Even though I visited Moscow six months ago I’m not entirely sure why I’ve only decided to write about it now. I must have something to say about it, right…?
It’s not that I didn’t like Moscow, but I can’t exactly say I loved it either. I was only there for three days, so by the time I managed to find my feet around Europe’s biggest city it was already time to leave. The right thing to do is plan a revisit, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do! When? I’m not sure. There are still so many places I want (and need!) to explore, so planning a revisit to somewhere just because I want to like it is less appealing than revisiting somewhere because I loved it.
If there is anything useful to take from reading this post it is this: don’t make my mistake and leave only 3 days for Moscow – it’s not a city like Saint Petersburg that has the power to plunge you head-first into wanderlust. It takes time and a little more effort discovering what’s on offer.
I would suggest a minimum of five days to be able to feel more, see more, and experience more. Afterwards, who knows, you may decide Moscow’s not for you, but at least you can say you tried. It’s hard to find any credibility when I hear people say they disliked a city after only spending a day or two in the place. Some of the best places require effort to explore, that’s often the case with cities in Eastern Europe. They may not always offer the killer attractions of London, Paris and New York; however they sometimes offer a uniqueness that’s often hidden beneath the surface: local life.
There are a few things about Moscow that really stand out for me. Of course there’s Red Square, no trip to Moscow would be complete without seeing the buildings, learning about the history and tripping over the architecture. Once you’ve seen it you don’t forgot it.
The things that stick in my head the most are the things like the roads, the underground and the people – the everyday things.
Before heading to Russia I had read and heard so many negative things about the people and I experienced none of what I read. It’s worth mentioning here that my travel buddy Ruchi is Indian and I’m Chinese, and despite the plethora of advisory information we both read on internet forums about their racial problems, we felt very welcomed. I think it’s easy to get a negative portrayal of Russia from the media, but we should recognise there’s often a mental disparity between the everyday people and the government (as is the situation with so many countries unfortunately).
The people in Russia were helpful when we asked for assistance with directions and friendly in the cafes, restaurants and hotels. In Moscow many people speak good English, much better than in Saint Petersburg (we found anyway), where very few people we came across spoke the language.
The main roads in Moscow are a death trap. They are unforgivably wide, you can’t just go across them in a few footsteps, you need traffic lights – finding them is like trying to find a winning lottery ticket. This wouldn’t matter so much in a city like Reykjavik where the population is miniscule, but this is Moscow we’re talking about. There is traffic, and often lots of it, crossing roads require patience, awareness and quick reactions.
Sadly the aforementioned qualities are not something Ruchi possesses, I had the trauma of watching her try to cross a road in the midst of heavy traffic and I don’t think I’ve ever feared for someone’s safety so much in all my life. For a clever girl she can also be very stupid. She leaped from the pavement into the midst of chaos like a new born baby lost without its mother. Cars screeched, horns beeped, plumes of smoke erupted, and people from the sidewalk watched to see if this girl, dodging an early grave, would make it to the other side. It was a close shave but she made it unscathed and we all went back to breathing properly again.
On first impression, the Moscow underground is a maze of tunnels, I’m sure it’s as easy as ABC for everyday commuters but you have lines that go up, down, across, and another that goes in a circle in seemingly clockwise and anti-clockwise rotations, and sometimes you feel like you’re walking the length of a small city just to cross over onto the other line (you probably are). It’s the most complex underground system I’ve been on but it’s cheap and you need to use it because Moscow is massive. Not only is it the most complex, but it’s one of the most opulent undergrounds I’ve ever seen. Give it a good scrub and it’d be fit for the Queen.
Moscow may not be as romantic, beautiful or quite so elegant as Saint Petersburg, but if you want to experience the wrath of a big city with equally impressive architecture then look no further…