The temperature rose rapidly to 29degrees by the time we arrived in Moscow on the 1st July which pleased us after all the cold weather over the last couple of months.
The forest stretched along the route and we passed many small townships with very poor looking wooden houses and dirt roads. The train made a couple of stops at larger cities with many old and new looking appartment blocks. We arrived at the Leninskaya Station in Moscow at 7pm to bright sunshine. The Moscow metro is more extensive (the population is more than four times that of St Petersburg) and no signs in English so it was a little more challenging to use until we got used to their system and
could decipher the Cryllic station names. We still had to ask people which exit to use as there were several in many of the stations.
One nice young man helped us with our bags as there were many steps as well as escalators and then another young man helped us with directions. When we finally arrived at street level we met the same young man again who asked three ladies if they knew the street we wanted.  He left us with”Welcome to Moscow” and the ladies  were delightful with one speaking English.  They walked us to our hotel and wished us a pleasant stay. A great introduction to Moscow. One chap on the way to the station said “Americans” to us and we said “no Australians” and he gave us the  thumbs up and a nod. Most people assumed we were American despite more tourists from England and Australia visiting Russia.
Contrary to many perceptions of Russians as dour and rude, we found the opposite with many people of all ages helpful and friendly if they could assist us and there was a lot of laughter and conviviality between groups of Russians in parks and in the cafes and restaurants.

We were a exhausted from having little sleep the night before with our midnight boat cruise in St Petersburg so we found a lovely garden restaurant down the road where sat outside in the garden in short sleeved shirts.  It was a wonderful feeling to be warm again. We had a glass of  Aussie Hardy’s merlot and a nice meal before Maurice went back to the hotel and I walked the ten minutes to see Red Square at night where the
Kremlin,Lenin’s tomb,GUM shopping centre and St Basil’s church were illuminated and looked beautiful. The square was named “Red” because Red in Russian meant pretty.

The next morning was again warm and sunny when we caught the metro and found our free tour guide. She gave us a very comprehensive two and a half hour tour around the central city area, Red square and the GUM shopping centre which has a history all of it’s own especially in the Soviet era.  It was set up as a showcase for foreigners and very few locals who could afford to buy goods there.  It is still has very exclusive shops that most locals and tourists can’t afford.   Our guide was a very friendly and well informed young person and very knowledgeable about her city and it’s history. The “Free” guides make their living from tips and a lot depends on the number of people on the tour. Our group consisted of twelve people – 2 Canadians, 2 Americans, 3 Israelis, several English tourists and us.

We spent a couple of hours in the metro riding the circle line to see the most beautiful of Moscow’s metro stations (see separate post).  The metro in Moscow cost 40 roubles for one ride or just over a dollar and unlike St Petersburg they gave out business like cards with a barcode which you placed on the ticket machine for entry.
We got off at one station and boarded the next train about 2minutes later and moved onto the next one and we repeated this for about eight stations. Moscovites all say that their metro stations are better than the ones in St Petersburg but we liked them all with each one having it’s own distinctive architecture and murals or sculptures and lighting. It was refreshing
several times to see younger people standing for older locals.

Ksenia who we had befriended at the Ayurvedic centre in Kerala picked us up about 7pm in her new two door Mercedes so we travelled in style to an Indian restaurant on the top floor of an oblong Soviet style building which overlooked the whole city.   The view was wonderful and so was the meal. There were many Indian people eating there as well so we knew it would
be good. Ksenia then took us on a tour of Moscow and although it was cold (again!) and raining it was lovely to see the city by night. It was Midnight in Moscow by the time we got back to the hotel.  Everywhere we went in the city was very clean and tidy.
Apart from 24hour supermarkets,cafes and restaurants(of which there were many)other shops didn’t seem to open until 10 or 11am and stay open until about 9-10pm. We saw workmen also working late into the evening to make the most of the daylight hours.

We set off for the GUM the following day having been told there was a flower festival and well known Russians (not that we could spot them) were giving out free icecream and balloons. You could have as many icecreams as you wanted and Maurice went back for seconds.  We walked quite a distance to see the impressionist gallery next to the Pushkin Museum then to see the Roerich museum who wanted $23 entry so as we had seen one of his exhibitions in St Petersburg we omitted  that gallery.  We  instead walked across the road to the Church of Christ the Saviour one of 600 orthodox churches in Moscow and which was very ornate.
A large bridge took us across the river to an island and to a small cafe (one of many) in old warehouse complexes which had been converted into hundreds of cafes, offices and restaurants. We then crossed over another bridge and on to the metro to Arbat – a very touristy pedestrian street. We saw one of the seven skyscrapers that Stalin had built named the “seven sisters” and modelled on the Empire state building. They are all used for different purposes – the  Hotel Ukraina, Kotelnicheskaya embankment appartments, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Hotel Leningradskay, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the main building of the Moscow State University, and the Red Gates Administrative Building.

We walked back towards our hotel after a mammoth walking expedition and found “Trattoria Montivoli” a very authentic Italian restaurant with excellent food at the top of our street before staggering back to the “Element”  hotel.

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