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Published: October 22nd 2012
We enter Moscow from the south but our hotel is north of the city. Any sensible person would just go round one of the ring roads but Edwin declares that we are going straight through the centre so he can get a picture of the bike in front of St Basil's Cathedral. Turns out to be a good choice. We know precisely where we are aiming for and, somehow or other, we end up riding directly there – the large cobbled square round the back of St Basils. The traffic police don't seem too bothered when we park the bike and leap off to take photos, and the bus drivers cutting through the alleyway are tooting and waving.
From here we ride past all the buildings we spent time walking round a few years ago – the Kremlin, the Bolshoi Theatre, the Lubyanka etc. - its a real trip down memory lane. Surprisingly the traffic isn't too bad in the centre and its a relatively easy ride out to our hotel. I think Edwin quite enjoyed cutting across the 6 lane roads weaving in and out of all the flashy cars who seem to think they are on a race
tackling the 6-lane one-way system
the Krelimis on the right & asymetrical Hotel Muskya ahead - Stalin signed off both plans so they didn't know which one to build, so they built both!
circuit, Porsches certainly outnumber Ladas in Moscow. The group went round the ring road which turned out to be much busier and took longer.
We did the “tourist sites” last time we were here (http://www.travelblog.org/Europe/Russia/Northwest/Moscow/blog-555486.html
) so this time we're going for the more obscure and spending time catching up with our Moscow based friends, Simon, Dasha & Beatrice. Its a really relaxing couple of days, we get to see the things we are interested in rather than the things you feel you have to go and see. Plus its so easy to get round Moscow on the underground and its always a pleasure to go through the wonderfully decorated stations.
Last time our hotel was near the beautiful Art Nouveau Gorky House which we tried to get inside 3 times and failed 3 times. So this time I'm determined to get in and its really worth the effort. Its beautiful inside all flowing curves and naturalist themes: flowers, snails and the undersea - just like Art Nouveau should be. It was built in 1901 for a wealthy banker then after the revolution Maxim Gorky was installed here (1931 - 1936), hence the name. He apparently hated the place,
one of the Seven Sisters
it distracted us and we ended up in the wrong lane
as a champion of the proletariat he considered it far too lavish. Every room is full of tiny intricate details and the staircase is like a giant wave flowing from one floor to the next.
On the other side of town is the Muzeon Sculpture Park – where all the fallen heroes are loitering together in one corner of a park filled with modern art. Like a lot of parks in Russia its slightly scruffy – its nicely laid out with benches and a little cafe but mowing the grass and weeding don't seem to be terms that figure in a Russian park keeper's manual. Huddled together are several Stalins, Lenins & Brezhnevs and one Dzerzhinsky. He was the founder & director of the Cheka, the Bolshevik Secret Police & forerunner of the KGB. The statue once stood in Lubyanka square in the centre of Moscow and the pictures of it being toppled in 1991 made the news headlines round the world..
In complete contrast is Tsaritsyno Palace: the fairytale summer home of Catherine the Great on a wooded hill in the southeast of the city. Well it was supposed to be her summer palace but never quite
made it: in 1775 she purchased the land and building commenced. Ten years later she came to check on progress, didn't like what she saw, dismissed the architect and dismantled all the buildings – there were a lot of them!. A new architect started a new palace, 10 years later work stopped again but this time it was because Catherine had died. For the next 200 years the palace slowly decayed until, in 2005, the Mayor of Moscow instigated a restoration project. The video of the work is amazing – the building really was derelict before they started with tress growing out of the roof. The finished result is a very striking – an enormous, neo-Gothic red brick palace, it looks just like a red cake covered in fancy piped white icing. The whole place is buzzing, its the 3rd
Sunday of the month which means its free to get in. Although this means it quite crowded its actually nice to see all the local Muscovites out enjoying themselves in the park and house.
Inside its all a bit of guess work as it the original interior was never started. Now its a giant museum, a maze of rooms
Edwin getting lunch on the go
all underpasses are crammed full of kiosks
and wings going off in all directions, I'm not sure we ever saw the whole thing. The two big ball rooms are very grand and ornate with their chandelier, inlaid floors and paintings. The other rooms are left bare and used to display info on Catherine the Great and all sorts of beautiful decorative items. The most impressive is the silver work – giants silver lobsters holding cut glass bowls, tiny, “chain mail” style purses and hair brushes, an enormous swan serving bowl.
To keep Edwin happy we drop in at Autoville, a private car museum. There's only 30 cars in there but they're all classics and all beautifully displayed, it more like an art gallery. They even show off the underneath of the cars by having glass floors. Predictably Edwin is taken by the Jaguar XK120 but my favourite is the pale lemon 1969 Plymouth Barracuda with its flower power soft top and seats.
To finish its a relaxing wander round Gorky Park and a river cruise. Gorky Park has lost all its amusement rides and tackiness, now its a very smart, sophisticated park where they actually mow the grass and have weed free flower beds. Even
a wonderful 1906 Art Nouveau extravaganza. Built for a wealthy banker then, after the Revolution, Maxim Gorky was installed here.
more exciting is the backdrop of another Shukhov Tower – a 1922 broadcasting tower, 160m high & made of 5 interlocking hyperboloids of decreasing size. Even on a Monday afternoon the park is busy with locals going for a gentle stroll or cutting through on their way somewhere. Floating down the river we see all the familiar sights from a different angle: the Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, one of the Seven Sisters and lots of golden onion domes protruding above the tree line.
It has certainly been a relaxing few days, proper R&R but now its back into the 6 lane traffic to try and get out of Moscow.
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