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July 1st 2012
Published: July 1st 2012
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From Hamburg to Moscow and back


The KremlinThe KremlinThe Kremlin

View from a bridge over the river Moskva.
I just returned from an extraordinarily inspiring and intense stay in Moscow. I went there for the European Conference on Positive Psychology.

I left on Monday morning and flew into one of the international airports in Moscow, Vnukuvo. Arrival there was very pleasant. The airport is pretty new, getting through passport control was not a big deal (although obtaining the visa had been, but I think the Russians are just returning the hassle that we give them when they want to travel into one of the EU states), and I caught the airport express train, with which it took 35 minutes to get to the Kievskaya station in town. When I got there, I was glad that I had taken a year of Russian at school and that I could still remember the Cyrillic writing because all the signs were of course in Cyrillic. So I found the metro and caught a metro train that took me to the station close to my hotel, the Paveletskaya station.

The metro system in Moscow is very impressive. There are ten different lines, one being a circle line, the others running through the city in various directions. The metro trains run at minute intervals, and I
Saint Basil's CathedralSaint Basil's CathedralSaint Basil's Cathedral

... at the south end of the Red Square.
guess otherwise it would be completely impossible to deal with the number of passengers. It is incredibly busy in the metro stations, especially during the rush hour, so around nine in the morning and six in the evening. At these times, there are true pedestrian traffic jams. However, these masses of people are dealt with very well. There are usually three escalators to each metro station, and depending on the direction most people come from, the middle one either goes up or down. Also, there are barriers that regulate the “traffic”. The metro stations themselves are really far underneath the ground, the escalators are very long indeed. The stations themselves are beautiful, many of the walls are covered with marble and ornaments, and each station looks different. I was really impressed.

When I got out of the metro, I had to cross a big street. I started looking for a traffic light that would allow me to do so, but I could not find one. Eventually, I found an underpass leading me to the other side of the street. It was very long with various junctions, and there were shops in the underpass, many little ones. Later on, I
The Red SquareThe Red SquareThe Red Square

View from Saint Basil's Cathedral.
learned that traffic lights would make the traffic jams in the city even worse than they already are, so that’s why in many places, you only have an underpass, but no traffic light for crossing the street.

I checked into my hotel, checked my email, and then went to Gorki Park. It was just two metro stations from my hotel and then a short walk, so very easy to reach. The park is right next to the river Moskva and has lakes, fountains, of course many trees and flower beds. But what really amazed me was how active people were there. They were inline skating, skateboarding, cycling, boating, playing beach volleyball and basketball, dancing... It was incredible. I was told that the park had been a very bad and unsafe place, but then a lot of work was put into it to make it a nicer place, and apparently now it is a park where Muscovites go and spend their free time. I had dinner there, watched the water garden and went for a stroll around the park. When I got back to the hotel, there was still work left to do, and I got to bed late. It
Gum Shopping MallGum Shopping MallGum Shopping Mall

... with very exquisite shops inside.
was only the beginning of a series of short nights, I only slept between four and six hours each night, just because there was so much to see and do.

The next day, I went for an early morning run. I ran to Gorki Park, which was about 20 minutes from my hotel, took a lap there, and then ran back. After having a shower and breakfast, I caught the metro to the Red Square. It is so well-known from the media, but it really looked different when I got there. It is huge, maybe almost one kilometre long and 300 metres wide. To its west, there is the wall of the Kremlin with the Lenin Mausoleum. The opposite side is confined by the Gum, a very flash shopping mall. On the other two sides, there are the St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Historic Museum. Saint Basil’s Cathedral looks almost unreal when you see it, almost like in a fairytale. I had the feeling that it would disappear once I would try to touch it. But of course it did not 😉, so I could go inside and almost spend an hour in there. It is not one big
The Church of the RedeemerThe Church of the RedeemerThe Church of the Redeemer

... blown up by Stalin and replaced by a swimming pool, then rebuilt in the 1990s.
hall, but rather many little, sometimes even tiny chapels, each of them dedicated to a certain event in the Russo-Kazan Wars. Tsar Ivan the Terrible built it in the 16th century, and there is a legend that he blinded the builder after he had finished it so that he could not build anything similar elsewhere.

After spending almost an hour in this impressive building, I did not have too much time left. I walked around the walls of the Kremlin and strolled through the Alexander Garden, a park on the west side of the Kremlin, where there is also the famous Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its eternal flame. On my way back to the metro station, I walked through the Gum shopping mall, which is incredibly beautiful with little fountains inside and a nice decoration, but also incredibly expensive. I was told that Muscovites see it rather as a museum than as a shopping mall.

I went back to the hotel and after a scheduled phone call with my colleague got changed and went to the congress opening. We met at the congress venue, which was the Moscow World Trade Center. It took me about 50 minutes
Novodevitchy Convent INovodevitchy Convent INovodevitchy Convent I

Very picturesque!
to get there by foot and metro. The congress organisers had busses waiting for us that took us along the Moskva river and then up to a viewpoint from which we had a beautiful view of the entire city. There are the remains of the Olympic Winter Games in Moscow in 1980, for example the chairlift and the ski jump. After spending some time at the viewpoint, we were taken to the congress opening, which took place at the nearby Moscow State University. I’ve written something on this ceremony and on the following congress day on the cut-e scienceblog, and I will write some more on it next week.

After the opening speeches, there was a reception, and we were supposed to be taken back to the World Trade Center at 9 p.m. But as it would have been another hour for me to get back to my hotel from there, I decided to leave the reception early and catch the metro back to my metro station. The only thing was that of course I had no clue where the station was. I thought it would be near the main building because it was called “University”. So I walked to
Novodevitchy Convent IINovodevitchy Convent IINovodevitchy Convent II

UNESCO World Heritage!
the main building and around it, but could not find an entrance. So I tried to remember the 15 words in Russian I knew and asked someone for the way. I could ask where the metro station was, but of course I could barely understand what the other person was answering. But I followed the directions she pointed out to me with her hands. I walked and walked, and I thought that maybe I had misunderstood her, and asked someone else. He pointed to the same direction. Now it was getting late, and I was getting slightly under pressure because if I could not find the station, my only way to get back would be the conference bus, and I would not want to miss this bus. I asked several other people (but of course could never ask how much further I would have to walk), and eventually I arrived at the metro station and was relieved to hop onto the train.

On Wednesday morning, I left at eight in the morning for the conference and did not get back until seven in the evening. Had the day already been inspiring, the evening was even nicer because I met
Novodevitchy Convent IIINovodevitchy Convent IIINovodevitchy Convent III

Many rich women made it possible to build something extraordinary.
Julia, whom I had not seen for almost a year. And last year, when we saw each other during the Hanggliding World Championship, we did not have much time to talk to each other. I was lucky that she was in Moscow anyway, because usually she spends her summer somewhere in Europe, flying competitions. But she was there, and it was great to see her. The first thing she said to me when she saw me in my business outfit was: “Wow, you look grown up!” Well, at least sometimes I try to be. Julia took me to a nice little restaurant where we had good Russian food for dinner, and then we went for a walk. She took me from the Paveletskaya station past an art museum and a park to the bridge on which there are a number of trees made of metal that newlywed couple attach locks to. Whenever the trees are full, they are moved to the pavement that runs along the river and replaced by empty ones. Julia told me so many stories about the city and its monuments that I can’t write them all down unless I still want to be sitting there tomorrow
Raisa Gorbatcheva's tombRaisa Gorbatcheva's tombRaisa Gorbatcheva's tomb

... on the graveyard next to Novodevitchy Convent.
morning. She took me through some little parks, and finally we ended up on the Arbat, one of the few pedestrian areas with many shops, restaurants, cafés, and bars. We had a late dessert there, then went to the next metro station, where we listened to a Russian rock band covering famous Russian rock songs. We met with Julia’s boyfriend Nikolay there and went back to the Red Square that was beautifully illuminated at night. I got back to the hotel at midnight with some work left to do and thus did not get to bed until 2 a.m. But seeing Julia had been awesome, and I was so grateful to her for the nice evening.

Thursday was completely dedicated to work and congress. I did some more work early in the morning, then left the hotel shortly after eight. When I got back to the hotel at seven in the evening, I still had to prepare my presentation for the next morning. My data had refused to do what I had written in the abstract, and so I was struggling with what to tell my audience the next morning. I interrupted my work for a run along the
Moscow State UniversityMoscow State UniversityMoscow State University

... in original Soviet architecture.
banks of the river, and after that, I managed to finish my presentation, which I had to give early the next morning. It was a great success, the presentation went well, and there were quite a few people who were interested in it. As I said, I will write some more on that on the cut-e scienceblog.

The conference closed at two p.m., and I went back to Paveletskaya metro station, where I met our Russian business partner Boris. He took me for another walk, past the institute of psychology, where he had studied, not far from the Kremlin, and past the Lenin Library. We went into the Church of the Redeemer, which was originally built in the late 19th century. However, Stalin had it blown up after the Second World War and wanted to replace it by a palace. When this did not work out, the site was turned into an outdoor swimming pool. The cathedral that is there now is a replica of the original one and was built in the 1990s. Boris and I had dinner in a nice restaurant where we could sit outside on a terrace and enjoy the view of the river and
Gorki ParkGorki ParkGorki Park

... with all the active Moscovites boating, cycling, and doing many other sports.
the city. After dinner, we walked along the river back to Paveletskaya metro station. Boris told me a lot about Moscow, how it used to be and how it was now, and I was grateful for another very nice evening.

As it was only seven, I decided to catch the metro to Novodevitchy Convent, a very picturesque convent southwest of the city centre. Not all of the nuns were there because they wanted to, some of them were there because their husband, one of the tsars, wanted to marry a new wife. Many of the women were from rich families and donated a lot of money to the convent so that it was rich, and beautiful buildings, for example the churches there, could be built.

The convent was already closed when I got there, so I came back the next morning after checking out of my hotel. I also took some time to stroll through the nearby graveyard where a lot of famous Russian citizens are buried, for example Anton Chekhov, Raisa Gorbatcheva, Nikita Khrushchev, or Andrey Tupolev. My last trip of the day took me to the Kremlin. It was really crowded, I had to stand in
View of the cityView of the cityView of the city

... from the viewpoint not far from Moskow State University.
line for the ticket for 15 minutes, but then finally got in. The Kremlin is a huge castle, and it consists of many buildings surrounded by a wall that is in some places almost 20 metres high. Inside are various buildings, including the palace, several churches, parliament, and a little park with beautiful flower beds. I went into the churches, which I really could not tell apart. Three of them were dedicated to the Holy Virgin. A fourth one contained the bodies of several tsars. All of them were painted beautifully inside, and each contained an iconostasis, the wall that separates the church from the part in which only the priest is allowed. There was a show by the military going on. A band of soldiers was playing music, and along with the music, first the infantry showed a number of choreographies, including some tricks with their guns, later the cavalry performed a quadrille.

For me, it was finally time to go to the hotel and pick up my luggage, then catch the express train to Domododevo Airport, another international airport in Moscow. Getting there was easy, but then things started to become stressful. The airport was incredibly crowded,
Locks from newlywed couplesLocks from newlywed couplesLocks from newlywed couples

... on trees on a bridge over the river Moskva.
masses of people were there. I had already done online check-in and actually just wanted to drop my baggage off. Although there were only seven or eight people in front of me, it took me about half an hour. The waiting continued at the passport control counter. Again, there were only five people in front of me, but I waited for ages until I could pass. When I had finally passed security control, I wanted to go to the bathroom and found another long queue. What a horrible airport! I made it more or less in time to boarding and was glad that I had gone to the airport early enough.

The rest of the trip went smoothly. We arrived in Frankfurt on time, and it was such a delight to walk through the terminal with, compared to Domododevo, few people and a pleasant temperature. Going through passport control only took a few minutes, and so did security check. My flight to Hamburg left perfectly on time, and I arrived back home safely and not even too tired.

I am still all happy about an incredibly inspiring week full of new experiences. The conference was just awesome, I
Julia & KathaJulia & KathaJulia & Katha

... on the Red Square at night. Katha is still wearing her business outfit.
learned so much and met so many interesting people, and I loved Moscow. Now I’m getting ready for the next trip: I’ll be leaving for Amsterdam tomorrow for the next conference. Stay tuned!


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Metro stationMetro station
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Pedestrian traffic jamPedestrian traffic jam
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... in a metro station during the rush hour.


1st July 2012

Loved hearing your impressions
I've been reading your world adventures. Looking forward to reading more.
9th July 2012

Re: Loved hearing your impressions
Thank you for this nice and encouraging comment!
4th July 2012

Mensch Kata, kaum zurueck und schon ein kompletter Bericht im Netz. Viel Spass in Amsterdam. Gruss aus Tue
9th July 2012

Re:
Danke! Gerade sitze ich am Bericht über Amsterdam...

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