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Moscow: Wow....

By Travelling Divas on September 22, 2016, 1:00 pm | Leave a comment

Moscow is WOW...  

The first time I visited Moscow was October 1993 and the overwhelming impression of the city wasn't great:  my memories were of angry people, drab surroundings and a proliferation of the colour brown.   I must point out that I did arrive right in the middle of the coup brought about by Boris Yeltsin, so this probably didn't help!  It also meant no goose-stepping guards outside of Lenin's tomb and the Kremlin and Armoury in lock-down.  There was security stationed at the end of the hotel corridor to watch our comings and goings and men were riding around on dragster bikes with machine guns slung across their chests.   When I left the following day, there were tanks out front of the Russian ĎWhite Houseí and a gaping hole in the middle of it.   It was scary and exhilarating at the same time, history in the making, but to be honest I was glad to leave.

Flick forward 23 years and Moscow is spectacularly different.  I donít really know where to start!  Let's just say I was totally un-prepared for the change.  

The city is mind blowing:  elegantly dressed women, sweeping boulevards.  Luxury cars everywhere.  Sidewalk and open-air cafes are the choice du jour and the wine I sipped at the Bosco Cafe overlooking Red Square, was chilled and delicious.  The food is unrecognisable with fresh produce, a choice of any cuisine and so many restaurants!

But most of all it is the colour.  Everywhere I look there are leafy green squares filled with colourful markets and seating areas serving drinks and offering a place to relax.  At time it is a little Alice in Wonderland, but there is such a sense of lightness and relaxation that you canít help but  be happy.

Gum Department Store (divine....)

Retail Therapy is beyond expectations.   If you want to drop some cash in designer-heaven then this city delivers in spades.  The Tsum Department Store (which is housed is an extremely ugly, grey building) used to be the state-run Central Department Store, but is now one of the biggest shopping meccas in Europe.  Bursting at the seams with every high-end brand you can think of, plus many I wasnít even aware of, it would be easy to get lost in here for a day.  It is the same at Gum and throughout many streets in the old City.  Bentley Moscow, surrounded by Ferrari, Maserati and Docle & Gabbana, Armani and many more, sits proudly on the main drag - yes ladies, capitalism has well and truly arrived in the capital of the former Soviet Union.

The architecture is incredible, with marshmallow-coloured 18th & 19th century buildings lounging decadently next to communist bloc style apartments and offices.  Stalinís Seven Sisters, massive towering edifices that are now incredibly expensive hotels, offices and apartments hover over the city and remind me of elaborate ice-cream cakes. Further out new skyscraper developments of glass and steel dominate the skyline.  Restored to its former glory the Gum Department store haughtily surveys the reds and greens, yellows and gold of Red Square and the iconic St Basilís Cathedral.  Again there is the overriding feeling colour and light everywhere.

One of the Seven Sisters

Of course remnants of the old regime still exist - the security that is still around, the demeanour of the people working for the state, the lack of warmth in the people in some places we go to, but work through this and most end up being happy to see you.  The need to be bigger and better than the USA still permeates many discussions,  and the nostalgia for the old days for some is also still there, but that is to be expected as it is only just over two decades ago that Communism disappeared, although it is obvious this country still operates under a dictatorship.

Our hotel, the National, is in a perfect location offering immediate access to the Kremlin and its surrounds.  A 5-star beauty it is a great place to stay.  Our room is standard category and is excellent - large, extremely comfortable, Elemis bathroom products (and a bath - a big deal for me), plus it is at the back of the building so it is incredibly quiet.  

We were in Moscow for such a short time and ate on the run most of the time.  However, there is one place that deserves a mention and that is Cafe Pushkin. Traditional, world-renowned and gorgeous on the inside, it is a pleasure to dine here.  The wine list is good, the staff are lovely and the mushroom and meat dumplings are to die for. 

St Basil's

Avoid the traffic as much as possible as it is horrendous.  We did the hop-on hop - off bus (suggest red line only) and a walking tour which was enough to let us find our way around the city and provide some context, but there is much to explore and we didn't have enough time.  This city is made for walking and I think it is the best way to see the architecture, get lost and enjoy your surrounds!

There are definitely must-sees including The Kremlin, The Armoury, too many museums to mention, Red Square and Gum, plus the underground stations.  There is much to do here and you could easily spend a whole day in the Kremlin/Red Square area alone.  Private tours are the way to go but be prepared, there are thousands of people discovering Russia!

So that is it in a nutshell.  I can't wait to bring a tour here in September 2017 and explore more and more...... lookout for 'To Russia With Love' coming very, very soon.

Have a great weekend and chat soon....

Andrea, Chief Diva xx

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