Day 8 - Moscow
Dave F had found an old style behemoth of a soviet hotel for us for the next two nights, so Friday morning we packed up the car and drove over there to check in.
Today we were tourists pure and simple, with the Kremlin, St Basils and Gorky park on the agenda.
It was a beautiful day so we walked into the city centre, foregoing the metro. We were all carrying our documents with us because Russian immigration police are known to do spot checks. Given that the next day Moscow would be hosting its biggest national event in a decade with national leaders in attendance, we expected security to be tight.
Whilst there were police everywere however, no one was interested in us. I was also quickly revising my assumptions of the city: Muscovites seemed to be wealthy and happy. There was absolutely no underlying feeling of oppression or hardship as I have encountered in some other countries.
The Kremlin and Red Square can normally be toured, but today was cordoned off in readiness for Saturday's parade. We walked past St Basil's cathedral and the red walls of the Kremlin and
onto a bridge across the Moskva river. It was here that we saw the first reminder that all is not well in Russia; flowers, messages and candles marking the spot where Boris Nemtsov - a popular politician and long term critic and opponent of President Putin - was murdered whilst walking along the bridge with his girlfriend in March this year.
From there, in accordance with the old Scorpions song "Winds of change", we followed the river to the famous Gorky Park. The park lies on the banks of the river, and is set up with many types of entertainment for Muscovites, and you pass games of table tennis, people reading on giant bean bags, kids scoffing icecreams and people waiting for their dates to show up. John spotted a red squirrel in a tree. Everyone was relaxed and happy.
That song was written in 1989 when the band visited Moscow shortly before the failed coup that ended the Cold War, and celebrates glasnost. It has since become an anthem of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and is known in Germany as a song of reunification and hope.
Back on the river, we took some photos
of the huge statue of Peter the Great. The 98 metre tall monument was built to commemorate 300 years of the Russian navy, established by Peter. It is the 8th tallest statue in the world and dominates the skyline by the river. Sadly, it has also been voted the 10th ugliest building in the world, and was always an odd choice given that Peter himself decided to move the capital city to St Petersberg when he was in power. Some pics of the 'Peter the Ugly and he didn't even like Moscow anyway' monument are at the bottom of the page.
We jumped on the metro to return to the hotel. The Moscow metro system is clean and efficient. The stations are splendid, and all different. You will not need to wait for more than 90 seconds on a platform. The tube map looks a bit like a spider, with a single circle line, and other 'legs' protruding from the centre. I realise that central planning and geography have played a part, but it makes the London underground look like a pigs ear.
We were intending to spend the evening at a particularly weird and wonderful club -
massive understatement there - that I had read about online, but on arrival we found that they were prepping for a big party and show the next night. We decided to have an early night and come back there again for the Victory day celebration.
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