What can I say??
To me, a most enchanting metropolis! A city with great vibrancy, energy and elegance – not to mention history! Moscow is a city of churches and theatres alike, one of each at every corner, sometimes two!
But before I prattle on let me fill you in on the train journey’s end:
Arrived on time and found our way out of the train into the subway. Immediately bought a tourist-train/bus/whateverotherpublictransport ticket for 5 days – cheap! – and dived into Moscow’s subway system. Found our exit station and, even better: the accommodation which was in close walking distance – not much schlepping of bags. Still, I felt like a mule (that’s how the bike must have felt for so many weeks now, BUT do bikes have feelings?? A question to ponder another time …..)
Telephoned the transport company and figured out their address. Our bikes had arrived one day sooner than advertised – happy!
It took another, little longer Metro trip and a walk through suburbia into an industrial area about 30 kms south-east of the cbd. We followed the locals across a railway line, slip-streamed through a security gate behind a friendly Russian woman on her way to work and found ourselves in a large transport and freight hub. Eventually figyered out where the office was, walked in, smiled and received good and very fast service. Got given a map of the place to find the right shed housing our bikes. Ducked some rather large trucks and met staff so together we could locate to our bikes, which we did. The speed of progress made me almost dizzy. Both bikes were there and the guys were no fuss helpful. They organised a forklift and lowered the crates to the ground, a rather wobbly affair. Must say that the ‘crates’ done in Novosibirsk were super-duper-basic, meaning very flimsy. But, ‘Hey!” am I complaining? No! just reporting 😉
Un-crated the bike and “yes!” my bike literally fell out the crate being released from the straps. Fortunately no damage done as lately it has had plenty of practice falling over. I wasn’t too offended about it. I guess during the remainder of this trip it will topple a few more times, even if I try my best to avoid it.
In the end, picking up the bikes from the truck-place turned out being much easier than anticipated. All was done&dusted in under two hours and we were riding back into Moscow, big grins on out faces.
Parked the bikes inside an atrium-like backyard (Hinterhof) at our Hostel. There I did some ‘maintenance’: changed the air filter sock, still full of Mongolian sand, flies and rocks. Changed also the actual air filter and, whilst at it, the spark plugs. Checked all screws & bolts, and even did some re-packing – version 53 – of my stuff. The most happy I felt about being able to buy a new cable for my Zumo navigator and installed it – now, all is working again.
Now to Moscow, to-date one of my five fav cities in ze world!
Well, I hear you ask (Les W.) what are the other four so let me disclose: Frankfurt/Main my home town is a must! Barcelona with its Ramblas and side street bars & eateries is part of my count. Siena in Italy, and Melbourne of course! There is also Paris which always has a relaxing impact on my when there and there is Vladivostok, the ‘Ruler of the East’. I must confess that the recency of the impressions has influenced my ranking, but as more cities are to come this may change, although thus is NOT a competition!
But back to Moscow! I explored it per pedes, on a cruisey pushbike (adding another mode of transport), by Metro/subway, bus, and even on a Tram! A beauty to see and take in!
Women and men are markedly different in Moscow compared to otherwhere in Russia… well, of course they are, but I meant in a dress-sense. The women certainly do not follow any specific fashion-trend. H’veowever the women I seen walking were wearing their own style, always immaculately dressed, in interesting but always stylish combinations, colour coordinated of course! One thing in common are super-high heels – most/all of them wearing these instruments of torture with a relaxed, confident and ‘being cool’ body-language. As I said: a most elegant place, great vibe.
Men dress with much less care so it seems, but I confess I didn’t have energy left to pay much visual attention to the men ….. after all, I am one of them and can do only one thing at a time. … and these days I am neither a fine picture myself when it comes to dressing.
Gum, the huge, super-luxury store housing all Ueber-Brands was a little disappointing, somehow I had expected something else. My expectations are often left-field, so don’t listen to what I am writing here – it’s purely my impression on the day. Gum’s façade looked stunning at night and during day-time we had a coffe&cake at Moscow’s top-café facing the Red Square, watching tourists which soon we would join.
The Red Square is a big space, but not a square at all! It is rather rectangular running alongside the walls of the Kreml.
The Kremlin is another huge construct filled with historic buildings and churches (not the same in my = heretic’s book).
The Kreml houses a huge number of churches, chapels, weaponry and still serves in one building as the Parliament of Russia. I had not expected it being so vast and rich in buildings and history. Have a look here:
Here are some birds-eye views from some of the churches and buildings:
No photos allowed inside so here are a few outside views:
The still parliament building inside the Kremlin walls. Apparently Putin, well loved by most Russians as he restores their pride after loosing everything through Perestroika, had landed with his helicopter earlier the same day. BTW, arriving/leaving by helicopter does not create traffic chaos, as previously when all roads were blocked for the President’s car cavalcade …
Gorki Park, Arbat Street, Hermitage Gardens are some of my personal Moscow highlights.
You can get there with Moscow’s close-knitted Metro system. Trains are old, so are some stations; trains are loud, as everything is rattling, but they appear within 3 minutes of each other! Always!! Anytime!!!
Did a pushbike tour in the evening/night hours all through big streets and small alley-ways, parks, past sights, including the park of the forgotten monuments (Stalin is present here several times). I much recommend www.moscowbiketours.com and Vado, our tour guide. We were a group of two, covered almost 30 kms in four hours. Luckily I selected a cruiser-bike with wide handlebars and a most comfy saddle. The pleasant aspect of riding a push-bike in Moscow is that you ride wherever you want: street, footpath, bicycle lane when present – and nobody does mind at all! There is a good partnership between, pedestrians, cars and pushbikes. Cars wait without hesitation when you step-out into a Zebra-Crossing, or wait if the street becomes too narrow. Never any hassle nor pressure.
The traffic is busy and I have not seen this amount of high-class, most recent model luxury cars in any other city or other than the Frankfurt Car Fair (Automesse): big Benz, big Beemers, Maybachs, Rolls, Porsches and large 4-wheel limousines – certainly indicating plenty of wealth and not afraid to show it. Most are black with dark tinted windows. Can one feel the presence of criminal elements or is it just a movie concept??
Cafes, bars, little and large restaurants are at every corner. Between all, small shops in the sub-terrain of houses, often upon entering into a cavernous space discovering a large, well-stocked supermarket.
Tomorrow early morning, to avoid the Moscow traffic, I shall continue northwards to see St. Petersburg, former Leningrad, former St. Petersburg. It will be a single day-long ride, over 700kms. However, I assume the roads are good. Not having ridden for almost a week, make me looking forward to it.