Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moscow Musings

Moscow is quite a bit different to Vladivostok. It's much more metropolitan; it has a subway system, there's the occasional bit of English signage around the place, there's lots of restaurants and perhaps too many shops. And the occasional mausoleum containing a leading revolutionary.

I haven't been in Lenin's tomb yet. It's allegedly open from 10 to 1 but every time I've gone by it's been as quiet as a grave. There's enough to do around it that I've not felt too bad about it (although I do still want to get in there). I've been to St Basil's with its multicoloured onion domes, inside the Kremlin and the churches it contains, the history museum (which had English notes on the first floor but not the second floor), and the cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which is across the river from the Red October chocolate factory.

My hostel is pretty good. I'm in a dorm at this place, which I guess is a downgrade from the place in Vladivostok, but a known one so I can't complain, and this is more likely to be the norm from now on. They also have wifi which is great. It's pretty close to Red Square which is very convenient. It's also just down the road from the former headquarters of the KGB. It's a rather bland building with a bunch of what I presume is the KGB coat of arms across the front.

The subway here is rather deep, and the escalators going down to the platforms are in a tunnel that leaves the Third Infiltration Tunnel for dead. The trains themselves are a bit on the old side, being noisy and rickety with nary an electronic display in sight. they are however plentiful, with just over two minutes between departing trains.

The art in the churches is amazing, although I feel sorry for everyone who did the painting on the ceilings. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a particularly fine example and if I hadn't already known I wouldn't have thought it was built in the post soviet era (technically rebuilt since the soviets demolished the previous incarnation of the cathedral). If it were well lit instead of full of shadows it would be almost overwhelming.

I had a worrying situation today. I went to the MacDonalds on Red Square for brunch and to pay I gave them a 500 ruble note. The cashier looked at it and then took it to a manager. The manager looked at it and used one of the machines I've seen at a lot of places and then consulted with another manager before they decided they weren't going to accept it. This worried me since I'd just got the note from a bank. Fortunately, the museum accepted the note when I bought my ticket. A similar thing happened when I bought my train tickets. The ticket seller wouldn't accept one of the 1000 ruble notes I gave her. This is something new to me as I've never been anywhere where legal tender isn't just automatically accepted. Lots of places have machines that illuminate bills to reveal watermarks or UV writing or other stuff that may be on the bills.

I'm also surprised at how wet and muddy snow makes the place. A mud slushy is an accurate description of the streets.

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1 comment:

Tyrone said...

wow, sounds like you're seeing a lot!!

And here in London some small stores don't accept £50 notes, as they can be counterfeit - they'll hold it up to the light and look at it very suspiciously.

Hope you're having fun, and stay safe!