descend on Gorky Park to party the day away. We decided to go elsewhere! Onto a bus (the policy seemed to be not to buy a ticket. You might get fined a little but, on the balance of probabilities, it would be cheaper than buying tickets! Crazy!) and off to the Arbat.... The Arbat is a long street of some repute and it's now crammed with souvenir sellers. I love it; it's crazy! You can buy hats, flags, KGB ID cards, Russian dolls - anything at all; even a cosmonaut's outfit, with helmet, if you want to! My friend settled for a "Bleck lyeckered borx" or black, laquered box (all the more expensive because, as the vendor pointed out, "Look! Nyem of artist!") and, for some reason w
        hich totally escapes me to this day, a pair of "binoculars of high myegnification". They have not been used since! Mind you, I haven't flown my red flag either, so I shouldn't criticise. Anyone who says that Russians don't have a sense of humour should see the Russian doll of Bill Clinton. Each doll inside represents a member of the Monica Lewinski genre - I think even Hilary gets a look in! Here's a useful tip. Don't EVER point at the President! We were just descending into a metro station when I noticed a police car (nothing new there, actually - there are thousands of these souped-up Ladas in Moscow) hurtling down the street. It did an impressive handbrake turn, stopping in the middle of the road and blocking off the traffic. Moments later, a fast-moving cavalcade of black cars and President Putin's limousine tore down the street. "Look!" I said, and pointed. Potentially huge mistake. I was spotted by a bodyguard and, for a moment, was very worried. Nothing actually happened but I must confess that I did feel a little uneasy! There's so much else to do in Moscow. Visit a church and experience the sights and fragrant smells of a Russian Orthodox service. Eat out - there are loads of places to choose from. You can even get a McDonald's - if you must. The military museum is superb and well worth a visit. One thing that you will find is that virtually everything has a two-tier pricing system, whereby tourists pay considerably more than locals. Whilst you may complain that this is unfair, bear in mind that local wages are generally extremely low (unless you're in the mafia). This also explains the eagerness of private motorists to act as unofficial taxi drivers! At one museum, Anna's brother tried, rather enterprisingly I thought, to get us in as native Russians. "Just don't speak!" he said. We didn't.... And we still got caught! I guess we just didn't "look"
        ; sufficiently Russian. All a bit embarrassing really - so don't try it yourself!!! For us, the week ended with a wedding. Anna's brother was getting married and we were very fortunate to be invited as guests. Wow! Do these guys know how to enjoy themselves! You get married (our taxi was late and we missed that bit!). Everyone then jumps into cars. You all drive in convoy to a local monument. You get out, drink vodka and champagne and take photos. Repeat five or six times (without the marriage bit) and then hit the reception, where there's more vodka and some very amusing games. One, involving two people, ten clothes pegs and two blindfolds, was particularly memorable! I'll leave the details to your imagination. An unbelievable experience, and a day when we made many, many new friends, some of whom have come to visit us in Canterbury. A really fantastic trip to a city which I'd heartily recommend and will NEVER forget (although I'd avoid it during the football world cup!) And by the way - you certainly don't HAVE to drink like a fish; it just helps! Enjoy - and take care! Andrew

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          10.05.2002 04:18
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          I hope what follows will be of some use to those who, on the one hand, have never been in Russia before, and, on the other, prefer travelling on the cheap and on one’s own (without any bodyguards or escorts). · Don’t come to Moscow in November to March inclusive. In any case wait until there is no snow. Keep in mind that hundreds of locals break their limbs on the notorious slippery pavements every winter. “Snowfalls” come back with a vengeance to town, as a rule, in early June: most of the city’s greenery comes from poplars that shed fluff in due course. Early May is perhaps the best timing for a visit. · Sadly, but of all means of reaching Moscow imaginable, flying is by far the safest. Do brace yourself before arriving at the Sheremetyevo Airport, for any sort of nasty surprise may lie in wait for you there (delays at the passport, luggage and customs checkpoints; understaffed, inefficient and largely unfriendly personnel (the sycophants have got an unerring eye for foreigners, though – but the unfriendly ones outnumber them by far); overzealous and overgreedy taxi drivers; murky and gloomy interior, etc.). They say renovated Domodedovo Airport is much better. But I haven’t been there for ages. But I can confirm that Moscow sees now an exodus of major international airlines from Sheremetyevo: they strike hands with the newly fledged owners of Domodedovo. · If you have no choice and have to arrive at (or depart from) Sheremetyevo, do not take a taxi. Take a minibus (“Avtoline”, pronounced Af-ta-LAIN) from the Rechnoi Vokzal (rech-NOI vok-ZARL) underground station (at the end of a green line on the map of Moscow underground) instead. The journey will take you about half an hour at $0.5. You will save $30, at least. · As to the underground itself, you will have to pay 5 roubles ($0.2) for a single one-way journey to any other station you like. (A return ticket is at RU
          R 10; a ticket for 5 journeys is at RUR 20; 10 journeys – RUR 35; 20 journeys – RUR 70; 60 journeys – RUR 150). To get a better understanding of how the underground works, please, note that all trains go along the lines on the underground scheme (red, blue, orange etc. – about 10, all told) strictly from beginning to end (in both directions). Generally speaking, Moscow underground offers a reliable and more or less safe transport service. According to safety experts, you’d better take a car somewhere in the middle of the train – just in case. Some underground stations are true works of (socialist) art: for instance, “Maykovskaya” (my favourite), “Novoslobodskaya”, “Ploshchad Revolyutsii”, “Komsomolskaya”, to name but a few. “Maykovskaya” was the venue for the 1941 CPSU Congress that opened a few months after the beginning of the war against the Nazis. Joseph Stalin presided over the Congress. · Whenever you are in the premises of Moscow underground (to say nothing of the city’s streets), keep a close watch on your personal belongings. You will see lots of people snooze, read, nudge or kiss there – still, be on the alert. Avoid the underground during the rush hours (0800-0900 and 1800-1900). Unfortunately, the stops are announced in Russian only – so plan your journey ahead carefully. Directions (that are very clear, precise and helpful) are written in Russian, too. · I heard European business partners praise Sretenskaya Hotel (15, Sretenka St.) and Best Western Art Hotel (2, 3rd Peschanaya St.) for both modest pricing and good services. · Don’t believe that once in Moscow on the cheap, you will be cut off from the rest of the world for good. With the cheapest of portable radios, you will be able to listen to The Voice of America (810 KHz AM), BBC (1260 KHz AM), Deutsche Welle (693 KHz AM) and
          Radio France International (1440 KHz AM). Foreign-language programming is scheduled mostly for the daytime, however. You may also pick up a free copy of The Moscow Times or The Moscow Tribune in almost any supermarket, café or hotel in the inner city. Both newspapers come out on weekdays, are international by nature and origin and are generally reliable and comprehensive sources of local, national and international news. My impression is that Moscow cinemas aren’t behind European premiere schedules (a ticket is at about $7 on average). · Don’t forget to take your mobile along: public phones in Moscow have no international connection. · As a rule of thumb, you’d better follow all the common-sense advice on precautions to be taken when you are in… well, Asia (and, surely, Asia it is! – the way I see it.) Visit www.tripprep.com, for that matter. In Beijing and elsewhere in China, I saw women wearing nose-and-mouth sanitary masks in the dusty streets. In Moscow only medical personnel and gangsters enjoy the privilege. · It is very easy to lose your way in the 854-year-old city. The government of the richest city in Russia apparently doesn’t want to stir a finger to make Moscow more attractive to foreign tourists: the shortage of tourist information bureaux is particularly evident. If that happens to you, you may freely address any student or yuppie in central Moscow in English. Keep away from skinheads, tipsy blue-collar workers, Moscow underground personnel, prostitutes, football fans and football stadia (that is, the Dinamo (dee-NAR-mo) and Sportivnaya (sporr-TIV-na-ya) underground stations) at the time of major national or international fixtures, street pedlars and policemen (unless you find yourself in hot water). · Do not lie down on any patch of green anywhere within the city bounds without examining it first. The same applies to crossing any lawn in town – wa
          tch your s tep. The city abounds in unruly pet owners, men and women who don’t care a hook about cleanliness beyond their doorstep, on the one hand, and in stray dogs and cats, on the other. · The streets of Moscow aren’t clean enough and the heavy traffic seems to make matters worse, so don’t visit open-air cafes or restaurants – have your meals indoors. I would recommend a PIR O.G.I. (pee-rog-EE) café (at Klimentovsky Pereulok (klee-MEN-tov-ski pee-ree-OO-lok), between its intersections with Pyatnitskaya (PYAT-nits-ka-ya) and Novokuznetskaya (no-vo-kooz-NETS-ka-ya) Streets: it is impossible to fail to locate it, since there is virtually one building between the intersections. Nearest underground stations: Novokuznetskaya and Tretyakovskaya (tret-ya-KOVs-ka-ya). The chef’s skills and the service are good enough. A sumptuous lunch (without strong drinks) for two adults and a child was at less than $20 a few months ago. There is a very good souvenir shop not far from the café – at …, Pyatnitskaya Street. Prices for the original souvenirs made by professional artists and craftsmen start from $1. If you are going to come back home with a bottle of a real Russian vodka, why not try “Салют, Златоглавая Люкс” (sa-LOOT zla-to-GLAR-va-ya LEWKS) at about $2 per 0.6-litre bottle. In any case, you’d better follow these two simple safety regulations: (1) never buy vodka at street kiosks (2) when choosing a vodka brand in a supermarket, give preference to those made from alcohol of the highest (LEWKS) grade. · Consider visiting the following places of interest: - The Kremlin; - The Red Square; - The Aleksandr Garden. The nearest underground station(s) to the three sights: Teatralnaya (tee-at-RAAL-na-ya), Okhotny (o-KHOT-ny) Ryad, Ploshchad Revolyutsii
          (PLOSHCH-ad re e-vo-LJUTS-ee-ee); - St. Daniil Men’s Monastery (Headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church Foreign Relations Department). 22, Danilovsky Val St. The nearest underground station(s): Paveletskaya, Tulskaya (TOOL-ska-ya); - Christ the Saviour Cathedral (15, Volkhonka St. The nearest underground station: Kropotkinskaya (kro-POT-kin-ska-ya); - The All-Russia Museum of Decorative and Folk Arts (3, Delegatskaya (dee-lee-GAT-ska-ya) St. The nearest underground station: Mayakovskaya (ma-ya-KOV-ska-ya); - The Tretyakov Gallery (10, Lavrushensky (lav-ROO-shen-ski) Pereulok (pee-ree-OO-lak). Russian Fine Arts. The nearest underground station: Tretyakovskaya.); - The Oriental Museum (12a, Nikitsky (ni-KEET-ski) Boulevard. The nearest underground station: Arbatskaya); - The Pushkin Fine Arts Museum (Antique and Western Fine Arts. 12, Volkhonka (vol-KHON-ka) St. The nearest underground station: Kropotkinskaya; - The Andrei Rublyov Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Arts (10, Andronyevskaya (and-RON-yevs-ka-ya) Ploshchad. The nearest underground station: Ploshchad Ilicha (il-YEE-cha); - The Moscow House of Photograhy (16, Ostozhenka (os-TO-zhin-ka) St. The nearest underground station(s): Kropotkinskaya, Park Kultury (kool-TOO-ry); - The Photo Centre (8, Gogolevsky (GO-go-lev-ski) Boulevard. The nearest underground station: Kropotkinskaya); - “Children Are the Victims of Adults’ Vices” – a moving sculptural composition made by Mikhail Shemyakin and placed in a park at the Bolotnaya (bo-LOT-na-ya) Ploshchad (Square). The nearest underground station: Tretyakovskaya. · When at Rome, do as the Romans do. So, keep in mind that: - women are expected to enter an Orthodox church wearing a kerchief; - men are expected to offer their seats to women and elderly persons.

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            24.11.2001 15:50
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            I arrived in Moscow after an overnight train journey from St Petersburg. We had a quick coffee. purchased a map of the Metro and set off to explore the city. TRANSPORT The Metro stations in the city are excellent places to begin your sightseeing. Many of them are like museums in themselves with the huge chandeliers and fascinating decoration. The trains are cheap, fast and efficient. Even in rush hour they weren't as crowded as the Tube in London. GENERAL * The prices in the city are about one third more than in St Petersburg and so to the everage Russian who deosn't live in a major city, they are extortionate! * The city was still on quite a high alert last year due to the problems in Chechnya. Make sure you carry your passport with you in case the police stop you. * Language may be a problem because the English language is rarely spoken in the smaller shops and restaurants of the city. I was fortunate enought to have a Russian accompanying me. THINGS TO SEE * RED SQUARE - the trick when visiting the Square is top go early in the morning if you can (we arrived at about 8am) before they cordon part of it off for security reasons for trips to Lenin's Tomb. Otherwise leave it until later in the afternoon when the barriers are removed. * ST BASILS CATHEDRAL - you must go and see one of the most shown images of the city with your own eyes.It lives up to all expectations. There are some amazing icons inside and also there are some good views across the city when you look out of the windows. * LENIN'S MAUSOLEUM - visit it while you can. There are rumours that it may disappear once and for all in the near future. Maybe it is a rather morbid suggestion but it is an experience quite unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Security is very tight and you cannot take bags or cameras inside. You walk round a one way system (in total silence) past numerous guards and then stop to ad
            mire the body (or wax statue). No doubt you will stand trying to decide if it is wax (of which I am almost convinced!) * CHANGING OF THE GUARDS - this is your opportunity to see the guards goose stepping. A video camera captures it better than still photography. * BULGAKOV MUSEUM - the museum is a 20 minute walk from the centre of the city but is a must for all fans of this Russian author. You will find it in an apartment block which has the walls decorated with scenes from his book. We found one of the owners of the apartment to show us around. There are manuscripts of some of the books on display. * THE KREMLIN - No trip to the city would be complete without a trip inside the walls. * BOLSHOY THEATRE - one of the homes of Russian Ballet. Tickets can be expensive (unless you can obtain one as a Russian citizen and pass yourself off as a Russian) but it is an experience not to be missed. SUMMARY It is a marvelous city to visit and June is a lovely time to visit when the first signs of summer are showing. Shopping in the city is still cheaper than UK prices and if you like designer goods there is a new shopping centre near Red Square. You can also find lots of shops in the famous GUM store. Wandering around the city I felt safer than I would in London. Definitely a place to visit as it destroys your preconceptions of Russia!

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              30.06.2001 01:10
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              Generally I try to be rather guarded about my personal life but I want to share an extraordinary experience that I had in Moscow that has altered how my future vacations will be handled. First off I married a sweet beautiful Russian girl who I love very much. I was a comrade of her brother in the defense of Servian culture in Bosnia a few years back and romance blossomed when I ended up in Russia for several months and so on. Her family still lives outside of Moscow so it is more or less a given that we visit there at least once a year now that we have a life approaching normalacy. The purpose of the vacations is family of course, and this is her primary priority. I saw all the stuff the first few times, Basilis, the Bolshoi, GUM and the Kremlin and Kitay Gorod and the circus and metro and all the other stuff the moscovites are so proud of. Now considering that none of that stuff changed much in 500 years it doesn't change much in three years so I am invariably stuck at home while all these other Russians come and go. If you ever manage to go to red square do eat at the siberian buffet that faces the East Side of Gum (I think). Ten dollars for all you can eat Central european delicacies. Of course we have nice "tables" and plenty of Vodka (I prefer Schrinofsky vodka) but I am limited in my Russian and only about half the visiting Russkies speak German and her family is always talking Finnish anyways so I am somewhat isolated. And it isn't like I expect these people to have to break pace and deal with my illiterate ass either. So I get online, drink and play video games. This year I wanted something different. So I announced to myself and anyone else that I was going to teach school this year in Russia. Of course I had no idea how I would pull this off when I started talking this smack but I have been pretty resouceful and creative in my endeavors to amuse myself. I tell my wife's nephew that I was
              going to his school to teach and he responded that they had no need for a tattooed drunk railroader there. He comes home from school the next day and tells me that the teacher said I could come to the class. I thought "Cool" and slept on it. The next day the little punk is dragging me out of bed at some awful hour, like 8am. I get dressed and follow him to school. I guess it is important to note that my wife's family lives on some type of closed town full of military personel so they don't get too many Americans, as far as I am concerned about my typical countryman, one is too damn many. So I am like the featured attraction of public school number whatever. They greated me with all these cute little presents like that stuff that comes from Khokloma (I think just as the SSR had a Georgia like the USA, Khokloma must be like their Oklahoma, a place full of drunk indigenous people, tornados, and oil wells). So they just fire away with all their questions. Mundane stuff about thes states, how to pronounce Seqouia and Ukiah, what is a couch potato (if you don't know this yourself ask marlboromax, who has a fridge right in his easy chair) and then they asked all about race relations and incomes and all that. It was kind of cool, basically I am pretty far right wing, sort of like a National Front type guy, and here these people are accepting everything I have to say like it is the gospel. I have a carte blanche with a room full of impressionable 15 and 16 year olds, that was fun. They kept referring to me as their "esteemed expert" on America, meanwhile no one bothers to ask my credentials or education or even occupation. (If it matters none, MBA, and Railroad Supervision) That was really cool. So they asked me to come back the next day. I did and they had me read along with them through these obsolete readers that said things like "The American Breakfast table is centered around the morning newspaper" or "W
              hen an American attends the Cinema he expects to see not only the feature film but several newsreels and a puppet show" and then this one was funny "The most popular american radio programs are ones where the audience quizzes a panel of experts on trivia questions" When we had a free forum to discuss stuff the adults (principal and teachers) were all hung up on gun violence and gun control and education issues. My mom is a teacher so I had a lot of answers for them and being a gun nut myself I had all sorts of fuel for fire. The Russians were greatly pleased that my favorite Assualt rifle in my collection is a Tula AKM with a milled receiver, that made them happy. Then on one day they had me put on an impromptu musical performance with some piece of crap old guitar. I felt like an idiot as I don't have too many camp fire singalongs in my repetoire, I am mostly a Helloween, Mistreat, Skrewdriver, and Metalicca type of guy, but it worked out. One day I didn't bother to show up and the teacher sent the students to fetch me from bed. Then she got real presumptive and started showing up at the house with lesson plans everyday. She would find me passed out on the couch and rouse me enough to give me some books. They got hung up on Robert Burns poems and had me read them over and over before they decided to tape record them, so I read these "My love is like a red red rose" poems in a very bad Irish Brogue (I know he was Scottish but South Buffalo doesn't exactly have a very visible Pict crowd to imitate). I also had to read along with them some O Henry stories and try to write some sonnets and Haiku. I preferred the geography classes to the English though and I also got to help out in some "career enrichment" course where I got to teach the kids how to make resumes (CV for you Brits). So this is how I spent 3 weeks. All these 16 year old girls bringing me boxes of chocolate and cards. That wa
              s distracting. Then the last few days we had to take so many pictures and then I had to sign all these autograph books and pictures. One girl, beautiful Marina, wanted me to autograph her arm, I told her next year I would bring my tattoo gear and tattoo her arm, she laughed and smacked her buttock and said "How about here instead". I blushed so red and she apologized for "Russian Humor", I was more concerned about the concept of Russian justice as I heard more than enough about Russian prisons and her whole request sounded like an inviataion to a big legal hassle. So what did I like so much? Being called the esteemed expert, acting like I mattered and my life was interesting with some value. But best of all I loved seeing their bright optomistic eyes in a land otherwise so devoid of hope. They were so alive and eager to hear about the place I call my home. I was so happy to be amongst people that wanted to hear what I had to say (without having me have to revenge rate them like certain other forums) I am so much looking forward to going back this Fall. I am accumulating all sorts of coins, stamps, magazines and stuff for them. I advise evryone who travels to try to pull off a similar stunt. Moscow is a wonderous place and a beautiful city, but none of my other trips affected me as much as becomming part of these young peoples lives. They all still e-mail me and write letters and I really do miss them. I have travelled a lot in my life and I have always felt like a detached tourist, just an outside observer, for once I really got to be part of a cultural exchange and that was a neat feeling. These people tried to pay me money and all and I wouldn't take it (if it had been a lot of money I would have) and next year I am going to set up private English lessons (my wife looked at my souvenier photos and doesn't like this idea, in particular the hot little Uzbekistani girl) Part of my appeal in Russia is I am
              the only American to go there who doesn't see any purpose in prostelyzing and trying to get the Russians to change anything about themselves. I accept them for who they are and appreciate their way of life. I like the Russians better than any other people in the world (BTW My mom is a German but her father was Danish and my dad is like the true American mismosh of Dutch, Irish, and German) So I am not Slavonic in the least yet I adore their culture and their fierce defense of it. These are a proud people but also the most compassonate, generous, open and giving people on the planet if you have given them no reason to suspect your intentions. If a person goes to Moscow to stir up trouble and try to be a missionary to a country with a established religion of 1000 years they ought to be turned back at the border. If someone goes there with the intention of stirring up Samoyed unrest, then they deserve to be detained. The Rodina has no perogative to allow outsiders in to create problems. If you hear other visitors to Russia complain about their treatment there, most likely the did something to deserve it. Russia does not tolerate Blacks, gays, or Jehovahs Witnesses and us Anglos on our protected isolated shores can not begin to empathize with the Russian psyche on xenophobia until we spend 300 years under the golden horde and see invasion after invasion strike for a millenia. So if you want to go there and be a nice visitor you will have a beautiful time and if you wish to go there and be judgemental and hostile to a beautiful (all the women are gorgeous and there are no fat people) and unique people I hope you get what you deserve. I don't mean to be so defensive about Slavonic culture but I feel that need tugging at me, for whatever reason at 20 years of age I spent 2 years running around Yugoslavia defending Slavonic culture with a far more powerful tool of persuasion than what my writing on Dooyoo is considered by my opponents. Now to validate the way
              I spent my life, two important years when I should have been at college drinking beer and playing ping pong instead of sitting around a bombed out apartment building burning newspapers to keep warm, listening to Danijela, eating stank Kielbas and singing WW2 songs with a bunch of Russians. People wonder why I am so messed up and full of hate, well I will for once explain the truth. I walk down the street and see normal people, people whose eyes can brighten and fill with happiness when they think about the crap they want to buy or bars they want to visit. I read these peoples Ops about wasting a week on the Beach in Ibiza and I envy them so much, not their luxury and ease, but the fact that someone can walk away from problems and their "stress". I guess I am pretty jealous of people who can just relax and not see nightmare images of stupid crap they did as a kid. My point is I need to defend and protect Russia against all detractors since Russia more or less defines Slavicness (Dokic, Hingis Kournikouva, yum yum eat em up), I do this because I somehow have to absolve the fact that 22 months of my life were spent doing so in the forests of Bosnia, and If it isn't worth my words now, it wasn't worth my blood then. I don't make excuses. I love the Russians and the slavonic peoples but what happened is I got wrenched out of a basic drab all American life of college classes and working at a burger joint to go sit in the Desert for 6 months because I made the mistake of joining the reserve "For one weekend each month and two weeks in the summer". Well I suddenly felt like a big shot and a superstar when I had a gun that I was actually allowed to shoot. I go from facing the 5th most powerful army in the world back to some sorry ass college classroom where I am supposed to learn about World History from some puke that had dodged the draft by going to college and missed out on Vietnam. Here he is talking about Economy of Power and all this cr
              ap when I just watched it in 4-D weeks earlier. Profs all of a sudden telling you that getting your paper written is a "big responsibility" when a month earlier your CO is telling you that if you don't hold the line 236 men will die. I go from having my life run by men who earned their stripes in the Mekong Delta to having a boss at Pizza Hut who earned her credentials through Job Corp. So I flipped out and when I heard about Bosnia and all that it did not take me long to find a crew to run with. And now almost ten years later I find my life still wrapped up as a big apology for what I did. So I just want to say I am forced to see Russia and the slavonic world through different eyes, if they are wrong than I am wrong for defending their world. One other thing, I wish I could write an Op on "One good night's sleep". That is all I want at this point. I dunno, I know my biggest detractors on here are a bunch of punk college kids thinking they have all the answers. Sometimes I just go over to a local campus to listen to the kids talk about how pretty their world is, like I said, that is what I enjoyed about these Russian kids, their life is still a clean open slate and it will be a good 6 years before they are broken down and used up. But I see these college kids talking their smack, pushing their play on everyone, "Can you believe that man, I nailed me a Beta Phi", I hear some punk ass kid say, all gloating he nailed a girl from a soroiety that was off limits to his frat, I wonder what he thinks of systimatically employing rape as a tool of policy. I wonder if he would like it or puke his guts out the first time he sees his 'brothers' {(his brothers are a bunch of other stupid bastards whose parents find it worthy to pay big bucks for his right to have particular friends. "Maya Bratan" were men who would die and kill for me, not swat me in the ass with a canoe paddle.} brutally rape and beat a Sigma MU Pi or what
              ever girl in the middle of campus to teach the locals not to cut phone lines. I hear these other kids boasting about their skill in playing frisbee golf "I hit that at 60 yard", well at his age I was hitting guys from 600 yards (Russians might not be able to make a decent car but the Dragunov is the finest good ever produced) I just wish my life was so damn silly and meaningless as to call a crisis not having something to wear to a rave. I guess the funny thing is that I saw this same crap go down before. Like I said my Mom is German and her father Danish, do the math on that one and figure it out. I know I am rambling on and all that but i know people want to know why I am so mean and angry and uneducated and why I defend Russia no matter what. I guess this is the answer.

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                14.05.2001 04:58
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                There is a stereotypical view of Russia , it can hardly be ignored , we've all seen the history videos and propaganda proclaiming them as the "red menace" or "the evil empire" (according to the Reagans). This is far from the truth. I have been to Russia three times so far in my relatively short life so far , this is mainly because a relative of mine lives and works there. What there is to see in this city will amaze you , so I’ll start with the numerous good points. I said I’d start with the good points but there is one bad point when starting in the Moscow airport "Sheremetyevo" , if you're not a Russian citizen then it takes a while as passport control is (and probably still will be) a scrum to get to the front of the queue. But anyway upon exiting this relatively drab airport you should get on your tour bus or taxi or whatever means you have of reaching the capital. This involves a three quarter hour drive just to get to the centre of the city. Nevertheless upon arriving at your residence , my advice is to get acquainted with the time difference of three hours forward from GMT , though it shouldn’t really cause to many problems to those living in the UK . I've never had problems with it myself , it just means you go to bed earlier. Okay so on to the good points . Contrary to popular belief , there are countless amounts of things to see and do in Russia. In Red Square there is plenty to do , the square itself is fantastic though they always seem to be doing roadworks. Standing in the middle of red square , on every side of you , there is St Basils Cathedral , "Gum" (pronounced goom) which is a big department store with fantastic architecture , a museum (which I unfortunately can never remember the name of , sorry) and the main gate of the Kremlin where Putin and all the other ministers drive out as well as Lenin’s Tomb. Tourists should also note that poli
                ce frequently patrol the city and you _must_ have a form of identification , passport and visa is best , otherwise you may get into trouble . Speaking of Lenin’s Tomb , I have never gone inside this strange structure and will no longer be able to. This is because it has been closed altogether as apparently bits of Lenin have been falling off him inside his case , people aren’t sure how much of him is real anymore. The guard is no longer there permanently though Russian "militsia" (policeman) patrol just to stop mad tourists jumping the small chain link fence. Ornate cathedrals churches are dotted around the city , the three within the Kremlin itself are stunning . Its almost sickening to think of all this gold stuck to the walls and on roofs of churches. Tourist though if you want to enter a church , wear the proper attire , shirt and trousers for men and _long_ skirts for women. Surrounding the Kremlin is Alexander Gardens where the tomb of the unknown soldier is. And next to the Kremlin is the Moscow river aswell. In the summer you can take a boat ride all the way up the river to different locations such as the Moscow State University. Speaking of weather , don’t think that Russia is permanently cold , in fact quite the opposite. Russia gets extremes in the seasons , in winter it goes as low as the minus twenties and in the summer its a scorchingly hot twenties to thirties. Be sure to pack either warm layers of clothing or countless amounts of lotion , to really get the most of this city you need to do a lot of walking. Transport in Moscow is one of the best in eastern Europe , taxis are everywhere but be sure not to pay more than fifty roubles travelling within the city limits tourists can be ripped off. There are also buses and trams that work very efficiently but the best has to be the underground system. The jewel in Moscow's eye is the metro system , the Muscovites are very proud of it . It
                s of great interest to architecture students as in each of the stations , not one of them are the same in architecture. Huge mosaics , chandeliers , bronze statues , ornate greco-inspired columns and pillars are dotted all over the place and every station is sparklingly clean , even though it is dirty and dusty because of the trains. In comparison to the London Underground , this underground system is a palace. I thoroughly recommend using the underground system and underpasses (or "perryhods") as they are lot safer than trying to cross the roads , be warned , Russian drivers are quite frankly ghastly and have little regard for the lights at times. Though like all major cities of the world , crime is no exception. Believe me when I say this , trying to blend in is next to impossible , they know that you're a tourist and will be quite happy to take your money , through either transactions or stealing. Be warned of street sellers , they will try anything for a fast buck. Haggling is perfectly acceptable and I recommend it . Places like the "Arbat" (main boulevard of Moscow with folk singers , street sellers and performance artists etc..) are good places to haggle though it is the most expensive location. One place I particularly enjoy is a location directly opposite the front of the Moscow State University with more than twenty different sellers and is relatively cheaper than the "Arbat" (about a couple hundred rouble difference). The rouble is equivalent to forty roubles to the pound or twenty eight to the dollar. It varies frequently , fluctuating as often as every five minutes. When haggling my advice is to never use large denominations of either roubles or dollars. Secondly is to never accept their first price , lines such as "I only have this much...." and so forth usually work , walking away will tend to strike a deal quite successfully. My best has been reducing 1000 roubles to 275 whic
                h is about a 75%drop in price. It was worthless anyway , but the sellers can only go so low. Beggars do frequent the underground , there's no denying it , its a pretty disheartening sight seeing a decrepit old grandmother using a small child to earn money but that occurs in other cities too. If you feel harassed by this , just ignore them entirely , don't look at them at all. I think I’ve droned on enough about Moscow , but this is only scratching the surface , there is just so much to see in this country in terms of architecture , culture and so much more. Russians frequently visit the theatre and concerts , they are a very cultural nation and quite proud of it. I whole heartedly encourage anyone to go but either do it with a tour operator or a group of your own. Even a simple grasp of the language can help greatly , a phrase book does wonders , though I can speak the language myself I can make my own way around. Remember that even though Russians may look like a depressing bunch of people , smile when you meet some of them. And they'll smile back. They are quite a welcoming people but they are a bit harsh at first meeting but don't worry about that, go there and enjoy your-self! ++UPDATE++30 November 2001++ Okay its been a very long time since I was meant to update this. I recently stayed in the city during three weeks of July on my own (bit homesick) and did a course of Intermediate Russian Grammar in the Moscow State University, also known as MGY (or in Russian “Moskoskovo Gossoodarstvenee Ooniversitet”). So that’s what I’m going to talk about mainly. Moscow State University is absolutely amazing, it consists of over twenty seven faculties (correct me if I’m wrong) such as Philological (languages), Sciences (such as Chemistry and Physics). Actually there is an interesting story about those two faculties which I shall now try to recount. The founder of MGY is L
                .M. Lomonosov who was a very intelligent man who excelled in the sciences as well as the arts. Anyway, in the University the two scientific faculties, Physics and Chemistry are situated opposite each other in a square and in the centre of this square ( in Russian “ploshad”) is a statue of, you’ve guessed it , Lomonosov. Each year the two faculties argue as to whom is closer to the statue and both of them grab huge measuring tapes and they both go out and measure the distance. It varies year to year (depending on who cheats the most) and whichever faculty wins, becomes the host of a large party to which all the faculties are invited to (I think). The University is astounding to behold, the residential area in which I stayed consists of one Main building with, I’m not sure but, twelve sixteen subsidiary buildings branching off it in groups of three or four. All of this is in the Communist Gothic, style created by an architect appointed by Stalin. The building itself is one of seven buildings that are dotted around Moscow that are all in the same style, such as the hotel by the river (forgot the name) and that former KGB building (if not KGB then some former government building). Speaking of accommodation? Well it was a little basic in my dormitory, which basically consisted of a bed (a “divan”), two cupboards, one wardrobe, two tables and two chairs in what felt like an area of four cubic metres. But nonetheless it served its purpose, even if it was a little uncomfortable. There are many shops in the main building that sell all sorts of stuff such as stationary, food, toiletries as well as services such as a laundrette (which is incredibly hard to find), shoe make, film developer and so forth. The canteens were a dodgy issue for me and I wouldn’t recommend using them unless you are well used to eating Russian food, but try “borstch” and “Schee” which are both kinds of soup, both very
                tasty. Well anyway, I’ve talked long enough about this and do not wish to overload you with information on the topic. But I will say two more places that I enjoyed myself , “Komsomolskaya” which is a park and “La Cantina/Mexikana” on 4/5 Tverskaya Ulitsia (main road leading to Red Square). La Cantina is a great wee bar/restaurant which is meant to be on the theme of “Mexican”. In reality its owner is Irish, the head barman is an Ecuadorian named Darwin and the two other barmen are Cuban, go figure. Well that’s my entire rant for today, seeya! P.S. Say “Torpedo” to Darwin if you’re ever in the vicinity!

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                  09.05.2001 00:34
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                  I visited Moscow and St Petersburg in February 2000 - the middle of winter - and I can honestly say that it is one of the most interesting cities I've been to. From the beginning, the feeling that you've stepped into a slightly surreal world intensifies. At times you think you're in a completely normal European city, then you walk around the corner and bam! There's a big picture of workers with hammers and sickles. It's unnerving. But for the student of Soviet history, it's also fascinating. Moscow's famous sites include Lenin's mausoleum, GUM, the Kremlin and St Basil's. All of these are in a fairly small area, and walking between them is easy. It's even easier if your hotel is directly opposite Red Square, as mine was. GUM, St Basil's and Lenin are all on Red Square, which is bordered by the Kremlin. *St Basil's* This, for many, is the symbol of Moscow (if not Russia). Its colourful onion domes are instantly recognisable. I'm told its interior is also lovely, but unfortunately I don't have first hand experience of it; the cathedral appeared to be shut during my visit. They also didn't tell me that its right in front of a huge road (note about roads: all Russian roads seem to have 4 lanes, and if you think French drivers are bad.... just use the subway). *GUM* GUM is a huge ex-department store on one side of Red Square. It now functions as a shopping centre containing lots of boutiques. If you're into the tacky kind of Russian dolls, here's a good place to stick up. There are also lots of clothes and jewellery shops, all on the slightly pricey side. *Lenin's Mausoleum* This is the ultimate Russia experience. Come here to see the founder of the Soviet state, a Communist genius. Or to see a wax doll, depending on who you believe. It's heavily guarded by very solemn soldiers (all nicely dressed in long coats and fur hats), who let the
                  tourists in slowly as they queue. The decor (red and black) and the intense silence gives the tomb an amazing atmosphere; its an experience you shouldn't miss. *Red Square* Other highlights of Red Square include the graves of various Soviet leaders, including Stalin. Soviet martyrs and heroes have plaques along the wall. Red Square itself is a fun place to hang out; the soldiers and the people trying to sell you hats and medals give it an exciting atmosphere. There are always lots of tourists there too. *The Kremlin* This is where Russia's parliament traditionally resides. The Tsars were crowned and buried there, and you can visit the churches and graves. Its full of interesting buildings and monuments, although, for me, it had less of the impact of Red Square. *The Bolshoi* This famous ballet must be seen. I'm not a ballet conoisseur by any means, but I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to see the company do 'Swan Lake'. I advise early booking, because cheap seats (about 30 dollars) mean bad views. You can buy good caviar there as well. *The Underground* Moscow's tube stations are very different from London's. Many were decorated with marble and other materials plundered from royal palaces, giving you a rough idea of their decor. Others have statues of workers and murals of communist utopias. they're also cheap to use, but hold onto your bags! *Nightclubs* I can't claim any kind of expertise in this area, as I only visited one during my trip, which was the nightclub attached to my hotel. In the UK, it wouldn't be described as a nightclub - it had a bar, pool tables, and a dancefloor area, making it a glorified bar, really. The music was obscure Russian stuff and some Tom Jones (!), but was interrupted at 12 by a live hairdressing show (I'm not joking!) which was televised. Very strange. *Vodka* Russian vodka is cheap and good. Much mu
                  ch better than the Smirnoff stuff you get in the UK. I visited a Russian school during my visit, and they recommended 'Kristow' vodka, which I can confirm is lovely. Hardly any chemical taste at all. Vodka's available everywhere - the drink of choice, really - and you can pick up a decent bottle at GUM for £5. *Souvenirs* I would steer clear of the matrushka (Russian dolls). They're everywhere, and in general they're badly made and deeply tacky. Pick up a few 'dictators of the world' matrushka, for a laugh, but leave the rest alone. You'll find amber beads and woollen shawls everywhere, too, and also KGB and Soviet paraphernalia. Resist the urge to buy a KGB uniform, you won't wear it. The best places to buy are the markets, where you should pay in dollars and haggle on prices. If they see you have dollars they'll instantly raise the price, but generally the prices are dirt cheap anyway. If you search you can find some really kitsch Soviet stuff (busts of Lenin, flags, postcards), and I would go for these. *Atmosphere* Moscow has a throbbing pulse, no doubt about it. There's a quality that you can't find in St Petersburg. You constantly get the sense that it's alive, that things are happening. It's hard to describe, but if you've visited you'll know what I mean.

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                    11.04.2001 00:05
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                    Muscovites know how to live Moscow is a rule unto itself. And that rule has it’s own scale unlike any other. Grandiose and austere. Vast and towering. The architecture is stunning and public. However, it’s the people that make Moscow – the people that populate every paper-thin apartment building, that welcome any band that will come their way and that live life as best as they know how. In the well publicised instability of the economic climate, the Muscovites have no idea what will happen from one day to the next, so they just live for today, drink for today and party for today. Such is their zest for life, with melancholic tinges for tomorrow – well, tomorrow is another day when their lives’ work might amount to nothing. It’s a totally different mindset and the Russians are adamantly ‘different’ – they make no acceptances that they are anything other than Russian. And indeed, they will welcome anyone who is really interested in Russian culture and life, as long as you don't try to convert them! Pensioners will talk of the 'golden age' of communism. And certainly, Moscow has lost much of it's gleam, but it is a truly magnificent city because of the people that inhabit it and love the city they live in. It’s beautiful for the exotic snow in the long winters and the Hansel and Gretel-esque ‘dachas’ (summer cottages) where the Muscovites retreat during the heady summers. I can’t wait till my return.

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                      08.12.2000 05:07
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                      I visited Moscow for a week in the summer of 1998. Having studied Russian and Soviet history, I was very interested in seeing the history of Tolstoy and Lenin myself. I arrived at Moscow airport and was instantly struck by the clear contrasts with the modernity of Heathrow and JFK. Having unpacked in my functional but unexceptional room I began wondering around Red Square. Despite the undeniable poverty of many of Moscow's residents I did not really feel threatened. I suspect one is as likely to be mugged in Times Square or Leicester Square as Red Square. During my trip I naturally visited the famous sites of the city. Lenin's enbalmed body remains in a mausoleum in Red Sq. Daily queues remain to see the body of the Soviet leader who died in 1924. St.Basel's Catherdal is also fascinating but the most interesting site was the Cremlin. I saw the immense collection of jewellery accumulated by the Tsars. I then moved on to St.Petersburg, spending a night on a train moving across the country. St Petersburg was more westernised than Moscow especially the centre Nevsky Prospect. The memorial to the siege of Leningrad is extremely sobering.

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                      25.08.2000 02:27
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                      Moscow is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited (on a par with Niagara falls). People make unfair opinions about Russia without any knowledge of the place so I will set them right. Although it looks run down outside and you can be hassled by street sellers, the buildings are covered in gold and look magnificent. You have to see them to believe it. The Kremlin is also amazing with many beautiful buildings and also if you are at all interested, has got the heaviest bell in the world there. Wow it’s big! If you go it has to be in the winter months as the snowfall makes it perfect, ice-skating in Gorky Park was especially fun. It is a must visit place, as is St Petersburg, but the food I must add is not very good but is cheap (watch out for what looks like mashed potato, its really a dollop of horseradish sauce). The water is undrinkable; my mate drank some while drunk and didn’t stop vomiting for the rest of the next day! Bottled water is next to nothing to buy and so is Vodka! Please note that it is essential to go with a daily guide who can show you around in an organised manner, don’t even think about doing it alone!!!!!!!! Nightlife is non-existent because frankly if you go out at night in the winter, you will catch Pneumonia and be very ill, that’s why!! (The price I have said it was is for three days stay in St Petersburg and four days in Moscow) Nighlife is not non-existent, however it is difficult to find and transport is not as common as it is in Britain. On one of my evenings i visited a beautiful concert hall in which a local Russian Folk group performed. From this it is possible to see a clear difference in society, and it was a great night. I also recommend the Ballet at the Kremlin, which is performed at a certain time every year (usually in the winter). I am not a great fan of ballet being a male however i found it most enjoyable and is something else worth seeing if you can. As many will know, Lenin's b
                      ody was restored after his death and has been kept in a Tomb next to the Kremlin. The Tomb is open for the public to go and see him, which unfortunately we failed to be able to do. The day we were meant to go, the entire area was closed off due to the predicted arrival of General Putin.I must say we were all very disappointed. Unfortunately the body will soon be buried, if it hasnt already, which means that you wont be able to see him after all. There are many more attractions to go to, such as the Metro railway. This was one of my favourite experiences in which we travelled the underground admiring the tremendous architecture which still remains from the World War period. This is also definitely worth seeing.One last thing i must mention if you are a male is to be aware of Prostitutes, as myself and my friends were confronted a number of times by them, it was rather funny in some ways. Added info!! Another thing which tourists should be aware of is the number of police who march the streets. It is important that you hold some form of indentification which you can show to police if they ask you,describing that you are not an illegal immigrant or something like that. Whilst in Moscow my friends were confronted by police who suspected them to be illegal immigrants. Unfortunately we gave our passports to the hotel to look after and therefore had no identification. This resulted in them being taken down to the local police station, where my teachers spent a couple of hours persuading the police that my friends were not unwanted guests. This was an unfortunate occurrence however does make you more aware of what could happen. Just be careful if you go. Please dont let this put you off, it is a beautiful place.

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                        29.07.2000 00:54
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                        There's nothing quite like the sight of Red Square covered in snow with the impressive Kremlin Buildings and St Basil's Cathedral as a wondrous backdrop. Having been something of a closed city for many years, it is now totally accessible to the foreign business/tourist visitor and is one of those magical places which everyone should see. However, you need to be careful when walking after dark, especially away from the central areas. Again, the practice of flagging down private cars to use as taxis which is quite normal, can also be a risky option. Prices for just about everything are expensive although McDonalds is comparable with UK prices - quality wise too. If you can, whether or not you are a ballet fan, you must see the Bolshoi - it is an unforgettable experience. Also, see the wonderful cathedrals inside the Kremlin complex.

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                        15.07.2000 15:49
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                        Anyone glued to their T.V. on Millennium night could not fail to be moved by the sight of Red Square. With St. Basil's Cathedral bathed in soft light at one end, the Square came alive with people. The soft falling of snow, caught in the lights, only added to the fairytale atmosphere. How I wished I could have been transported, in that moment, to the centre of Moscow. It was a unique night that spread a short carpet of happiness all around the globe, as it turned too quickly. The beauty of Moscow is that this feeling stays with you on every visit. If you look beyond the negative stories, which the Western press love to indulge in, you will find a beautiful, peaceful City with a heart of Gold.

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                          13.07.2000 03:50

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                          Lucky me, sent to Moscow on business. I swapped my club class ticket for two coach and took along a friend that spoke Russian - with hindsight the wisest decision I have ever made. Our hotel was the Ritz, a joint Finnish-Russian venture. The dining room was exactly as you would imagine it, huge chandeliers, six-inch thick red carpets, more waiters than diners. The food is flown in from Finland every day and there was a choice of two courses, wild boar or venison. What arrived was a boil in the bag Birds-Eye dinner, two thin slices of "meat" with a portion of brightly coloured frozen mixed vegetables. The academics we met were charming, courteous, curious about the West, asking me about my opinions on the Royal Family and grateful for the books and magazines we had brought with us as gifts. In one institution we were offered a plate of tomatoes to go with our tea, in another they produced an enormous sickly sweet baclava, cut into tiny chunks served with a drink made from acorns. Highlights of the trip included a visit to the Bolshoi for the opera Eugene Onegin (see my review of that opera elsewhere), the several trips we made on the metro (amazing sculptures, no maps) and our guided tour around the Kremlin where we met a (Russian) friend from University days, who took us for a champagne and caviar meal in a once glorious restaurant.

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                        "Moscow (Russian: Москва́) is the capital of Russia and the country's principal political, economic, financial, educational, and transportation center. It is located on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District, in the European part of Russia. The city's population of 10.4 million constitutes about 7% of the total Russian population. Likewise, it is the most populous city in Europe. Historically, its position was central in the Russian homeland. It was the capital of the former Soviet Union and Muscovite Russia, the pre-Imperial Russian state. It is the site of the famous Kremlin, which now serves as the ceremonial residence of the President. Moscow's architecture and performing arts culture are world-renowned. Moscow is also well known as the site of Saint Basil's Cathedral, with its elegant onion domes, as well as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The Patriarch of Moscow, whose residence is the Danilov Monastery, serves as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Moscow also remains a major economic center and is home to a large number of billionaires; it is perennially considered one of the most expensive cities for expatriate employees in the world. It is home to many scientific and educational institutions, as well as numerous sport facilities. It possesses a complex transport system that includes the world's busiest metro system, which is famous for its architecture. Moscow also hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics."

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