Moscow: One Of The Most Afforable And Beautiful Cities

I visited Moscow, Russia from 1-12 May 2015.

Many people were surprised when I first announced that I was going there. This is due to their impression of Moscow being an extremely dangerous city to visit. This is common misconception that many Singaporeans hold due to negative portrayal of this city by the western media.

I chose to visit Russia for a few reasons:

1. It was Zhi Hao’s 25th birthday and he really likes modern history

2. Rubles was at an all time low

3. 9 May was Victory Day in Russia and this year was the 70th anniversary so it would be ultra grand for sure.  *Most people think it was the Americans who defeated the Nazis in World War 2 when in actual fact, it was the Russians. For more details, read this Wikipedia article on the Battle of Berlin.

 Battle of Berlin

I’ve visited several cities over the past few years and of all of them I would consider Moscow was one of the top few. Not only is it extremely beautiful, it is also cheap. I managed to get a really cheap flight and hotel from Singapore to Moscow from Expedia.

In total, we spent less than SG$2000 per person and this is inclusive of the fact that we stayed in a 4 Star Hotel; took Singapore Airlines and went for 11 Days.

Other bonuses include free WIFI almost everywhere and super awesome metro system. The only thing I dislike about the tedious process of applying for a visa to Russia from Singapore.

If you’re planning to take advantage of the low value of rubles and visit Moscow during the holidays at this year, here are some of the top attractions you should check out.

1) Red Square + St Basils + Bol Shoi Theatre

Our first stop was to see the Red Square. However , we chose to alight at Teatralnaya Metro Station so we could see the Bolshoi Theatre.

This historical theatre was established in 1985 and holds ballet and opera performances. We did not watch any as both Zhi Hao and I are generally not interested in the arts. However, if you are keen on viewing some of these performances, their performance schedule is readily available online.

Just directly opposite the Bolshoi Theatre is the statue of Karl Marx. This monument was erected in 1961 and pretty much the last statue of Karl Marx in Moscow.

A stones throw away from Karl Marx monument is the famous Red Square.

Inextricably linked to all the most important historical and political events in Russia since the 13th century, the Kremlin was previously the living quarters of the monarchy.

 

At the foot of its ramparts, on Red Square, St Basil’s Basilica is one of the most beautiful Russian Orthodox monuments. The creator of this gorgeous place of worship was unfortunately blinded so he could not make something as gorgeous in another city. =(

 

2) Alexander Garden 

Just next to the Red Square is Alexander Garden. Alexander Garden its a beautiful set of gardens, statues and fountains on the back of the Kremlin and the Red Square.  It is one of the first public parks in Moscow.

Some of the main attractions that you can see here are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and many statues related to Pushkin Fairytales and philosophy.

It looks equally stunning at night:

3) GUM Department Store 

Russia’s most famous shopping mall is the GUM which has a rich history since the building was first constructed in 1812.
GUM was used as a trading centre till 1928 where it was closed by Stalin, who decided to use the building as the headquarters for officials working on the first Five Year Plan.
GUM was reopened in 1953 and after privatization in the early 90s, it rapidly became the address of choice for top-end Western retailers.
Since the fall of communism, several other shopping centers and hypermarkets have sprung up to rival it in prestige, but GUM retains its status as the top shopping destination in Moscow.

In the Soviet Union, the top floor was home to Section 100, a secret clothing store only open to the highest echelons of the party. These days, the rows of exclusive boutiques are accessible to anyone with a platinum card.

GUM Department Store by night:

4) Victory Park + Museum

Victory Park, also known as Park Pobedy, is a memorial complex dedicated to the victory of Russians over Nazi Germany.

If you have an interest in Russian history and culture this fascinating memorial is well worth a visit.

The walkway leads up to Poklonnaya Hill which is one of the highest points in Moscow.

The hill had great strategic importance, as it commanded the best view of the Russian capital.

There are many little shops here selling snacks and since it was on the week of Victory Day, we had the opportunity to get soldier themed cookies.

Grand, beautiful and well-maintained – This memorial park is the largest in the world.

On 9 May, Victory Day in Russia, the park becomes the center of Moscow’s celebrations, and as many of the remaining veterans and survivors as can make there way here, along with scores of the younger generations.

We were lucky to catch the rehearsals by school students

And to bump into this World War 2 veteran who kindly obliged when I asked if I could get a photo of him

The park is also home to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. It comprises several expositions, including the War History Exposition, and a set of dioramas on the major battles of the war – from the defense of Moscow in winter 1941 to the fall of Berlin in spring 1945.

Since it was near Victory Day, there was a singing and orchestra performance for World War 2 Veterans. =)

5) Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is is a famous Orthodox cathedral in central Moscow. It is also my second favourite church in Europe. The first being Duomo Di Milano.

If you get on to the bridge in front of the church, you’d also get to enjoy an amazing view of the Kremlin.

6) Red October Chocolate Factory

The bridge extending from Cathedral of Christ The Savior leads to the former Krasny Oktyabr’ (Red October) chocolate factory.

This is an amazing example of gentrification. Since chocolate production moved out in 2007, the Red October Chocolate Factory transformed into a place of art, fun and culture.
It now houses hip bars, trendy restaurants, contemporary art galleries, the coolest clubs, clothing etc.

7) VDNKH 

One of my favourite attractions is definitely the VDNKH which stands for Russian vystavka dostizheniy narodnogo khozyaystva. The English translation is the Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy.

The area is also home to the Monument to the Conquerors of Space which was erected in Moscow in 1964 to celebrate achievements of the Soviet people in space exploration.

It depicts a starting rocket that rises on its contrail and is exceedingly beautiful. =)

We visited the VDNKh on Victory Day (May 9), so the park was filled with a lot of people. Many people would think this is crowded but it is definitely normal by Singaporean standards.

An exhibition featuring old calendars:

The complex includes more than 500 permanent structures. 49 of them are the objects of cultural heritage.

It also serves as a park where people can relax, cycle, hangout and eat.

Near the VDNKh, you’d get to see the monument of the Worker and Collective Farm Woman.It is a classic icon which always appears at the beginning of every old soviet movie.

This momument is 24.5 meters  high, made from stainless steel by Vera Mukhina for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Iyt was subsequently moved to Moscow.

While many say it symbolizes socialism and collective farming, I think it symbolizes equality of the sexes.

Just below it, there are these sculptures of the various Soviet satellite states. Each of them has a logo which represents what the country is good at i.e. metal, agriculture.

My guess is that this must be where Suzanne Collins, author of Hunger Games, got her ideas from.

 

8) Kolomenskoye Park and Church of Ascension

Besides VDNKh, another of my favourite park is the Kolomenskoe Park. The main entrance to the park is about 10 minutes’ walk from Kolomenskaya Metro Station. Admission is also free.

The chief attraction of the park is undoubtedly the stone Church of the Ascension of the Lord. It was constructed in 1529-1532 by order of Tsar Vasily III to commemorate the birth of his son and heir, Ivan the Terrible

The park is a great place for dinner or lunch because there are tons of cheap food and places to sit. =)

 

9) Metro Station

The cool thing about Moscow is that even the metro system is a tourist attraction. As mentioned in my previous post, each metro system has an individual theme and is a work of art in itself.
The old, pre-war stations symbolise the industrialisation of Russia, whereas the post-war ones were made to symbolise victory and pride of the nation.
For instance, here in the Mendeleevskaya Metro Station, t theme is chemistry. The track walls are decorated with plaques depicting atomic and molecular structures. The station is adorned with unusual lighting fixtures resembling lattice.

Other pictures of the gorgeous metro station:


Ending off, it was a really great trip to Moscow and I am super excited about going back again next year.

I hope to see more of Eastern Europe and Central Asia such as all the -stans, Siberia, Mongolia etc.

Ending off, here is my suggested itenary. 🙂

  • Day 1: Bolshoi Theatre, Red Square, Alexander Garden, Lenin Masoleum
  • Day 2: Gorky Park, Graveyard of Fallen Monuments, St. Basil Cathedral and GUM
  • Day 3: The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (VDNKh) and Cosmonautics Museum
  • Day 4: Arbat Street, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Red October Chocolate Factory
  • Day 5: Moscow Victory Park & Museum
  • Day 6: Kolomenskoye Park and Church of Ascension
  • Day 7: Home

If you have any questions about visiting Moscow, please feel free to ask me in the comments section below and I’d be glad to help!

 

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