Seeing the Moscow Sights

by Rachel on November 22, 2009

Victory Park, Moscow

Our Moscow guide, Svetlana, initially seemed uptight and perilously soft-spoken but she quickly warmed to us and was in fact bright, well informed and even just an eency-teency bit funny.  Safely ensconced in yet another minibus we drove all over the vast city marveling at the massive monuments, gawking at the gorgeous renovated churches and getting to know our remarkable Russian cousins.  We were quite lucky to see Moscow with the combination of a well-trained Russian guide and our own Russian relatives at our side.  They were all quick to give us their perspective on everything from art, to politics, to traffic.  We stopped at the main State University that sat perched on a hill with an incredible lookout over the city.  Through the haze we could see innumerable tall buildings, parks and monuments.  We posed first one combination of relatives and then another up on the ledge overlooking mighty Moscow.

The fountains in Victory Park

We went next to Victory Park with its massive statues and long, long, long rows of fountains.  It was a blistering hot day and unfortunately there wasn’t a lick of shade in the park.  Instead there were acres and acres of heat absorbing stone.  I felt like a steak on the barbie without a handsome Aussie to offer me a Foster’s lager.  We found a drink stand with a sole slightly pathetic umbrella.  We sucked down some coolish but not actually cold Russian drinks while fighting over who got to stand in the two inches of shade.  I would have liked to explore the park at a more leisurely pace but the sweltering sun and full exposure on the hot stones was completely untenable.  I would never have made a good desert explorer.  I’d have died of heat stroke immediately, if not sooner.  None of my pre-arrival Russian fantasies included heat stroke.  My mind was cluttered with one too many images of babushkas wearing big coats and funny fur hats, but truth be told, it gets mighty hot in the urban Russian jungle in the summertime.  I highly recommend a trip to Victory Park on a cool spring day or early fall.  If you get there send me a postcard.

Up next on the tourist agenda was a trip on the Moscow Metro.  Visiting the Moscow Metro makes the short list of any Russian guidebook.  Buried deep below ground because of the large number of rivers that crisscross under the city, the escalators in the stations were steep and VERY, VERY long.  I spent a number of years living in Washington D.C. and therefore foolishly thought I had some sense of what it meant to ride on a deeply buried metro system.  It turns out that there are deeply buried subway systems, and then there is Moscow.  One of my hardy Russian cousins took a pass on the Metro adventure and admitted to loathing the long plunging escalators.  I’m pretty sure that the Moscow people movers go all the way to Danté’s Inferno.  My stepmother and I had to do some earnest breathing exercises while looking any which way but DOWN in order to make the trip without fainting.

Impressive architecture in Moscow, much like in St. Petersburg, often appeared to take precedent over human comfort.  The train stations were built from marble, with chandeliers dangling at every turn, and statues galore.  The trains carrying humans were far less impressive, rattling and banging like the worst NYC subway cars.  My children never lost their look of initial anxiety and rode with both hands covering their ears to keep out the din.  When offered the option of a longer ride to the “most impressive” of the rail stations, or a shorter and more direct route straight to our intended lunch spot, there was an overwhelming show of hands for getting out of the subway system right quick.  We bumped along for another stop or two with our two ashen-faced whimpering children giving us completely indignant looks and finally got off and out – but not without another ride UP a nosebleed-inducing escalator.  I had a new found respect and awe for my cousins given that they had braved and survived the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, a nearly ten-hour ride.  We called it quits after just 30 minutes on a Russian train, and we didn’t even see any bandits.
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