Monday, July 23, 2012

Moscow in a Weekend


I made it to Moscow and managed to cover most of the city (territorially speaking) in a weekend. Wow.

The weekend started Friday, 6:00 PM, when my train departed Vladimir. My friends and I rode the "electric train," a traditional commuter-rail line that took us to Moscow in three hours.

In Moscow, I met up with my friend, Maxim (those of you who read my blog last summer may remember Maxim from Almaty). As a native of Kiev who has also lived in Moscow for some time, exploring the city with Maxim provided several advantages. First, he knows Moscow. Second, he taught me how to distinguish between apartment buildings constructed under Krushchev in the 50s, and under Brezhnev in the 60s, 70s and even buildings from the 80s. The trick is to look at the size and quality of the bricks, the size of the balcony, number of windows, and distance between windows and balcony. Finally, he was great for practicing Russian. Thank you Maxim!

First stop, the bazaar of course! We went to Izmaylovo market in Moscow, which is not far from the old Olympic complex. The bazaar is full of fabulous furs, matrioshka dolls, posters, old Soviet goods, and much more. I only saw one retailer selling Uzbek teapots, as the market reflected local, Moscow tastes. As for set-up, the market was a traditional, outdoor market. I found it particularly interesting how there were two sections, the latter of which required a ten-ruble admission cover. This area must be the most coveted by retailers. We spent a good two hours wandering around the bazaar, and I bought some hand-crafted jewelry from a lovely retailer named Alexandra (she even gave me her phone number). I also bought some old Soviet propaganda posters. I also left with two issues of Krokodile, a Soviet satirical magazine, from 1974. 
Izmaylovo Market.

After the market, we took the metro to the center. We walked around Red Square, St. Basil's cathedral, the Kremlin, etc. Amazing. 

Red Square!

Then we walked around the city, crossed the bridge, and visited the Soviet space shuttle and the children's park. From there, we walked around the Moscow Sculpture Garden (formerly called the Park of the Fallen Heroes), which includes old Soviet statues as well as some edgy-artsy pieces. The spectrum of pieces on display, and the scale of the political figures, were impressive. I included some pictures below.

The sheer scale of the sculptures is impressive. In this photo, I (5'3) am unable to reach the finger tips of this statue.  

A monument to those who died in the GULag camps. 

After the Park, we grabbed some lunch, took a metro to the center, and walked around Arbat and New Arbat. During the Soviet era, Arbat was THE HUB for artists and creative individuals. It is now a pretty cool, hip area filled with restaurants and caricature artists.

We ended the day at the White House! A historically profound site, the White House was the site of the failed 1991 coup attempt launched by the Soviet military elites against Gorbachev (you can watch a clip on YouTube). Ironically, the building  is located across the street from the American Embassy. During the Soviet Union, the White House was the home of the Supreme Soviet of Russia. Today, it houses the Russian Parliament. 

The White House. 

What an exhausting Saturday! Sunday, we woke up and went to Lenin's mausoleum, which is also in Red Square. For anyone who studies Soviet history as much as I do, visiting Lenin's mausoleum was definitely an epic moment. 

After paying our respects to Lenin, Maxim and I went to "Moscow City," which reminds me of Astana with its tall, green sky-scrapers. Moscow City is a new business complex, still under construction, and represents the city's future.

Interestingly, many of the construction signs in Moscow city were in Turkish and Russian. This is due to several reasons. First, it is probably a Turkish construction company developing the site, and second, there were many Central Asian construction workers.
Finally, we ventured out to Moscow State University to explore the campus and score a great view of the entire city. 
Moscow State University.

I met up with my friends at the train station and was home by 9 o'clock Sunday evening. After some tea and blueberries (fresh from the dacha) with Olga, I discovered the power adapter to my computer was broken. Great, last thing I needed. Fortunately, Eldorado, a Russian version of "Best Buy," sells Mac computers and I was fortunately able to purchase a new one. In fact, now I can use my Mac power cord with a European and an American outlet. Thank goodness for the globalization of technology, goods, services and Apple computer parts.

Well, that was Moscow! What a weekend! I hope to share more details of the weekend in future posts. For now, I'm going to get some sleep. Tomorrow evening, I'm off to St. Petersburg for four days and will be returning to Vladimir early Sunday morning. I'm sure I will have more stories to share! Thanks for reading and as always, please comment!

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