If there is one concept that defines Moscow and indeed all of Russia it is grand, massive, impressive or as the locals say “Bolshaya.” It is fitting that the largest country in the world has the ego and personality to go with the territory. That is not to say that one cannot appreciate the small things of life here, but for the visitor and local alike Moscow was built to impress. The city covers a massive expanse of territory and has a huge population. Thus one can understand why the city has three major airports, one of the most extensive metro systems and ring road highway networks in the world. That’s just to get in, and once you are in the city it promises stunning works of architecture, massive fortifications, scores of churches, museums, parks and historical streets just to name a few things. Moscow is a city that is quite old, but one would not readily notice this at first glance, it is a place under constant renovation which seeks to give an air of progress and grandiose appeal in every age.
There are many means by which to arrive to the city, yet the hardest part of the process might be the visa requirements. This is a hurdle for many visitors as the visa process is out of date and more complicated than it should be. For the independent traveler it will take some patience and at least a couple visits to the consulate. Many others decide to work through a travel agency for convenience but this will obviously cost more. Once you do have your visa the most likely airport of arrival will be Domodevodo. For one going straight to the city there are the dubious taxi drivers, but all the way at the far end of the airport is the city train which runs from 4 am till midnight. This is a good and affordable way to get into town. Once you reach the final stop simply alight and head downstairs to catch the city metro. The Metro is a very quick and affordable way to get around this huge city. Even after you have walked around the historic center in one direction you will see how great the distance is between stops and most likely you will be relieved to take the metro back to your hotel. In many ways the metro itself is a grand treasure. Many stations are glorious works of opulence and splendor that celebrate themes like the human spirit, soviet domination and work. Ploschad Revolutsii, Mayakovskaya, Komsomolskaya, Arbatskaya, Belorusskaya and Kievskaya are some of the best ones to try and see.
Even when one can be completely surrounded by a concrete jungle with no end in sight of skyscrapers, apartments and historical structures, the city still keeps its identity of a town that grew up along the waters edge. Two rivers which meet here and form the city’s outline are the Moskva and the Yauza. These rivers form in many ways the connections to the origins of the city as many Russian folk songs so nostalgically suggest. These are great places to encounter nature here and the city has over one hundred various parks in which to find tranquility too. Gorky Park is a classic favorite. Inside one will find an amusement park, many romantic era mansions, open fields, lakes and it is a great place for wintertime ice-skating as well. The city is full of many unique buildings from many different eras and styles of influence. Some architecture is noticeably stylized and exotic while many buildings like the ministry of culture are classic soviet era pieces which sit imposingly overlooking the cityscape.
By far the most impressive sights are situated in the center of town around the Kremlin and Red Square. As most hotels are a bit further out chances are you will be taking the metro or walking into the center. Whatever the case be sure and get off at Arbatskaya metro station to walk the one kilometer long Old Arbat Street. This is one of the oldest streets in the city and it has long been associated as the upscale district in the historic center. One will marvel at the hundreds of unique shops and impressive restaurants on this pedestrian street. There are always artists at work, street performances going on and the street is a buzz of activity day or night. Best of all the street will lead you straight to the Kremlin’s Trinity Gate from which one can enter directly into the Kremlin compound or take a walk around its massive walls.
The Kremlin is a city within a city. This grand fortress is stunning for its architectural magnitude as well as all the mystery and hype which it has gained as a reputation over the years. It is a must see in Moscow and tickets can be purchased for entrance at the Trinity Gate. Once inside there is a designated tourist area in which one can view several massive churches, which are stunning examples of the wealth and power of the Russian empire. Each church had a special function for the life of the royal family and most were only used a few times a year. As well one will see a large open air garden as well as dozens of government buildings from various stages of architecture and design. One thing is for certain, nothing is small here, each building is several blocks long and seems to go on forever. The ticket purchased includes entrance to the museum, which is a symphony of what seems to be the world’s largest collection of luxury items. On a tour of several hours, spanning several floors in several palaces one will behold hundreds of works in silver, gold and precious gems. The collection is simply a giant treasure chest of some of the finest hand crafted luxury items. Be sure to have a look at the armory and the Terem palace as well. From the exit of the museum there is a great panorama of the city and the Moskva river which comes near the fortress walls.
Red Square is a few minutes walk from the tourist exit of the Kremlin. Along its walls one will pass through many open gardens and fountains which are a great meeting place and a good place to relax especially in the Moscow summers. As one approaches Red Square from this direction there is a small hill which makes the entrance to the square that much more stunning when one gets to the top. The square seems like several football fields long and it is again a demonstration of the grand landscapes that define this city. Standing in the square one can take in the whole scene which is made famous by so many pictures. There is the shimmering St. Basil’s Cathedral with its multicolored onion domes, there is the famous clock tower on the Kremlin wall, Lenin’s tomb and the giant GUM state department store where one can encounter the most chic shopping in Moscow. Standing here one can get a sense of how big this city and in fact the country is that this much space is needed for the country’s biggest parades and celebrations.
Moscow is such an enormous city and so spread out that it would take quite some time to see everything. One thing is for certain the city’s grand treasures are spread out all over. The Temple of Christ the Savior is a structural work of wonder and should not be missed. As well museums like the State Museum and Modern Art are simply packed to the rafters with visual delights. The Bolshoi Theater and Assumption Cathedral deserve special mention too. Moscow is a great conglomerate of culture, food, art, beauty and grand treasures, it is worth seeing so be sure and seek out this grand treasure soon!