The view from our hotel room at one of the Seven Sisters
I have crossed Moscow off the list of places in which it would be nice to live. My first impressions from my very brief trip last December have been confirmed. Moscow – and probably all of Russia – is FUBAR.
Our hotel was in what we thought was a vast wasteland of abandoned apartment buildings and condemned factories. This was a bit odd we thought – it is the Crowne Plaza and is supposed to be a four star hotel. But we discovered later that the apartment blocks were not abandoned and were in fact swarming with life. We saw no life in the factories but perhaps the power had been cut off and they were waiting for the bill to be paid. More likely they used to make something that no one wants any more.
We also discovered that the area in which we resided is not unique and that most of Moscow seems to have been recently carpet-bombed and had the footpaths torn up by some type of heavy machinery.
One of the travel guides we read said that Moscow was the most expensive, most unfriendly and most corrupt city on the planet. I think this is a bit harsh. Sure some things are really expensive – and the ‘tourist price’ is a killer with some things – but the Muscovites we encountered were mostly quite friendly.
It is certainly not geared towards tourism. Things are tough to find as there is almost no signage in English and the Museums when we found them had almost no English explanations of what we were looking at – but we could get audio guides in English.
The booths where one pays money appear to have been designed by the same people who designed the Apotheke windows in Vienna. To buy tickets one has to bend double (or kneel) and shout through a tiny window at the ancient woman (It is always an ancient woman) seated inside. But it was all worth it as we saw some fabulous stuff in the Kremlin museums and churches – and you know how much I love churches!
Cate was desperate to see Lenin’s mummified corpse but refused to wait in line in the rain. I told her she could just tune into Larry King Live on CNN when we got home and get the same sort of result.
The Russians are obsessed with loud speakers. On many buildings there are loud speakers through which announcements are made continuously. We walked back to our hotel through the bomb craters and at one stage walked past the longest shopping mall I have ever seen. It was about 2 kilometers long and every 50m meters on the roof there was a loud speaker through which played diabolical pop music punctuated by announcements (they may have been advertisements). In our hotel corridor there were braces of loud speakers every 20 metres or so. I have no idea why.
Muscovites apparently don’t like solitude. In every restaurant we went to they played loud and awful music. And they smoked – Starve the Lizards! – Did they smoke! It is truly the only place we have been that is worse than Vienna – except that there is no escape – there are apparently NO no-smoking areas in restaurants – except in our hotel where the restaurant was blissfully smoke free.