My first view of Moscow was late at night; approximately 12:30am is when we left. Over 24 hours into my visit to Russia, I had some jet lag to fight. This was a partial reason for my delayed entrance to Moscow’s City Centre.
As with any big city, and even at one in the morning, we waited through about 15 minutes of traffic just a couple of miles down the main freeway. (Do Muscovites call those major road freeways?) Luckily, we were mostly on our way after the unexpected and annoying delay.
Before I knew it, several minutes later, we had reached the center. Driving the different streets of the center of Moscow, I saw aspects of the big tourist spots: the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and various other places.
My first impression was noticing how similar this was to most other major cities to where I’ve been: traffic, companies everywhere, pubs/bars, crazy drivers, flashy signs and billboards. It was also noticing the differences: position of stop lights, how many crazy drivers there are, uniqueness of buildings, banner advertisements hanging in the middle of the streets. Moscow was so similar yet so different.
My first real taste of Moscow was a ride down the beautiful subway system. Moscow arguably has the most beautiful subway in the world. Many of the stops have beautiful architecture with a lot of attention to detail. It was as though most inner city stops were planned to be lavish. As you travel outward, at least to the north on our line, the stops lose their appeal.
With a quick stop to exchange my money, we were on our way to eat. My first meal out to eat in Moscow? Underground mall fast food! Under the Kremlin area is a huge mall. Once you depart the subway looking area and enter the mall area, it’s very similar to any other mall you’ve ever been to. There are several levels of shops to peruse or at which to window shop. It was so unusual but quite fascinating.
The Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the rest of central Moscow was my tourist climax. It’s where all people must go, it’s where most tourists take photos and it’s the very well kept up. Being that it was the holiday season, lights were on many buildings and an ice skating rink was setup by the GUM (mall). There I was, standing in front of St. Basil, the icon of what Russia was to me.
In general, central Moscow reminds me of most larger metropolitans like New York City, Boston, or Washington D.C. Some would find it a little dirty, most would pay more attention to the uniqueness of its architecture and layout. For instance, sometimes you can’t cross the road. You literally have to take a tunnel to get to the other side. It’s these differences which kept me wondering what I was going to see next.