In and Around Moscow
First impressions are often quite interesting partly because they rely on a mysterious source we call intuition, but also because they are prone to be tinted by prejudice. I had a lot of preconceived ideas about Moscow and many of them were purely wrong. I was expecting that the city and its people would be somewhat scarred by the soviet era, and was even apprehensive about experiencing a hostile corrupted environment. Finally, I imagined that we would be culture-shocked. Instead we found ourselves in a safe, rather spacious cosmopolitan modern European city rich in architecture and museums, but plagued by traffic, globalisation and consumerism. It was enough for us to go from the train station to our hostel by Metro to sense that Moscow was more similar than different to the cities of western europe and that its russian character was just becoming a back drop.
As its name suggests, “Fabrika & Gallery”, our hostel was located in an old factory building, and was a little arty-farty. We soon got used to its grungy art-school feel and our windowless room. There are many things we could say about it, like the large ‘wine glass’ stand for the cat in the lounge or that our neighbour was an opera singer that would randomly exercise her voice at unsociable times, but apart from its peculiarities it offered an affordable double bed with Wifi access. But perhaps the nicest aspect of our hostel was its central location: we were on the small island between the Orthodox cathedral and the giant statue of Peter the Great.
Very early on we explored the district around the Kremlin which was walking distance from were we stayed and judging by the number of limousines guessed that it was a high season for weddings. We also noticed that the craze of putting ‘love-locks’ on bridge was alive and kicking there too. In Moscow the city provided ‘metal-trees’ which once filled were moved along a promenade to allow new couples to place their locks on a new tree.
We were very impressed by the Moscow Metro, not only was it easy to use but it was clean, spacious and has on the whole kept its air of grandeur and is indeed a good contestant for being one of the most beautiful underground transit system in the world. Yoel and I even decided to spend half a day exploring its most famous stations and film them.
Despite all the things Moscow had to offer, we soon got tired of the urban buzz and its traffic and were very fortunate to know a family who put us up in their house in the country one hour away from its centre. Before going to their home Mikhail and Ludmila took us to a piano concert and some nice cafes in the centre of Moscow. We spent three restful days in the country by a lake and recharged our batteries.While there Yoel transplanted a little oak sapling and our host offered to plant it by the lake side during the planting season.
One of the highlights of our time there were the long sun sets of the summer solstice by the lake and to witness the the glow on the horizon of the midnight sun on their roof top terrace. We were so grateful to be hosted there.
It was also there that I discovered that I was infected by Lime disease (which had developed from a tick bite a month before back at home in Hampshire). For a moment I nearly cancelled the whole trip, but after a little research and the advice from two doctor friends I opted to take a course of antibiotics and carry on with the journey. At quarter to midnight on the 2nd of July we boarded on the Trans-Siberian for our longest train ride.
With apologies for the the delays in posting on the blog…