We spent a couple of days to seek out more attractions in Moscow. A cruise on the Moskva River, the Gorky Park, the Kremlin and even more. Everything was now set for our departure for Siberia.
This article is no. 4/11 in a series from a journey in 2011 on the Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia, Mongolia and China. The text is a transcript of my diary at the time.
We arrived in Moscow on a Friday afternoon and had tickets on the Trans-Siberian from Wednesday the following week. This meant that I and my four friends had 5 x 24 hrs to spend in Moscow. The last day would be together with a guide and a larger group. This group would be on the train together with us.
I will tell my story from Moscow in three articles, in a chronological sequence. It is after all based on a diary. This article is the third from Moscow and covers Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Monday 23.5, Moscow
Where are all the tourists?
The Russian capital of many years has much to offer. Yet both of our guides recommended us to take day trips to St. Petersburg. We can take the fast train 800 km in three hours or night train both ways and get the whole day in what has also been the nation’s capital in periods.
That was never anything for us. We all feel that Moscow has plenty to offer in its own right. We therefore took the metro to the Kremlin, walked along the wall and crossed the Moscow River. There was a river boat which cost us 800 roubles each. The price covers unlimited number of entries and exits on the same day. The river boat is of a similar kind as elsewhere in Europe. We seated ourselves on the sundeck and got a few quiet hours with superb views along the river. There were few others on board. Where are all the tourists?
A cruise on the river
We went on the boat right across the river from the Kremlin, just below a huge lump of an apartment building erected in 1951 by Stalin. He must have been annoyed by the stately church across the road, as he blew it to pieces and built a public swimming pool on the site. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was rebuilt in recent years and is today in all its former glory complete with Moscow’s largest golden onions domes.
Farther away we glided past a giant marine monument to Peter the Great, shaped like he is hanging in a sailing rig over the river. The rig is at one end of Gorky Park, which we also plan to visit.
Further along the river, we passed the Academy of Science’s two buildings with strange metal installations on the roof.
Not many people promenade along the river, but it is quite possible for the sidewalks are wide and vegetation along the shore is ideal for outdoor activities. A lone jogger and some sunbathers is all we see along the somewhat dirty brown river. The river may be is dirty, but the paved riverside is kept clean and neat. We saw both high-pressure washers and hand washers on our journey.
A long lazy river turn led us past the Luzhniki Stadium, the Moscow University with its Stalin tower, a ski-jump hill and onward until the end point.
A late lunch – a feast
We stayed on board on most of the return trip. CJ had found a Georgian restaurant (Houri) in his guidebook that seemed exciting.
After some searching we found the street, yard and entrance. It looked nice, with wood furniture and a rustic appearance. The service was to get enthusiastic over with an exuberant show off of what the Georgian cuisine can offer. To put it simply: We understand very well why Russians who are going to eat “ethnic” select Georgian food. A feast! Heavy use of fresh herbs and juicy marinated pieces of meat.
We continued the boat trip to the end and took the metro home.
Cruising down the Moscow (Moskva) River on a river boat. A relaxing way to see some of the major sights in the Russian capital.
Music and dinner
A dinner table was ordered at Café Margarita by the Patriarch’s Pond. The pond is a pleasant area just west of the city. Many sat around the pond and watched the swans at sunset.
We sat down in the cosy bistro with dark wooden furniture and books on the shelves, and ordered our food. The point is that we got a recommendation at home, supported by the guide booklet and video on YouTube, saying that there will be live music in the evening.
Sure enough, three musicians came. One guy on the piano, one on violin along with a lady. Young musicians with hits of popular and classical music. The guests were given rhythm boxes and the atmosphere rose to the ceiling. Very nice, and the food was also good.
The newly rich
On the way home we walked through one of Moscow’s trendiest areas, when it comes to shops and cafes. CJ has never seen such a large collection of Mercedes cars in the 500 – and 600-series, and we saw a series of other expensive cars, too. Some cars with a waiting driver, others without. This was an area for the capital’s newly rich.
Cars on the roads witness in general of great wealth for some. And the fatter the car, and the darker the windows, the more parking violations on and off the pavements we see. We got home on the means of transport for the common man, the metro.
Tuesday 24.5, Moscow
Hunting metro stations
Today we would meet the other ten in our Trans-Siberian party, but not until this afternoon. So we had the day free. It was going to be a gallery and park day for us. First we took the metro to some of the classical stations.
They were in the 30s and beyond given a very different expression, but appears to be great even today, almost 80 years later.
The Moscow metro is one of the world’s most famous, and must certainly be the one with the most beautiful stations.
We missed the end station, which resulted in an endless walk along the streets in what we thought was the other side of river. It was good therefore, to finally find Gorky Park for an ice cream and coffee.
A famous park and gallery
Here we parted. V & CJ wanted to see New Tretyakov Museum, we other three the Old. We walked a bit along the river and into a journey through centuries of Russian pictorial art.
Without being an art historian I dare the assertion that the influence of Europe has been great for many centuries. Styles seem very familiar from museums in Norway and the Continent. The exception was the collection of icons dating back to the 1200s.
Lunch was eaten at the museum restaurant. We decided with the help of an English-speaking at the next table to order a business lunch of four dishes for cheap 6,4 USD. Apparently the soup pot went to pieces, and another course was not available, but we were compensated. We were satisfied even.
Oddly enough we met V & CJ in the exhibition rooms of the museum. Their museum was closed. Well done to bump into each other in a big museum. Even more random was that they took the metro back. We found them on the way out of Sokolniki station at our hotel. We were no sooner come into the hotel before the guide Maria rushed in with our tour companions for the coming two weeks.
They checked in and went on to do the metro tour, while we veterans relaxed in the rooms and met for dinner at the hotel on time. Maria’s party did not. But it was nice when they at long last arrived.
We are thirteen in all. A couple had to cancel at the last minute. One is in her late forties, the others in their sixties. It seems to be a cheerful group.
Wednesday 25.5, Moscow and the start of the train journey
The departure of train is in the evening at 2135, but before that it is bus sightseeing for the whole lot. We bought food and drinks for the train last night and packed the suitcases. The luggage was in the minibus all day so we did not have to think about it. I may mention that we five friends have an assortment of backpacks and suitcases.
We stamped in traffic towards the centre, while Maria talked incessantly into the microphone about not always interesting things. I thought in my mind that it would have been best to take the metro.
Inside the Kremlin
Today we would see the Kremlin on the inside. Maria had urged us not to do it ourselves, as we would have three hours together. We had a long detailed introduction in the park outside and then went into the special entrance on the corner which is for tour groups. We were almost alone tourists in the entire Kremlin. Incredible.
Equally incredible was the fascinating inside with a mix of parks, palaces, churches and modern office buildings. We wandered into a few churches on an extremely detailed tour of the worst sort. Apart from that and the fact that we did not experience one of the definite highlights, the State Armoury with its treasures, it was a really great experience to actually get inside the Kremlin. Bonus was that President Medvedev gave a speech to a group of people in the park 200 metres from us. We could see him quite clearly. We saw his guards around us very clearly.
The magnificent religious and secular buildings and treasures of the Moscow Kremlin.
Continuing on to new and also now familiar places
Guide Maria had missed time significantly in her efforts to teach us the names of all the Tsars, saints and more or less important years without giving us the whole picture, overview and significance. We had to run and search all around the Red Square before we found our lunch restaurant in a basement.
Good, simple food. Here, too, they followed the custom that changing the order of the operands does not change the end result in terms of serving dishes. Dessert and coffee was on the table right after the main course was brought out.
The others went with Maria to the bank for exchanging money, while we took a beer at the Red Square. We all met in front of St Basil’s Cathedral and went down the hill to our waiting bus.
Then it was driving around the city to endless guiding. We had seen much before. We did however make a short stop but interesting stop at the The Novodevichy Convent. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Visited World Heritage Sites in Russia
I might add that I on this first visit to Russia was able to include four Heritage Sites to my own “been-there”-list. They link to my own articles.
- Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent, Moscow
- Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow
- Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra, Sergiev Posad
- Lake Baikal
We are about to embark
For dinner we went to another cellar. Same serving procedure.
Finally it was off to Jaroslavsky Station. There the train was not waiting for us, but it soon came and we were accommodated in a Mongolian German-built carriage with two female Mongolian train hosts. One sweet and nice interested in speaking a foreign language and the other sour and cross without such an interest.
I was alone in my four-bed cabin, and crossed my fingers that it would continue like that. The interior was like something out of my China travel 26 years ago, when I had many hard-sleepers. Worn but clean. Hot water boiler “samovar” at the end of the corridor.
The Mongol hordes boarded the train, few Russians, with lots of boxes and big bags. Three of the nine compartments in our carriage were full of Mongolians, while our travel party took the rest.
The journey could begin.
Visited places in Moscow
Sokolniki Park, Bolshoi Theatre, Lubyanka, Church of All Saints na Kulichkakh, Romanov Palace, Old English Court, Worker and Kolkhoz Woman Monument, Monuments to the Conquerors of Space, Old Arbat Street, Alexander Garden, Manege, Patriarch’s Ponds, Cafe Margarita, Gorky Park, Tretyakov Gallery, Novodevichy Convent (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Yaroslavsky Terminal
My Youtube Playlist for Moscow.
All chapters in this series
- The introduction
- Some very interesting and pleasant days in Moscow. That city has certainly more to offer than we imagined.
- An excursion to a wonderful city in the Golden Ring and an evening in Moscow.
- A cruise on the Moskva River, the Gorky Park, the Kremlin and the departure for Siberia.
- NEXT: The days on the train, four and a half days continuously on the move
- Mongolia: Well! Not bad to come to this country, some of the remotest imaginable of all inland countries. We first went into a national park.
- A day in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia
- The train journey continues from Ulaanbaatar to China
- The train into Beijing from the border to Mongolia
- First day in Beijing and a visit to the Great Wall
- The last days in Beijing and the return journey