And so we began, weary from the 10 hour flight, making our way through Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and headon into a heated argument between two taxi drivers vying for our business. In all honesty it was a little scary as the little animated one yelled at the big stern one who growled back, and if it wasn't for the fact that snow was merrily falling as we stood curbside and watched this play out, I could have quite easily lost it. Fifteen minutes later, the stern one gave up and we were headed to Russia's now cosmopolitan capital.
Despite the exhaustion, and even after checking in to our somewhat odd apple inspired hotel, eating some tasty Georgian food and napping, there was still time in the day, as the snow stopped falling, to soak up an hour of dusky light at Red Square. No picture can prepare you for the crazy confusion of colours and shape's that is St. Basil's Cathedral. Undoubtdedly one of the ultimate symbols of Russia, St. Basil's was built in 1561 to celebrate the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible. While a lot of planning has gone into this trip, Moscow was purposely unplanned, which works wonderfully. The rest of our first evening was spent ambling around the centre, trying to take it all in, and arguing about where we should eat dinner, somewhere Russian or somewhere Japanese. Needless to say, I lost.
Our second day in Moscow saw us exploring the grounds of the Kremlin, jam packed with an array of cathedrals, towers and other intriguing buildings, including the impressive Armoury. Room upon room of the State Kremlin Palace has been set aside for a vast collection of Russian treasures: gold, silver, precious gems, thrones, carriages, dresses and much more, of Tsars and empresses gone. Given the unquestionable Russianess of my name I felt it fitting to rename myself for just one moment Natasha the Great, and Casey, Casey the Terrible, of course.
While St. Basils and the Kremlin certainly inspire awe, it was getting away from Moscow's tourist centre which provided for the most fun and adventure of the day, and an insight into non tourist Russia. First was a trip by metro to the Russian space memorial and museum. The metro is an experience in itself; trains much like the Northern line rattle through marble stations, but with precision timing. The space museum (found only after a wrong turn found us in the Sovietesque Cosmos hotel for a Russian lunch) while only offering exhibition information in Russian, including a 3D movie of the history of space exploration, still provided several hours of childish entertainment. We left there and found ourselves in a huge fairground park, and soon on Moscow's equivalent of the London Eye, which in an open seat was a little scary as we reached its top of 73m. The views across snowy Moscow were amazing and well worth the 250 rubles.
Day two came to a comfy close in Chaikona No 1. a very cool Uzbek lounge cafe, with oriental rugs and plush pillows, good beers, hookah, board games, gentle trancy music and good vibes.
..... Back in the USSR.