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“This is something I say quite rarely about my travels, but Moscow really surprised me, and challenged my preconceptions.

While the city is too big, and has a terrible smog problem (I’d expected that) the order and culture I found there came as a real surprise.

The most striking thing was the tidiness of the city’s streets and public parks. Moscow’s grandiose architecture is an experience in its own right, with every second building looking like a parliament. The people – while they spoke little English – were friendly and cheerful, with the exceptions of the Central Asians, who seemed to be real grouches 100% of the time.

The most pleasant place in the city is, of course, Gorky Park, which is full of life, young people, great street food, and cheap bike/rollerblade hire.” (Andreas, 2016)


Practicals

Transport

Metro

If you’re a tourist, avoid using the subway on weekdays 8-10 a.m. and 4-8 p.m. as the crowd is terrible.

The metro was built in the Soviet time to be a bomb shelter in case of a war. The most in-depth section is 84 meters (276 feet).



Moscow - marshrutka taxi - j.m. photo

Moscow - taxis in front of the GUM (iconic department store) - i.m. photo

Moscow - Trolley - d.h. photo

Moscow - Metro - d.h. photo

Moscow - Kiyevskaya metro station (Koltsevaya line) - v.g. photo

Moscow - Sky Train - v.g. photo

Food

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Moscow - Borshch Moskovsky (Moscow-style borscht) - a beetroot soup - m.m. photo

Moscow - Pelmeny (dumplings) - r.t. photo

Moscow - Blini (like pancake) - p.p. photo

Shopping


“Where could be better for gift shopping than the fairytale Izmailovsky Market, which is a local attraction in its own right – at first glance it looks more like Disneyworld than a market.
This is just one of many markets in Moscow, and supposedly Dorogomilovsky isn’t bad either, but we didn’t visit it because we ran out of time.

That didn’t matter, though, because we got everything we wanted at the first market, and much more cheaply than downtown.
For instance, my boyfriend bought an ushanka made of rabbit fur, and succeeded in bargaining the price down from 2500 rubles to just 1300 rubles. Haggling over price is obligatory – most people speak English, at least enough to understand the numbers, but in the worst-case scenario there was always pointing and hand gestures – everyone understands that. 😉
Everything without exception could be haggled over. Also, it’s worth buying more than one thing from a seller, because they’ll give you more discount from a bigger total – but that’s the same everywhere.

The goods on offer were mostly thick, hand-knitted socks, matryoshka dolls, ushankas, and various military items, but there was plenty else on offer too.
I doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that on Red Square and in the surrounding area everything is pretty expensive, but it’s worth trying to haggle here too, IF POSSIBLE!

I tried to get a lower price from a street vendor on Red Square, who was offering ushankas for 3000 rubles, but I came off the loser in that contest – he dropped precisely 0 rubles from his asking price. I would add that this was exactly the same type of ushanka listed at 2500 rubles at the market, and which my boyfriend ultimately got for 1300. In other words, a trip to the market is highly recommended, because otherwise you’ll be left as hatless as me.

You can’t get vodka in supermarkets, only in liquor stores, and that’s the cheapest place you’ll find it. Even a $5, half-liter bottle is fine, good quality stuff. I’ll note here, because I was asked (though you can also just check on google) that EU customs permits returning travelers one liter of a concentrated alcoholic beverage duty free, but you have to register it in advance. 200 cigarettes are allowed for personal use.

Of course, those who are happy to spend their entire annual salary in Moscow should by all means visit the traditional GUM department store, with its rows of designer shops, where you can try traditional Russian ‘morozhenoe’ or ice-cream. It really is good, though to be honest, ice-cream is ice-cream as far as I’m concerned. Still, if you’ve gone that far, you might as well taste it for yourself. 😉
(one scoop in a plastic cup is 100 rubles)

Even if you aren’t interested in spending a fortune and expanding your collection of designer clothes, it’s still worth visiting the GUM – the building itself is beautiful, and has an enchanting atmosphere. (l.s., 2019)


Moscow - GUM, the iconic department store of the city - d.h. photo

Fun

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Moscow - Lenin square coffee - Krista photo

Moscow - A Lenin look-alike and a Stalin look-alike enjoy ice cream

Moscow - Vodka&the Veteran communist - l. s. photo

Public safety

Stay alert when somebody pushes you and excuses for this. That is a common trick by the pickpockets. Check your pockets immediately.

Moscow police

Others

1. You can pay by bank card almost everywhere; even the roadside binoculars accept it. (2020)

2. In Moscow, mobile subscriptions with unlimited data cost only 6–9 USD, so it’s worth to get a Russian SIM-card instead of roaming.(2019)

Moscow - graffiti - No one remembers you for what your thoughts are - Krista photo

Background

Destination in brief


Russian name is Moskva (Москва)

Moscow is named after a river. Another version: the Old Slavonic “Moscow” meant “wet,” as Moscow was built on swamps.

Population (in 2020): 10.3 million (city area)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 1000 USD (Russia average: 480 USD)

The name Red Square has nothing to do with communism, but derives from the word "Krasnyi", which once meant "beautiful."

Moscow Metro announcing peculiarity: you’re going toward the city center if you hear a male voice and female voice if leaving the city center. And then again, male voice when moving in a clockwise direction, and female when against it.

Geography

Geographically Moscow is in Europe. Moscow is 1,700 km (just over 1,050 mi) west of Yekaterinburg, which is almost on the border between Europe and Asia. The driving time between Moscow and the closest Asian location  is 24 hours (flying time 2 hours)

Moscow - Moskva River - v.g. photo

History

The first McDonalds opened in Moscow in January 1990. The line to the cafe ran for several kilometers on that winter day.

Moscow - partner forgot the program - i.e. photo

Moscow - Kremlin Wall Necropolis - Stalin's Tomb - v.g. photo

Nowadays

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Moscow - new - v.v. photo

Moscow - The Moscow International Business Center (also known as Moscow-City) - v.g. photo

Moscow - back yard - o.k. photo

People

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Moscow - metro - love - n.e. photo

Moscow - A little scary babushka, a church clerk - Krista photo

Moscow - Newlyweds - Photo session at the Kremlin Wall - Krista photo

Gastronomy

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Moscow - Kasha - staple breakfast porridge, traditionally made of crumbly buckwheat that has been thickened with water or milk and seasoned with butter - g.k. photo

Moscow - Shchi - cabbage soup - p.r. photo

Moscow - Moskovskaya vodka - The etiquette is this: snack on pickles while drinking, and if you’re the one pouring the shots, you are expected to make the toast. - n.m. photo

Attractions

Cathedral of the Annunciation

Moscow - The Cathedral of the Annunciation (a Russian Orthodox church) - Elter photo

Red Square

Moscow - Red Square - d.h. photo

Moscow - Red Sqaure - The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed (Saint Basil's Cathedral) - d.h. photo

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Moscow - The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - v.g. photo

Stalinist-style skyscrapers

Moscow - Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - one of the,, Seven sisters" (Stalinist-style skyscrapers) - v.g. photo

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