I liked Moscow more than I think I expected. Amy’s made some points about the concerns we both had coming to Russia, given their recent degeneration in terms of LGBT rights. Given this and a sort of semi-constant sense of paranoia about the police that is exuded from Visa requirements through travel books (not to mention the Night Watch films) and warnings from hostels, I think I had built Moscow up to be a bit of a pit stop with our heads down before we got on with the serious business of the Trans Siberian. It’s definitely easier to like a city if it’s sunny, but after a shaky start, I found Moscow to be more vibrant and buzzing than St Petersburg. The metros in both are stunning halls and columns of marble – although they could do with (significantly) better signage. St Petersburg just feels a bit fading though, decaying. Moscow is expensive, but more interesting.
After a quiet first day, we headed down to a trekking shop to pick up a couple of things for the Transsib before a long walk back to the City through Gorky Park. Gorky Park is truly lovely, wooded and hilly in sections, pouring down to the river, as well as long promenades, lakes, cafes and social clubs for kids. A very pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon.
The sunshine was sadly not to last, utterly drenching us on the way back from dinner. The next day was generally grey and drizzley, but we made our way around some of the more touristy areas, hiking a full circuit around the Kremlin. Red Square was being set up for an International Military Tattoo so we didn’t really get to experience it (based on the advert we saw for the South Korean section, I think they’re doing Gangnam Style. I bet they love that.) The rest of the castle and palace was pretty impressive though.
One feature we’d started noticing in Warsaw was a huge number of bridal shops. This continued in Vilnius, where there was some sort of ‘bride-off’ in the town square, before we started seeing newlyweds walking around in St Petersburg. This got to a ridiculous level on Friday and Saturday in Moscow. There were absolutely tons of newlyweds getting photos taken in the park, in shopping malls, by the Kremlin or by the river. There’s a tradition where you take a padlock, inscribe both sets of initials into it and then lock it on a bridge – throwing the key into the river. There are bridges covered in padlocks – and in Moscow they have got metal ‘trees’ in the middle of bridges designed for this. It’s pretty awesome.