Exploring Russia - Best Of Russia - Trip Advisor
Are you going to Russia? Explore Russia for yourself!
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first started thinking about a trip to Russia about a year before my departure.
I have long been interested in Russia and have read quite a lot about the former
Soviet Union, the breakup, and current situations in Russia and former republics
of the USSR.
But a year
ago actually going there seemed little more than a dream. However, the more I
thought about it the more I began to see such a trip as something I could
actually do, so I began planning in earnest.
After plane tickets were
bought, a visa was applied for and granted, and the time to fly drew closer, I
started getting a little nervous. You see, this was my first time out of the
United States. When friends finally realized I was truly serious about going
they'd say, "Russia?
Why are you going to Russia?!" And their surprise and subtle but real
concern for my well-being made me start thinking I was making a mistake. "Why
not England or France? You've never even been out of the country," they'd
say. "You don't speak the language. And I just read in the paper the other
day that things are terrible there." As you can see these comments
were not reassuring.
Well, I went anyway
with a very ominous feeling I was in for something, but not quite sure what. I
first left Atlanta on August 24th and flew to New York City,
where I spent a few days with friends and falling in love with a truly great
city. Then, on August 27th I boarded a plane and headed out over the ocean for
my Russian Adventure.
As it turned out, what
I was in for was the most exciting and educational experience of my thirty four
years. I found an incredible country, steeped in one of the richest and most
complex histories of any place on earth, wonderful and caring people from many
of the former USSR republics who welcomed me into their lives and homes like a
long lost friend.
And finally, I found a
little bit of myself. In the hearts and spirits of the people I could see very
clearly the same hopes and aspirations that people share all over the world. And
I became convinced, from real life experiences, that the fragile peace now
forming between people once held as adversaries by their governments can only
survive with a real committment to find these common values, and nurturing their
growth. I found there something that changed my whole
life. Explore Russia for yourself..."
MOSCOW is all things to all people. For Westerners, the city may look
European, but its unruly spirit seems closer to Central Asia. To Muscovites,
however, Moscow is both a "Mother City" and a "big village", a tumultuous
community which possesses an underlying collective instinct that shows itself in
times of trouble. Home of one in fifteen Russians, it is huge, surreal and
apocalyptic. Its beauty and ugliness are inseparable, its sentimentality the
obverse of a brutality rooted in centuries of despotism, while private and
cultural life in the city are as passionate as business and politics are
cynical. Moscow has been imbued with a sense of its own destiny
since the fourteenth century, when the principality of Muscovy took the lead in
the struggle against the Mongol-Tatars who had reduced the Kievan state to
ruins. Under Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible - the "Gatherers of the
Russian Lands" - its realm came to encompass everything from the White Sea to
the Caspian, while after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, Moscow assumed
Byzantium's suzerainty over the Orthodox world. Despite the changes wrought by
Peter the Great - not least the transfer of the capital to St Petersburg -
Moscow kept its mystique and bided its time until the Bolsheviks made it the
fountainhead of a new creed.
Since the fall of Communism,
Muscovites have given themselves over largely to the "Wild Capitalism" that
intoxicates the city, as Mayor Luzhkov
puts into effect major building programmes which are changing the face of the
city more radically than at any time since the Stalin era. The construction boom
seemed to reach its height with the celebrations of the city's 850th anniversary
in 1997, but intensive building activity continues throughout the centre
Discounting a couple of satellite towns beyond
the outer ring road, Moscow
covers an area
of about 900 square kilometres. Yet, despite its size and the inhuman scale of
many of its buildings and avenues, the general layout is easily grasped - a
series of concentric circles and radial lines, emanating from the Kremlin - and
the centre is compact enough to explore on foot.
and the Kremlin
historic nucleus of the city, a magnificent stage for political drama,
signifying a great sweep of history that encompasses Ivan the Terrible, Peter
the Great, Stalin and Gorbachev. Here you'll find Lenin's Mausoleum
and St Basil's
, the famous GUM department
, and the Kremlin
itself, whose splendid cathedrals and
head the list of
attractions. The Kremlin
is ringed by two
quarters defined by boulevards built over the original ramparts of medieval
times, when Moscow's residential areas were divided into the inner Beliy Gorod
and the humbler outer Zemlyanoy Gorod
- both quarters housing a number of
museums and art galleries.
Beyond this historic
core Moscow is too sprawling to explore on foot: you'll need to rely on the
metro. To the southwest of the Kremlin, Krasnaya
describes a swathe which includes the White House
(the Russian Parliament
); the Novodevichiy
Convent further south across the
; Victory Park
, to the southwest; and Moscow State University
, in the Sparrow
. South across the river from the Kremlin
is home of the Tretyakov Gallery
of Russian art and Gorky
, while further south are the Donskoy
that once stood guard against the Tatars
, as well as the romantic ex-royal estate of
. Fewer attractions are to be found to
the north and east of the centre, but you should venture out to visit VDNKh
, a huge Stalinist exhibition
park with amazing statues and
pavilions, in the vicinity of Moscow's Botanical
, and to the Andrei Rublev Museum of Old Russian Art and Culture
Arriving by train from London, Berlin or Warsaw,
you'll end up at Belarus Station (Belorusskiy vokzal), about 1km northwest of the
Garden Ring. Services from Budapest
terminate at Kiev Station (Kievskiy vokzal), south of the Moskva River. If you're coming from St Petersburg, Finland or Estonia,
your train will terminate at Leningrad
Station (Leningradskiy vokzal).
To get into the centre from any of these stations, your safest bet is to take
the metro ,
as taxis tend to charge whatever they can get away with, which can be quite a
hefty sum after the last bus has left.
The main international
airport is at Sheremetevo-2
northwest of the city centre. To avoid any hassle, or if you know you'll be
arriving after dark, the Travellers Guest House
most top hotels can arrange for you to be met at the airport. The fee ($40 plus)
helps avoid haggling. If you have no booking, fight your way past the massed
vultures at the exit to the official taxi stand, or the Taxi Blues
stand, where the fee should be no more
than $30. The alternative is to get into town by public transport , which
involves a two-stage journey by bus and metro, and costs the ruble equivalent of
under $1. There are frequent express buses into town from outside the arrivals
terminal, most going either to Rechnoy
or Planernaya metro
If you need to pick up
leaflets, maps and general information on what's going on in and around Moscow,
you're best off going to the information desk of the Metropol Hotel , Teatralniy
pr. 1/4 (tel 095/927-6000). The Travellers Guest
House also functions as an excellent information centre. Russian speakers
would do best to buy the glossy bi-weekly Afisha ,
Moscow's equivalent of Time Out .
Although central Moscow is best explored on
, the city is so big that you're bound to rely on its famous metro
system to get around (check out its stunning interiors at www.metro.ru
). The metro trains
run daily from 6am to 1am, with
services every two minutes
periods (8-10am & 5-7pm) and every three to five minutes at other times. You
can buy travel cards valid for anything from one to sixty rides. The cost is
minimal, at around 20 cents per ride. Providing you don't leave the metro, you
can travel any distance, and change lines as many times as you like for the cost
of one ride. Stations are marked with a large "M" and have separate doors for
incoming and outgoing passengers. All signs and maps are in Russian, including
"entrance" ( vkhod
), "exit" ( vykhod
) and "passage to another line" ( perekhod
Buses , trolleybuses and trams operate from 5.30am until about
11pm, although the odd one is occasionally seen at midnight. Buses and
trolleybuses run through the centre of the city, trams usually in the outskirts.
Bus stops are marked with yellow signs and trolleybus stops have blue and white
signs suspended, like those for tram stops, from overhead cables. Tickets ( talony ) for
buses, trolleybuses and trams are available from the driver of the vehicle
(single tickets and batches of ten for around $1). Some buses and trams have
conductors who sell and check tickets. In general, overground transport is
inefficient in central Moscow and you're best off sticking with the
taxis are yellow or grey Volgas, but others can come
in all shapes and sizes. Taxi drivers often don't use their meters, so it's best
to negotiate the fare before getting in to avoid any unpleasant surprises,
especially as foreigners are likely to be charged more than the standard fare.
Private cars will also stop if you stick your hand out and can be considerably
cheaper than an official taxi with its meter off. They're generally safe, but
for a woman travelling alone at night they should be avoided.
EATING AND DRINKING
problem finding good food and drink in
Moscow these days. In fact, the problem is choosing where to go. For
the homesick there are numerous American bars and steakhouses, plus American
coffee bars. Nonetheless, the wide gap between the top and bottom ends of the
market and the relative shortage of places in between means that good, affordable restaurants are often full in the
evenings, so reserving in advance is advised. Most places have a member of staff
with a rudimentary grasp of English, and many offer some kind of entertainment
in the evening. Most cafes serve plentiful and excellent food, at much lower
prices than full-blown restaurants, and seldom require bookings, making them a
boon for budget travellers. Many middle-range and more expensive places now take
a variety of credit cards.
In recent years a large number of small rock clubs and bars have opened up,
offering great food at amazingly cheap prices. Ordinary Russians tend to buy alcohol in a shop
and drink it at home, but there are more and more Western-style bars springing
up all over the place.
list we have weighted the selection towards more traditional Russian eateries -
after all, why come to Russia to eat Indian? - and the cheap but high-quality
places. Caucasian food (Georgian, Armenian) is almost always good in Moscow, and
the more Caucasians you see in there, the better the joint.
list of literally hundreds of worthy places can be found in the Moscow Times supplement, The
Beat , updated weekly.
Cafes, bars and fast food
Amalteya , Stremyanny per. 28/1;
Serpukhovksya metro. Choose from a vast range of meze in this cheap Turkish cafe, which has a singer in
the evenings. Daily 11am-last client.
Dioscarius , Merzlyakovskiy per. 2; Arbatskaya metro.
Georgian food and great variety of Georgian wine, right in the centre of town.
No credit cards. Daily 11am-midnight.
Donna Clara , Malaya Bronnaya ul. 21/13;
Mayakovskaya metro. Small cafe in the heart of literary Moscow, offering great
window seats. Daily 10am-11.30pm.
Guriya , Komsomolskiy pr. 7/3; Park Kultury
metro. Cheap and scrumptious Georgian food, if a little full of the foreign
community. No credit cards. Daily 11am-11pm.
Kofe-In (Caffeine) , Bolshaya Dmitrovka ul. 15;
Teatralnaya metro. A few main meals, but mainly great coffee and desserts. No
credit cards. Daily 9am-11pm.
Kot Begemot , Spiridonyevskiy per. 10A;
Mayakovskaya metro. Food nearly as good as the location. No credit cards. Daily
Krizis Zhanra , Prechistenskiy per. 22/4;
Kropotninskaya metro. Ridiculously cheap and mellow bar with a variety of live
music. Very popular, with live bands in the evening. Daily 11am-11pm. Concerts
Ogonyok , Krasnaya Presnaya ul. 36; 1905-goda
metro. Russian food that doesn't limit itself to pelmeni and beetroot. No credit cards. Daily noon-11pm.
PiR O.G.I. , Pyatnitskaya ul. 29l;
Novokuznetskaya metro. Great food and beer, and you're bound to meet someone you
know in here. No credit cards. 24 hours.
Project O.G.I. , Potapovskiy per. 8/12; Chistiye
prudy metro. Hip club, bar and restaurant with sessions for kids in the
mornings. No credit cards. Daily 8am-6pm.
U Babushki (At Granny's), Bolshaya Ordynka ul. 42;
Tretyakovskaya metro. Small, cosy, with homely food - just like its name
implies. Daily noon-10.30pm.
U Nikitskikh Vorot , Bolshaya Nikitskaya ul. 23/9;
Okhotny Ryad metro. Cheap Georgian food, in a comfortable bar (rather plain
restaurant). No credit cards. Daily noon-midnight.
U Yuzefa , Dubininskaya ul 11/17; Paveletskaya metro.
Jewish home cooking, old fashioned, with live music. No credit cards. Daily
Yolki-Palki , Tverskaya ul. 18; Bolshaya Dmitrovka ul.
23/8; Klimentovskiy per. 14/1; Novyy Arbat ul. 11; etc. If you want to eat
Russian/Ukrainian/Mongolian food at rock-bottom prices, join the queue at one of
ten or so branches of this popular eatery. No credit cards. 11am-midnight.
Moosh , Oktyabrskaya ul. 2/4 (tel 095/284
3670); Novoslobodskaya metro. Very cheap Armenian food, just behind the Red Army
Park. Daily 10am-midnight.
Petrovich Club , Myasnitskaya ul. 24 (tel
095/923 0082); Chistiye Prudy metro. Russian nouvelle
cuisine and nostalgia for a Soviet childhood in the 1960s and 1970s. No
credit cards. Daily 2pm-5am.
Praga , ul. Arbat 2 (tel 095/290 61 71);
Arbatskaya metro. Impossible to get into without a bribe during the Soviet
period, ghastly dump in the early years of perestroika, the place lived on its
reputation as a pre-Revolutionary palace of haute
cuisine and high society. Now easily back in the running for quality, it
should be visited if only for its place in Moscow's social history. Daily
Raisky Dvor , Spiridonovka ul. 25 (tel
095/290 13 41); Mayakovskaya metro. Russian and European food, inside Orwell's
Animal Farm . Daily noon-6am.
NIGHTLIFE AND ENTERTAINMENT IN MOSCOW
Moscow's nightlife has it all, and thankfully the days of disco
dominance are gone, so there are plenty of small, intimate nightclubs and great
live music of all genres.
city's restaurants and clubs, there's a
rich cultural life in Moscow. Classical music, opera and ballet
are strongly represented with a busy schedule of concerts and
performances throughout the year, sometimes held in the city's palaces, churches
or - in summer - parks and gardens. Even if you don't speak Russian, puppetry
and the circus transcend language barriers, while several cinemas show films in
their original language.
The America Cinema
( Radisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel
tel 095/941 87 47; Kievskaya metro), and Dome
, Olimpiiskiy pr. 18/1 ( Renaissance Hotel
Mira metro), show films in their original languages, and there's a discount for
students. The Moscow Times
has OK listings in
English, but if you speak a little Russian buy Afisha
, the equivalent of Time Out
, which covers the full range of just about
everything everywhere, from gigs to contemporary art exhibitions, to poetry
Clubs and live music
Bolshoy Ovchinnikovskiy per. 24/4; Novokuznetskaya metro. For the hip
"intellectual" crowd. Thurs-Sun 7.30-11pm.
Hungry Duck , 9 Pushechnaya ul.; Kuznetskiy Most metro.
Renowned for its bad-taste raucous entertainments. Daily 8pm-6am.
Kitayskiy Lyotchik Dzhao Da , Lubyanskiy proezd 25;
Kitay-gorod metro. Coolest place to be seen and hear the best bands on offer. No
credit cards. 24 hours.
Luch , Monetchikovskiy per. 5/3; Paveletskaya metro.
Rave, chemical, and some weird acts. Cover charge. Daily 10pm-4am.
Novie Vasyuki , Starokonyushenniy per. 2;
Kropotkinskaya metro. Cellar club with a miniscule stage which draws some big
names. No credit cards. 2pm to last customer.
Propaganda , Bolshoy Zlatoustinskiy per. 7; Kitay-gorod
metro. Very young but dead cool, with some of the city's best DJs. No credit
cards. Sun-Wed noon-12.30am; Thurs noon-3am, Fri 10pm-6am; Sat 3pm-6am.
Staraya ploshchad , Bolshoy Cherkasskiy per. 8;
Kitay-gorod metro. Cellar club for the down-to-earth. No credit cards. Daily
Svalka , Profsoyuznaya ul. 27/1; Profsoyuznaya metro.
This place has taken over from Propaganda for
grunge, and has much better music. Svalka does,
after all, mean "rubbish dump". Daily 7pm-6am.
Territoria , Tverskaya ul. 5/6; Okhotniy Ryad metro.
Everyone seems to know each other here. Thurs-Sun 1pm-6am.
Opera and ballet
, Teatralnaya pl. 1 (tel 095/292 99
86); Teatralnaya metro. Fighting hard in its rivalry with Petersburg's
Mariinskiy, the competition is great for standards. The ballet and Russian opera
is still stupendous, although Italian opera can be a bit off. Decent tickets
cost $40 or more for foreigners. Performances Tues-Sun at 7pm, and a matinee on
Helikon Opera , Bolshaya Nikitskaya ul. (tel 095/290
0971); Pushkinskaya metro. Small theatre offering intimate, small-scale
productions, including works by Handel and Bach.
, pr. Vernadskovo 7 (tel 095/930 28 15);
Universitet metro. Moscow's Circus is one of the finest in the world, but still
uses animal acts. Performances Wed-Fri 7pm, Sat & Sun 11.30am, 3pm &
Yuriy Nikulin Circus
, Tsvetnoy bul. 13 (tel
095/200 06 68); Tsvetnoy bulvar metro. Clowns are their forte. Performances
Thurs and Fri-Sun 7pm, matinees Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Airlines: Aeroflot, ul. Koroviy val 7 (tel 095/156 8019);
British Airways, 1-ya Tverskaya-Yamskaya 23 (tel 095/363 2525, www.britishairways.com/russia ). For flight information
at Sheremetevo-2 call 095/956 4666.
American Express Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya ul. 21a (Mon-Fri
9am-5pm; tel 095/755 9024).
Bookshop Shakespeare & Company, 1-y Novokuznetskiy
per. 5/7 (Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun noon-6pm; tel 095/951 9360); Novokuznetskaya
metro. English language books, new and secondhand.
Buses Eurolines desk on the second floor of the main
building at Leningrad Station (tel 095/975 3309).
companies may have cars without drivers: A.M. Rent (tel 095/952 9658, www.amrent.ru
); Budget (tel 095/578 7344, firstname.lastname@example.org
); Europcar (tel 095/155 0170, www.europcar.com
Embassies: Australia, Kropotkinskiy per. 13 (Mon-Fri
9am-12.30pm & 1.30-5pm; tel 095/956 6070); Canada, Starokonyushenniy per. 23 (Mon-Fri
8.30am-5pm; tel 095/956 6666); Great
Britain, Smolenskaya nab. 10 (Mon-Fri 9am-1pm & 2-4pm; tel 095/956
72 00); Ireland, Grokholskiy per. 5
(Mon-Fri 9.30am-1pm & 2.30-5.30pm; tel 095/937 5911); New Zealand, Povarskaya ul. 44 (Mon-Fri 10am-noon
& 2-4pm; tel 095/956 3579); USA,
Novinskiy bulvar 19/23 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; tel 095/728 5000).
medical assistance, American Medical Center, Grokholskiy per. 1 (tel 095/933
7700, www.amcenters.com ); European Medical Centre,
2-oy Tverskoy-Yamskoy per. 10 (tel 095/787 7000, www.emcmos.ru/eng ); both recognized by international
Official currency exchanges and ATMs all over the centre of Moscow.
Chevignon at Stoleshnikov per. 14 (tel 095/733 9205; Teatralnaya metro);
Internet Cafe, Novoslobodskaya ul. 16 ( www.cafe.image.ru ; Mendeleyevskaya metro); Internet
Club, Kuznetskiy most 12 (tel 095/250 6169; Kuznetskiy Most metro).
laundry or dry cleaning try one of the many branches of California Cleaners -
for instance at Petrovska 27 (Mon-Sat 10am-10pm; tel 095/200 6400) or Noviy
Arbat 54 (daily 10am-8pm; tel 095/241 0761).
Most train stations have
lockers and/or a 24hr left-luggage office, but you would be tempting fate to use
Staryy Arbat, Arbatskaya ul.
25; Multifarma, Tursistkaya ul. 27; 24hr pharmacy at pr. Mira 71.
Telegraph Office at Tverskaya ul. 7 (8am-10pm); the Main Post Office ( glavniy pochtamt ) is at Myasnitskaya ul. 26/2, 101000
(daily 8am-8pm), near Chistye Prudy metro. Express postal services via Courier
Service, Bolshaya Sadovaya 10 (tel 095/209 1735; Mayakovskaya metro); EMS Garant
at the International Post Office, Varshavskoe shosse 37 (tel 095/728 4151);
PXPost, Zorge ul. 10 (tel 095/956 2230).
Railway tickets .
These can be bought cheaply at the stations or for a small commission from
one of hundreds of agencies. Conveniently located in the centre is Intourtrans
at Petrovka 15/13 (tel 095/929 8855).
Star Travel at Baltiyskaya ul.
9 (tel 095/797 9555).
BEST OF MOSCOW
Rising above the Moskva river at the
heart of the city, the Kremlin is a tantalizing array of towers, domed
cathedrals and palaces: a must-see on any visit to Moscow.Red Square: Lenin's Mausoleum and St Basil's
Red Square is as loaded with history
as it is sights, among them Lenin's Mausoleum. Whether they see it as a
cherished relic or awkward reminder, most visitors still want to pay a visit to
the embalmed founder of the Soviet state before heading off to the onion-domed
splendour of St. Basil's Cathedral.Tretyakov Gallery
Behind the Neo-Russian facade of the Tretyakov
Gallery, you'll find the largest collection of Russian art in the world, from
medieval icons to Kandinsky.Pushkin Museum
From Egyptian antiquities to Picasso, the
Pushkin Museum's collections are so vast that only a fraction can be displayed;
plan your visit carefully so you don't run out of steam half way round.Novodevichy Convent and
round the grounds, museum and cathedral of the beautiful Novodevichy Convent, and then pay your respects to
the likes of Gogol, Chekhov and Shostakovich in the adjacent cemetery.
Join the flocks of Muscovites who escape the city for the fresh air of
Kolomenskoe, a former royal summer retreat set in ancient woodland, which has
one of the finest churches in Russia, the Church of the Ascension.
If ballet's your thing, a night at the Bolshoy will certainly leave you breathless, and
there seems to be no limit to the scope of their repertoire, which - with no
fewer than 22 ballets - is the largest in
Hotel Reservation in Moscow (Russia) - and surrounding
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