Recently Russia has been in the news for not so good reasons. Every time I see reports of the uproar in Russia I realise how lucky I was to visit both St Petersburg and Moskow. Moskow has definitely been one of the most interesting places I have ever been to, Its culture is quite different but at the same time very similar.
Not just another school trip. The school I go to is a language academy, so we have the opportunity to learn many languages. F, the friend I also went to New York with, studied Russian. She was very good at it and quite enjoyed it. There had been a trip arranged to visit Russia, firstly the trip was offered to students who studied Russian, then ones who didn’t. I was in the second lot. I had always been interested by Russia as I had met very few people who had been, although a very westernised country, it still seemed illusive to most. I couldn’t refuse this offer so I grabbed it with both hands. I managed to convince F to come with me as I knew she would regret it if she didn’t. The day arrived. I was very much looking forward to the flight, as it was the first time I would of been on a Brittish Airways flight, and also being the movie fanatic that I am I was looking forward to watching the new superman movie for free! British Airways, I would just like to take this moment to thank you for existing, that was the most comfortable flight I had ever been on. It was a double decker plane, again another first for me. It was huge! three rows of three with at least 90 seats in economy alone. After a 4 hour flight we arrived in Moskow. After being on the ground for no longer than 15 minutes, I had already been called a “kukla” (a doll) by a middle aged russian man, I swear I can only ever pull men that don’t speak my language and are nearly triple my age. We stayed at The Hotel Cosmos. This was a very quirky hotel. As you could guess by the name it had a certain outer-space feel. At night the hotel would light up at the top creating a sort of sparkling star look. We stayed on the 13th floor and the view we had was amazing, I could of sat there all night just watching the cars speed by on the motor way as the city was lit up. Definitely recommend this hotel, I had no problems with communication there and every member of staff I came into contact with seemed very nice. Oh, also if you decide to go out on the fire escape to get a good view its good to know that when the door closes, it locks. F and I found this out the hard way when we had to climb down 13 floors of fire escape route which was pitch black, wearing t-shirts and jeans in 4 degree weather. Looking back on it, it was hilarious. But at the time considering we had no phones. were 13 floors up and was shitting ourselves, it was safe to say we thought we would have to extend our visas.
Site seeing time. Whilst in Moscow we visited Red Square, a Circus, The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, The Metro and the Kremlin. Red Square was a rather large statement. With the Kremlin towering over the square it was an architectural success. The bright swirling colours of the Kremlin are impressive both night time and day time. Whilst in the Red Square we visited Lenin’s body. If you are unaware of the circumstances in which Lenin’s body is displayed, here is a quick catch up: When Lenin died in 1924 his body was placed so that mourners could come and grieve. Due to the incredibly large amount of people that came to see his body, authorities decided to embalm his body (preserve using chemicals and placing him in a air tight glass sarcophagus). Please tell me I am not the only one who thinks that this is extremely creepy. When visiting the body, you walk around it on a platform. You are not allowed to talk or take pictures as this could be considered disrespectful. However, as I was walking around wondering why authorities thought this was a good idea my teacher grabbed my arm and said “he blinked!”. Of course I cracked up causing a soldier to escort us out at a faster pace than usual. To this day my teacher swears she saw him blink, and to which every time it still makes me laugh. Lenin’s body is rather odd to see, put it this way; If it was in Madame Tussauds’ I wouldn’t question if it was wax or not. I still have my suspicions. The rest of the Red Square was lovely. GUM, the department store opposite was incredible. The huge fountain in the centre added a sophisticated feel to the building, if only there was something like this in England.
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is Russia’s largest russian orthodox church, and I’ll tell you it really is huge! As most things in Moscow the exterior is marvellous, with its huge golden domes and pristine white walls. The interior matches with vast murals climbing up the walls and exploded across the ceiling. To people wishing to visit the church, you must wear modest clothes. This also means no leggings, as F found out. I can’t remember if it is this church or another one that we visited, but in one we had to cover our hair in a scarf. I don’t think it was here, but its just a warning in case.
Before I agreed to go to Russia, there was a major factor as to why I was reluctant. The circus. Russian’s have a different culture to us, as well as men being solid and chiseled with turtle neck jumpers, and women tall thin constantly in high heels and leopard print, they also have animals in their circus’. I am a die hard animal rights believer, in fact I am a rights believer in general. Especially animals, because they are unable to defend themselves verbally. The circus contained the low point of Russia for me. The animal acts were not necessary, the acts they did without were amazing! It just ruined it for me when they bought out the 5 lions, one being a white lion which I am fully aware are endangered. This not only upset but angered me that they thought this is humane or even remotely “entertaining”. Unfortunately I could not overlook this, and I see the circus as a bad experience.
The Russian Metro. I have been on undergrounds all over the world: Italy, England, New York, France… you get the picture. But I have never come across an underground with such beauty and detail. It made the London Underground look like shit on a shoe (pardon the expression). There were marble walls, statues and chandeliers at every station. To make it even better, no station was the same. They all had different patterns and coordinations. It was immaculate. One of my favourite memories in Moskow was the fact that there are a lot of “rub this and you will get this” statues around. I don’t know why, but it gave me quite a humble feeling seeing all these people going up to touch parts of statues just for a chance of luck or love. I thought it was rather sweet. Anyway, this station was no different. There was a statue of a soldier and his dog, the dogs nose was a shiny as the day is was first made. I saw locals running for the train, stopping and touching the dogs nose even if it meant they missed their train. I even saw one man who had at least 5 full shopping bags drop them just to touch the dogs nose. This was sentimental to me also, as my dad had been to this station a few years back and he had told me about this statue and how much he liked it. So of course I too touched the nose, and took a picture for my dad.
Overall I say that if you get the chance to Moscow, grab it with both hands as I did. This was a trip that I will not forget. It’s a city of tradition, history and of course great beauty. I don’t know if I will ever go back again, not because I didn’t like it, but because of accessibility to the country. I fear that one day no one will be able to visit Russia, and that would truly be awful. I am glad that I can say I am the minority that has been to Russia, and I can now speak about the country with knowledge and first hand experience.