Moscow is a place that I’ve wanted to go to for some time and now that I’ve gone, I don’t really need to head back any time soon. Historically and architecturally, Moscow is amazing but that’s where the romance with the city ends for me. It’s an expensive place to visit and the stories you hear of Moscovites being hard, surly folk are, for the most part, true. Though given their history and dealing with being frozen nine months out of the year, I guess it’s to be expected. This isn’t to say everyone is cranky. The hotel staff was great and I did meet a really nice girl working at a coffee shop who spent her entire break chatting with me. Just don’t expect city employees to give much of a damn.
Getting to and from Moscow is a major headache. Considering Moscow is a major world city, Sheremetyevo airport is terrible. In fact, I’m fairly confident in stating that of all the world airports I’ve been to, Sheremetyevo ranks at the bottom. Upon arrival, all the gates at immigration stated “Russian Citizens” or “Diplomats”. So, where’s everyone supposed to go? “BACK”, according to the surly immigration guard only to wave us over again about 2 minutes later. On the way out of Moscow, despite standing in line for 2 hours merely to check out luggage (never mind immigration and security), my friend and I were the last to board the flight to Kiev. I have no idea how everyone else got on ahead of us. The flight took off 3 minutes later, on time. Talk about cutting it close.
At the time we were there, it was hot. I mean, damn hot! Each day saw between 35°C and 39°C. Thankfully, we were out of the city before all the forest fires began and blanketed the city with smoke thick enough to require medical warnings for people to stay indoors. There were a lot of sights to see so we weren’t about to let the heat stop us. Red square and St. Basil’s cathedral were certainly highlights of the trip. Just standing in the middle of the square, you could feel the history of the place and imagine all the Cold War era parades that took place there. One thing that surprised me a little was how the general populace obviously managed to keep hold of their faith during the Soviet era of secularism. It was not uncommon to see people crossing themselves when they walked by a church. It was also interesting to see the dichotomy of opulently rich and dirt poor. Though I suppose that can be said of any large city in the world. It’s certainly evident here in Hong Kong.