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Trip Report Marvellous Return Visit to Moscow

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My wife and I had a wonderful return visit to Moscow from the 13 – 19 June. We found the city as exciting and fascinating as in 2011 and Moscow is rapidly becoming a favourite city for us ! The weather was great throughout, mostly warm sunshine, ideal for sightseeing. Again we used the marvellous metro extensively and shared a 60-journey ticket.

We would like to share some of our lovely experiences with you, so here goes.

Wednesday
Lufthansa flights from Dublin via Frankfurt were on time and we were through DME without delay, followed by Aeroexpress and metro to Tverskaya. We rented an apartment on Tverskoy Bulvar from Peace Travel Services and we were actually early for our check-in appointment. The accommodation was spacious, comfortable, very quiet and a perfect base for the holiday with the added advantage of being only a few minutes walk from the metro. We found a very good nearby supermarket at 11 Bolshoi Bronnaya ulitsa, literally a short distance across the boulevard.

After dinner on Ul Tverskaya we decided to go to Sparrow Hills for views of the city lighting up at dusk. We took the metro to Vorobyovy Gory station which we were interested to discover was the first to be built on a bridge and is the longest in the system with its main hall at 270 meters. By the mid 70s it was on the verge of collapse necessitating its closure and it re-opened only in 2002. Its contemporary look with its huge glass walls give impressive views of Luzhniki Stadium and the city. We make our way up through the park that had prominent descriptions of the local fauna. We reached the viewing point and had panoramic views over the Moscow river and city.

On the way back through the Tverskaya underpass we saw the memorial to the terrorist outrage in 2000 in which many people were killed and injured.

Thursday
We are very interested in architecture viewing it as a form of public art, so next morning we took the metro to Vystavochnaya at Moscow City to see the latest high rise developments. It was fascinating to view the innovative design of the City of Capitals skyscrapers, representing Moscow & St Petersburg. The golden coloured Mercury City Tower, now apparently nearing completion is very impressive. We crossed the enclosed Bagration Bridge, admiring the perplexing sculpture in the entrance hall. On the other side the observation platform gave great views of all the elevations.

We crossed the road passing the equestrian statue to General Bagration wielding his sword at the thundering traffic. We walked along Kutuzovsky Prospekt for about a km having a look at the apartment blocks used by some of the Soviet elite. Back at the river we joined the embankment and walked the right bank to New Arbat, enjoying fabulous views of the World Trade Centre, the White House and the beautiful Seven Sisters Radisson Hotel The latter looked great in spite of the eyesore building site constructing the underground car park.

Crossing the flag-bedecked bridge and passing right by the White House we saw the former Comecon Building resembling an open book, (now possibly containing the Hotel Mir ?). New Arbat was bustling with morning rush hour. We continued on the left side and had full view of the vast concrete edifices along Arbat especially the four angled high rises.

In the afternoon we visited the peaceful Novospasskiy Convent, admiring its domes over the rooftops as we approached. It was lovely walking around the gardens appreciating the immense belltower and the fine cathedral. This is another aspect of Moscow we like, literally metres from thundering traffic these oases of quietness and placidness exist, open to all.

Afterwards we took a most enjoyable 90 minute boat trip on the Moscow River, starting at the nearby riverside. We found it another fascinating perspective on the great city and it was fun identifying all the iconic landmarks along the route. It was particularly interesting to see the area beyond Peter the Great monument with its plentiful parks and greenery. On disembarking at Kievsky we dined at the nearby very good My-My outlet.

That night we watched the Ireland-Spain Euro12 match with Ireland losing 4-0.……. I’ve decided to say no more on these lamentable encounters !

Friday
Early next morning we went to visit more lovely metro stations, beginning with nearby Chekhovskaya with its attractive mosaics. We were particularly interested in seeing the more recently opened ones so we continued to Trubnaya with its lovely glass mosaics with many pictures of churches. We had read that many of these are without dome crosses and we confirmed that this is indeed the case. We moved on to the arrestingly dramatic Dostoyevskaya which we thought very effective. We continued to Mar’ina Roshcha where we loved the artwork on the track walls.

Next on our list of must-sees was the spectacular Elektrozavodskaya. Standing at the end of the main concourse viewing the full extent of the more than 300 recessed lamps and decorations was breadth taking.

Continuing our architectural theme from the previous morning, we took the metro to Sokol, walked back down Leningradsky Propekt, through the park to be confronted with the vast beautiful neo-classical & neo-gothic edifice of Triumph Palace, the new Eight Sister. Apparently it contains about 1000 luxury apartments and is surrounded by ornate black metal fencing.

Later we visited the wonderful Tsaritsyno Estate, the entrance for which is close to the metro of the same name. The gardens, dancing fountains and palaces were resplendent in the lovely sunshine. We marvelled at the restoration works that have transformed it from dereliction to today’s splendour. It was sobering to reflect that by Royal whim, the first almost complete palace was ordered to be demolished and its successor abandoned some years later.

We entered the Great Palace through the modern glitzy basement. The tour was well worth while, seeing a history of the restoration followed by the sumptuous halls adorned with much gilt. Visitors could don Royal costumes for photographs; one kid took to this with aplomb, posing regally with his cane. He seemed positively reluctant to relinquish the finery.

As we were leaving a mighty thunderstorm was in progress. We had some sympathy for the couple of wedding parties disturbed in their photography and scurrying to seek shelter

We had a very enjoyable meal in the Café Pushkin close to our apartment. The dining was unrushed in a great old-world style setting with its carved dark wood and upstairs library.

That evening we went to Verdi’s Nabucco at the Bolshoi New Stage. It was a good production that we very much enjoyed. Afterwards we went to the ornate surroundings of the famous historical National Hotel for coffee and cake.

Saturday
We wanted to have a look at some of the statuary from the Soviet era so we took the metro to Oktyabrskaya to see the last Lenin monument erected in 1985. We thought it looked a bit forlorn in the midst of the high rise apartment blocks and speeding traffic. Two further stops brought us to Leninsky Prospekt where the gigantic titanium Gagarin monument dominates the skyline with the sphere at its base commemorating 12 April 1961. Very imposing.

Across Leninsky Prospekt we walked around the exterior of the attractive Academy of Sciences with its ‘Golden Brains’ sculpture on top. It is a very decorative complex, with statues that I assume symbolise branches of science and learning. We were too early to have a coffee in the 22nd floor Sky Lounge with its anticipated great views.

We wanted to see some more of Moscow’s lovely churches, so we got the metro to Fili and the Church of the Intercession at Fili is a short walk from the station. We thought the pale red church with its golden domes absolutely gorgeous. It is built in the shape of a Greek cross and situated in a lovely green space. It was still open after the 8am service with a number of worshippers present.

We are opera enthusiasts so we were looking forward to visiting the Shalyapin House Museum. On the walk from Barrikadnaya metro we passed another of the Seven Sisters, the one at Kudrinskaya that was completed in 1954 and the last of the skyscrapers. We had read some interesting history of this building.

We were the only visitors at the Shalyapin Museum. One of the guides spoke some English and kindly filled us in on some of the legends etc that were in Russian only. We found the rooms, including the billiard room, and exhibits fascinating, illustrating the stature of Shalyapin and how he was instrumental in Russian operas becoming more well known in the west. The guide played a CD of his recordings for us in the concert room.

We spent the whole afternoon, up to the 7pm closing time, in the outstanding 19th and 20th Century European and American Art section of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. We particularly love paintings from c. 1850 onwards and it was great to see the fabulous collection of these including the rooms devoted to Gaugin, Matisse, Renoir and others. The museum is celebrating its centenary and in honour of this leading international museums have provided 46 masterpieces to the Pushkin. These include works by Manet and Klimt.

That evening we had a lovely meal at Gusto in Kamergerskiy pereulok. Afterwards we had a long walk up Tverskaya ulitsa, availing of a coffee along the way.

Sunday
The Frunzenskaya area along by the river seemed interesting so we took the metro to Park Kultury for an early morning walkabout. We had an enjoyable stroll along Frunzenskaya nab passing the 24 hour river restaurants. The river was very quiet and tranquil with no boat traffic. We came to the monumental Department of Artillery that certainly conveys well the Soviet military might.

We arrived at the Andreyevsky/ Pushkinsky pedestrian bridge, which has an interesting history. It dates from 2000 with the steel arch and other material originating from the bridge 1.5 km upstream that was demolished to make way for the Third Ring highway. The main walkway and stairs are completely enclosed in a glass canopy supported by yellow frame. We walked along both the enclosure and the two open air sidewalks, passing through the stone towers. We had great views of the river and its embankments. Gorky Park with its space shuttle and attractions was clearly visible. Straight ahead we saw a tall lattice structure that I assume is the famous Shukhov radio tower.

We walked up 1 Frunzenskaya ulitsa which is very pleasant with many trees and little parks.

We visited another treasure of a Moscow church, the wonderfully ornate St Nicholas of the Weavers with its green and maroon decoration and glinting golden domes. The interior is equally beautiful.

It was a beautiful sunny morning, ideal we thought for a visit to the Kremlin. We got tickets for both the Kremlin and the Armoury Museum and the short entrance queue moved quickly. We found the Armoury treasures astonishing, including the exquisite bible covers, the ample collection of Faberge eggs and the sumptuous Royal carriages.

Cathedral Square was magnificent. We visited each of the cathedrals and churches. There were a number of large tour groups so there was a little delay in entering & leaving the three main ones. We walked around the lovely gardens and saw the Tsar bell and cannon.

Afterwards we have a fine meal in the charming Ukrainian restaurant Taras Bulba at Ul Mokhovaya 8, which is adjacent to the Kremlin. We were welcomed by a group of staff in traditional costume into the imaginatively decorated restaurant. The Ukrainian food was very good and reasonably priced.

Another gallery we wished to see was that of the controversial Tsereteli so we continued along to Prechistenka Ul 19. It was a very worthwhile excursion seeing the prodigious output and being impressed by many of the works such as the homage to Picasso and especially the sculptures. It was interesting to see the former Mayor being very sporty and a current most important person in judo costume.

On our walk back to Okhotniy ryad we had great views of the majestic Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

That night we took the metro to Kievskaya to have some high-rise refreshments in the astonishingly sumptuous Seven Sisters Hotel Radisson. The entrance hall is vast and stunningly decorative. We saw the magnificent diorama showing the now demolished Rossiya Hotel alongside Red Square. We hadn’t booked but fortunately window seats were available in the 29th floor Buono Restaurant. The views were astounding in the clear night and we were able to walk around the whole of the glass-roofed terrace seeing Moscow in all its night time glory.

Monday
Sokolniki was another district that we wanted to visit so we took the metro and emerged onto the square. First vista was the 25 storey Holiday Inn. The excursion highlight was the sublime art nouveau Resurrection Church, perfectly approached through a linear park. The pastel colours topped with dark domes coupled with the distinctive architecture is very pleasing. The interior is open, spacious and bright.

We were very keen to see the modern architecture happening in the vicinity of Dinamo metro. Exiting onto Leningradsky Prospekt with its traffic clamour, we walked down Aviakonstruktora Sukhogo to see the amazing ‘Water Drop’ stadium, the four pale pink residential towers and the Sail Building. The extent of the local development is astonishing.

Back at the main highway we admired the opulent Peter Road Palace through the locked gates. It was interesting that this vast palace was just a rest stop for the Czars, a day’s carriage ride from the Kremlin.

We had read about the opulent Soviet era Hotel Sovietsky on Leningradsky Prospekt, and given that we were in the vicinity we dropped in for a coffee. While it is grand, we were surprised at how relatively compact the foyer area is; of course this may be due to the still fresh memory of the glorious Seven Sisters Radisson from the previous night. It was before opening time for their Yar Restaurant and their Summer Terrace; from photos the Yar looks very sumptuous and worthy of a future visit.

We spent a very enjoyable few hours in Gorky Park in the lovely sunshine. There are great facilities for visitors, such as lounging pods and power points for laptops. We hired a pedal boat and drifted around the lake for an hour.

Later in the afternoon we took the metro to Lubyanka across from which is the Mayakovsky Museum. This was absolutely the most creative house-museum we visited. The surrealist displays such as caged imprisoned writings & pamphlets, contorted chairs, abundance of red, broken beds, symbolising the turmoil within the artist himself and in the wider society, lead up a spiral ramp. The finale is the little room where Mayakovsky took his own life at only 37.

We had dinner in the lovely Russian Kitezh Restaurant at Ul Petrovka 23. It is set in a stone basement with splendid wooden and stone features, some of which we were told are original. The courses were delicious, all reasonably priced.

After a pleasant stroll along Tsvetnoy Bulvar as far as the monument to Yuri Nikulin stepping into his car in front of the eponymous circus, we had a late night treat in the Pushkin Café basement.

Tuesday
On our last day we had a couple of outings lined up. One district we hadn’t visited was Taganka so we took the metro, emerging onto the traffic filled junction. We walked by the sturdy Taganka Theatre and across from it viewed the attractive red façade of the almost derelict Church of St Nicholas. We went to the delightful nearby Church of the Assumption of the Potters. It was open and devoid of worshippers so we were able to admire the interior and icons without intruding.

Our last trip was to the Simonov Monastery, alighting at the Avtozavodskaya metro. The monastery is a sad shadow of its original stature, much of it having being destroyed in Soviet times to make way for a car factory and other development. But its dedicated community is impressively restoring it. Its powerful towers, remaining fortified wall and the vast Refectory Church reflect well what it once was.

We had a fabulous time in Moscow and we felt so much at home there !

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