My first trip into the city and wow, what a trip it was! Just getting there is an adventure on its own. Fom the estate, I need to walk approximately 1km to get to the "bus stop". It's not an actual bus stop so all I really need to do is stand on the side of the road and wave down the bus as it comes past. The bus ride is 30 minutes to the next destination which is the train station. From there, it's a train to Moscow which is only about 20 minutes but the train stops on the outskirts of the city so another mode of transport is needed to get to city centre which is the metro. All in all, it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to get from home to city centre. And to think I had to do it again later in the day when I returned home!
I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go to in Moscow but I had heard a lot about Red Square so that's where I headed for. I ended up Okhotny Riad which is near Manezhnaya Square. I got to see St Basil's Cathedral, State Historical Museum and Alexandrovsky Garden. I saw many other buildings and walked down many other streets as well but they meant nothing to me.
At the end of the day as I was sitting having a coffee before leaving Moscow to head back home, I felt almost sad and empty inside, like I hadn't achieved much. I actually got to see quite a bit in the short time I was but so many of the streets I walked down and buildings I looked at have a story to tell and I do not know their stories, so for now they were just streets I walked down and just another building to look at and admire.
I'm not really one for guided tours, I much prefer to tour around on my own at my own pace and do my own research. However, Moscow has so much history to it and there is only so much that books and the internet can give you. Guides often give you more information that you really need which sometimes can be good and you get to see places you may have missed if you had gone out on your own. I've decided to go on guided tours until I know the city better and then I'll venture out on my own again. By then, I'll know a lot more about the area.
As I was heading back to the metro station to work my way back home, I found the information centre which I had been searching for since I arrived in Moscow and couldn't find. They gave me a general map of the area as well as smaller pamphlets of suggested walking tours around Moscow. Each pamphlet focuses on a specific area or theme for example, the one is "Arbat, the Soul of Moscow". Inside is a detailed map of the suggested walk. It gives the length of the route and well as how long the walk should take, Every stop is marked on the map with a brief history of that particular point of interest. The map also includes restaurants, banks, parking areas, museums and more. At the back of every pamphlet is a map of the metro. The other pamphlets are "Along Moscow's Main Street", "A tour of Zamoskvorechye", "A Constellation of Moscow Theatres" and "The Capital's Literary Boulevards". I know this is just a start and there is so much more to see but at least I have something to keep me busy for the next few weekends. I also did a google search and found so many other tours I can go, a Jewish Tour and one which I think I will treasure for many years to come; "Moscow Shooting Experience"! It takes place at the Central Shooting Club, the training grounds for the Russian Army. They give you safety training and safety gear and once they've taught you the basics of the AK-47 assault rifle (Kalashnikov), they give you 10 bullets to shoot at a target. This experience includes a photo so I'll have proof that I did it!
I may not have known much about my surroundings in the city but I did notice how clean the streets are and how well dressed and friendly the people are. Cafes line many of the sidewalks which is common in European countries. I stopped at one of the cafes for lunch. Lunch consisted of a salmon salad and a cranberry juice. I ended my meal with an ice cold beer. Whilst I'm not really into drinking, there is nothing nicer than an ice cold beer when the weather is cool or cold. Everyone thinks beer should be drunk of a very hot day but for me winter time is beer time! I saw quite a few stalls up with what looked like the start of them selling their christmas wares. It's only mid September. Is that not a bit too early to be setting up for Christmas?!
There were very few tourists around, probably just the time of year. It was actually a pleasure walking around as the streets were, much to my surprise, reasonably quiet. I was told that Moscow is an expensive city very much on a par with London but honestly, I did not find that at all. Overall, everything I've had to purchase so far from train tickets to lunch to everyday groceries has been much cheaper than Israel. I haven't bought clothes as yet so we'll see what prices are like when I go winter shopping.
As in China, the police are everywhere. Actually, as I write this and think back to earlier, there seem to be more poilice around here than there were in China. They are far more friendlier here though but as in China, they don't speak much or any English. I had to stop and ask a few of them for directions and they would just point. At the train station on my return home, I went through the wrong turnstile and landed up on the wrong platform. I went to the police and asked for their assistance as I couldn't see how to get to the platform where I needed to be. The one policeman very kindly walked with me to show me the way. I think the reason she did was because she couldn't explain in English but I thought it was really sweet of her anyway. Thank goodness she did as it was really a twisty way and I would never have found it on my own. We had to walk about a block and go through the metro station and out one of the other exits and down another passageway to get to the stairs leading to the platform where I needed to be.
I made it back home in two hours. Not bad at all. I'm not sure I'll head into Moscow every single weekend and do day trips but sometime in the near future I may go in once or twice a month and sleep over instead. That way, I'll get to see what the nightlife has to offer.