Published: March 17th 2010March 17th 2010
St Basil's Cathedral
St Basil's Cathedral
There is something red about this square I and a couple of friends decided a couple of months ago to go for a weekend to Moscow. All three of us have had a special kind of interest concerning the Russian capital. My personal goal with this trip was to either verify or get rid of my prejudices towards the Russian country and its people.
It all started a couple of months ago with the three of us applying for a Russian tourist visa. I can assure you that this is not an easy task to conduct. Here is a small insight into the process;
First of all you need to have an official invite from a governmental-approved tourist agency in Russia, which also takes full responsibility for you during the stay in the country. The official invite can be purchased online through various, more or less, suspect companies.
Second you need to have a special verification from the hotel you have booked that states your full payment to the hotel. This is also something that you have to pay an extra fee for.
Finally you need to contact your insurance company to get them to send
The state Duma
The russian parliament
you a verification letter that you are fully insured during the stay in Russia. My insurance company had special “Russia-document” that they could send me without charging anything.
When you have all the papers in order it’s time to visit the Russian embassy. You can’t send you application by regular mail. In addition to the documents above you need to complete your application with a newly taken passport-sized photo and a fully completed and signed application form. Do I need to tell you that there is a small fee involved of 500 SEK that you need to pay for the application procedure?
After completing this process we got our well-deserved Russian tourist visas after a week!
We landed at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow on Friday evening. Unfortunately my friend Anders’s bag was still in Stockholm waiting to be flown to Riga and from there to Moscow! This information was told to us by the very helpful staff of the lost luggage department at the airport. After filling out a lot of papers and getting some important stamps from the customs officer we were able to finally enter russian territory.
We had from the beginning decided
Red Square Entrance
The enstrance to the red square
to take the newly open airport express to the Belorussky railway station which is connected to the metro system. The express service was moving approximately 50 km/h and could hardly be considered as express but was still very convenient.
Checking in at the hotel Petrovka Loft (http://www.petrovkaloft.com
) was a really nice experience and I recommend people to stay at this hotel if visiting Moscow. One of the hotel's nice features was that the breakfast was served to you in your bed.
Our two days in the city was manly focused around visiting the different sight around the red square and the Kremlin. Visiting the Lenin Mausoleum was really an absurd experience. First of all we had to stand in line for a while waiting to go through a security check. We had to leave our bags, they contained cameras. I got stripped-searched by a rather cranky russian security guard, he was still nice though. Upon reaching the mausoleum there was another security check before we were able to enter. The first thing to catch your eye inside was a huge Soviet coat of arms accompanied by two guards. A couple of marble stairs took us down underground to
St Basil's cathedral
The St Basil's Cathedral behind bars
the room were Lenin is laying in his glass sarcophagus for public display since 1924. We showed the respect we had to even though the feeling was rather bizarre. This respect was shown by not talking, keeping hands out of your pockets and taking off your hat. When exiting the mausoleum you end up walking past a lot of graves dedicated to other Russian or Soviet leaders. A lot of people had left fresh flowers by the grave which had the name Stalin engraved.
The Kremlin was next on our agenda. First I had to grab something to eat. My two fellow travellers don't have the habit of eating lunch (No Anders, I don't consider bread to be lunch) so I grabbed some pizza slices on the way to the entrance.
If the mausoleum was a rather bizarre experience the Kremlin was just drop dead gorgeous. The place within the walls is just packed with buildings from different eras, mainly from the medieval and tsar eras. All of this is displayed at the beautiful cathedral square in the heart of the Kremlin where the main sight are located. If you are planning a trip to the Kremlin be
State History Museum
The Russian state history museum at the red square
sure to walk within the restricted areas. If this is not respected you will hear whistles sounding from the many guards walking the premisses. I would like to once again take the opportunity to say that these guards are very helpful and answer the questions you ask. They are just doing their jobs.
Saturday afternoon me and Anders took the metro out to the Moscow state university to check out the building we've heard should be impressive. The university is a huge skyscraper located on Sparrow Hills (former Lenin hills) ordered by Stalin in 1953 and is still today the highest university in the world with its 240 meters. The weather turned from bright sunlight to a bit grey which actually enhanced the feeling of viewing the complex from the Soviet times. The view from Sparrow hills over Moscow was great.
Dinner that evening was indulged at a russian buffet restaurant. A young waitress helped us, I think in english, to order typical russian dishes resulting in a three course meal with borscht and other russian specialities. A lot of this was of course lost in translation but that didn't matter. Everything was delicious.
Sunday was spent
St Basil's Cathedral
St Basil's cathedral from the red square
taking a long walk on Arbat street in the bohemian part of Moscow. A visit to the state historical museum at the red square was also in our plan.
To sum up my trip to the russian capital I would like to say that there are huge differences in what you hear about this country and its people than what you actually experience while spending time there. I had a great time and won't hesitate to book another trip.
There are more photos below