Ah, Moscow, what a revelation. If, like me, your image of Moscow is what you remember from the outdated pictures you often see and the widely held opinion that it is still a repressive and largely communistic country faced with perpetual shortages of consumer goods, you are wrong. It is a vibrant city that has put its past behind it and moved on with a vengeance. New construction, some of it rivaling the new City Center in Las Vegas, abounds. Oh, and all the casinos in Moscow and most other large cities have been shut. Something about them not really producing anything but draining the money from those least likely to afford it. What a novel concept. Meanwhile, in the United States we push lottery tickets and advertise them with the slogan "Just A Dollar And A Dream." And who do you see lining up to buy them? Those who can least afford them. Ah, but I am sure the proceeds go to good causes, although nobody seems to know just what those causes might be.
Anyway, I will start with the Kremlin. It is actually a walled city within a city, not too unlike the Forbidden City in Bejing. The total length of the walls that surround it are approximately 1.8 kilometers in length and within are not just government offices, but a number of churches. Who knew? And Red Square in not in the Kremlin but between it and the GUM department store. Although department store doesn't do GUM justice, it is more of a high-end mall, but better, with nice restaurants and little bars.
Entering Red Square
Through the arch you can see a church that, if it wasn't, should have been the inspiration for the castle in Disney World.
Where Are The Mouse Ears?
And here is the famous GUM "department store," right on Red Square and directly across from the Kremlin.
GUM, By Gum
If you were expecting, as I was, something like the bargain basement of Macy's, would you ever be wrong.
No Fountains In Macy's Basement
GUM is three stories of fancy shops and little restaurants on one side and a what looks like the world's largest Balducci's or Zabar's on the other. No shortages of food in Moscow these days.
A View From Above
Of course my primary interest was, what else, getting a beer.
I thought the beer was reasonably priced, 100 rubles or a little over three dollars. And it was a large one too.
Large And Tasty
Now the Heineken was a bit more, 140 rubles, and for a smaller bottle. But nothing is too good for the Mysterious Chinese Woman.
And They Were Out Of The Russian Beer
They even had an official Apple store here.
Not Rotten To The Core
And they don't have a food court here either, just a bunch of cozy little restaurants tucked away in nooks here and there.
One Of Many
All and all it wasn't anything like I expected. But don't expect to find any bargains, everything was top end and expensive.
Gum, By Gum
Oh, and if you had any misconceptions about Russian women based upon those stereotypes of the overweight peasants in their formless dresses and babushkas, put those to rest as well.
A Couple Of Russian Beauties
The place where I took those two pictures is a spot where wedding parties traditionally go to share a toast as the newly married couple places a lock on a metal tree and then throws the key into the nearby river to assure that their marriage will remain intact as long as the lock remains, well, locked.
Trees Of Locks
It is also an area with a bunch of vendors selling over-priced and somewhat cheesy souvenirs.
We Were Warned Not To Buy
The reason we made a short stop here was because it offered a nice view of a part of the city and the large stadium where the Olympics that we boycotted were held. Ah, remember the good old days of the Cold War? Of course the Russians then boycotted our Olympics in retaliation.
A Lovely View
As you can see, this is a popular spot for tourists to stop and take pictures.
Tourists, As Far As The Eye Can See
The Mysterious Chinese Woman thought the idea of the locks and throwing the key into the river was just sooo romantic.
Oh, How Romantic
Of course she wasn't too happy when I pointed out the nearby dive shop and suggested it catered to husbands searching for their keys.
Our boat has just left Moscow and we are on our way to the next town, Uglich. I have more to post about Moscow, of course, but I will save that for latter. Now I will sit in the lounge at the front of the ship, have a glass or two or three of wine (hey, I am on the Silver Drink Package) and watch the scenery drift by.