Moscow Part 1

We started the day on the Moscow Free Tour and looking for coffee in the first of many phantom Costa coffee outlets in the city. Bizarrely we saw the same sunglasses guy from the bar the previous night in the park where the tour starts – which gave rise to speculation that he was our incompetent KGB minder who was all too obvious!

Marina our guide showed us around Kitay-Garod and walked up toward Red Square where we caught the spires of St Basils and went through the glitz of the GUM department store before stopping at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin walls. Here the body of an unknown solider who died defending Moscow is buried. We were just in time for the hourly changing of the guard, a very Soviet style military handover. The two post guard cannot move at all – this necessitates a third guard to stand watch and fix their uniform or retrieve their hat if it blows away!

Once all the marching was complete we headed to a Georgian restaurant Khachapuri on Tverskaya where we had a selection of dumplings and breads with eggplant dips all washed down by Georgian wine (real slap in the face fully bodied in case you wonder).

After all the bread and heavy carbs we decided to stop at Café Pushkin for a coffee to revive ourselves in advance of our next tour – Communist Moscow.

Again we met Marina outside the Lubakanya – the headquarters of the KGB and now the headquarters of the successor organisation the FSB. We went through the streets stopping to see the Bolshoi where the USSR was inaugurated, the hotel metropole where Lenin et al. lived and worked for a time (when he wasn’t in London’s Percy Circus – 100m from our old flat, he definitely got around).

Bolshoi where the USSR was founded - Russian politics and drama go hand in hand

Bolshoi where the USSR was founded – Russian politics and drama go hand in hand

Old Moscow was complemented well by new Moscow in the form of a botoxed woman in a Bentley who was mounting the kerb reversing into a space which didn’t exist where our group was standing just in front of the Ralph Lauren store – the lack of car control became explicable in the face of the 6 inch plastic heels she tottered away in over the cobblestones toward RL!

We stopped in a Harrods style food hall which was called Gastronom No.1 in Soviet days but contains everyday items but in a gradiose building, most people there were tourists but there was the handful of ordinary Muscovites doing their shopping in the Tsarist grandeur of oil paintings and Rococco decorations. Tim even took the opportunity to buy some tootpaste, not the normal souvenir but useful nonetheless!

We thought the perfect counterpoint to the Communist tour would be to go have a cocktail on the O2 rooftop terrace in the Ritz-Carlton which overlooks Red Square and the Kremlin with views all over the city. Really would wonder what Stalin and Lenin would make of Moscow’s go-go capitalism.

We headed back to the hotel for rest and recuperation before heading out to a fantastic pizza restaurant Pinzeria which was in the same neighbourhood. The pizzas were excellent and once finished we headed down to the Moskva river bank to walk on the south side of the Kremlin and take in the full panoramic views before heading on to what was supposed to be the best Sunday night place: Propaganda.

Normally a restaurant, beyond a point in the night all the tables and chairs are cleared away in 10 minutes flat to create a dancefloor. Things get going late in Moscow but by 0130 and a few drinks the place was filling up. Met some English speakers there who were on an organised tour and was chatting with Jared on his way to Stuttgart from Australia. We finished up around 0200 haggling with a taxi driver who started at 500 roubles for the 10 minute ride home who eventually came down to 250 as the trip went on and our laughs from the back at the initial price continued into the Moscow night.

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