Despite having business meetings every day I was here in Moscow, I managed to do a bit of sightseeing. June is a good month to visit Russia, as there are nearly 18 hours of daylight to see things. Some things are outdoors, and not constrained to normal business hours.
Near my hotel, the [Crowne Plaza at the World Trade Center], was a cute little park called "Ulista 1905 Goda". It is always nice to see large cities set aside space for nature. There were plenty of park benches to sit and enjoy. The word Ulista simply means "Street" in Russian language, and 1905 refers to the year of historical importance.
The [1905 Russian Revolution] was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies, including sailors aboard the battleship Potemkin. Alexander Adrianov became Moscow's first official mayor. The revolution led to the establishment of the State Duma of the Russian Empire, the multi-party system, and the Russian Constitution of 1906, ending the reign of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia.
Walking from my hotel towards the direction of the Kremlin, I managed to find the [Old Arbat street], which has been around since the 15th century. This was considered a prestigious area of town, home to many artists, academics and politicians. Today, it is pedestrian-only, no cars allowed, with various souvenir shops and restaurants.
There is a lot to see around the Red Square to see. The [Kremlin] is a walled castle with an [Armoury Chamber] and various other cathedrals and government buildings to see inside. A ticket for the Armoury Chamber will set you back 700 rubles (about 22 bucks). [Lenin's Masoleum] is free of charge, but only open for three hours on weekdays, from 10:00am to 1:00pm, so plan accordingly.
Returning back to the hotel from the event venue on Wednesday, I walked past the [Cathedral of Christ the Saviour] on my way to the Kropotskinskaya subway station. It is actually across the river from the Red Square. Built in 1860, it is considered the tallest Orthodox church in the world at 344 feet. The domes are electroplated in gold.
I found the taxis to be ridiculously expensive here in Moscow, so I took to the subway instead. If fellow filmmaker John Waters can [hitchhike across the state of Ohio], I can certainly be adventurous and ride the Moscow Metro.
The Moscow Metro is second most used rapid transit system in the world (the first being the one in Tokyo). As a result, the subway can get quite crowded, but I found being squashed into a carload of Russian supermodels to be quite tolerable. The price is a bargain at only 28 rubles per ride (less than a dollar), with unlimited transfers.
While the Metro is a great way to get around the city, it is also a destination in itself, as the system was built in 1935 and has historical architectures that you can only see underground. At the [Ploshchad Revolyutsii station], for example, there is a whole collection of bronze statues of men and women in different work roles. For the statue of the frontier guard, many people rub the dog's nose for good luck that it has become bright and shiny.
Dispel quickly the notion that you need to eat traditional Russian food while in Moscow. A bowl of Borsch (a watery soup made from beets) and a plate of Beef Stroganof set me back 50 bucks! Apparently, restaurants know that only tourists ask for "traditional Russian food", so the prices are set accordingly.
I had to find less expensive eats to stay within my per diem meal limits. Where do the locals eat? Russia is a modern country, with plenty of Burger King, Wendy's, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.
No visit to any foreign country would be complete without at least eating one meal at McDonald's. Before working for IBM, I did software engineering for McDonald's, so as a former employee, I try to visit at least one McDonald's in every country. They have restaurants in over 120 countries, so I have a ways to go yet.
A meal consisting of a "Royal" quarter-pounder with cheese, large fries and a Coke was only 214 rubles, less than seven dollars. The meat patty was medium rare, just like I make at home. You just can't get that in the States where everything has to be overcooked to avoid food-bourne illnesses. The fries were a bit over-salted, but the Coke struck just the right balance of syrup and carbonation.
Moscow is home to many museums and art galleries. The [State Tretyakov Gallery] focuses on sculptures and oil paintings from Russian artists, named after a Russian merchant who dontated his collection to get it started.
Plan a good two hours to see everything. There were many guided tour groups when I was there, which slowed me down getting through the large crowds of old people.There were over 50 rooms, with subject matter ranging from portraits, ships, and buildings, to piles of dead bodies in battle scenes. I especially liked the unique styles of [Mikhail Vrubel] and [Vasily Vereshchagin]. In many of the rooms, there were laminated placards in large-type English that explained the pieces on display.
My last stop was the [Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU)]. This served two purposes. First, it is situated up on a hill so that you can see a great view of the rest of the city. Second, there were street vendors selling souvenirs, including the ever-popular [Matryoshka dolls], military hats, keychains, and refrigerator magnets.
In other countries, I have found going to the movies as an interesting way to see the locals in action. Foreign movies are shown here in their original language, with either Russian subtitles for the locals or headphones to hear the Russian dubbed audio track. Sadly, I did not have time to do that this week. This poster, depicting the latest Disney movie "Brave", indicates that it opens this weekend.
As always, from a sightseeing perspective, I try to leave a few things un-done, so I have reason to come back. If you know of any other exciting things to see or do in Moscow, please put that in the comments below so that I can consider it for my next trip! I would like to thank my IBM Russia colleagues Rimma Vladimirova and Sunil Bagai for their suggestions and assistance.