Moscow Russia

WTF, I’m in Moscow

What the F*@#k ! I am in Moscow.  These were my words when I slowly walked up and entered into the Red Square.  There are some moments in life when you just want to take in all that your senses are telling you. This was one of those moments for me.

Russia is the first foreign country I visited and just for that it will always have a special place in my heart. As I made my way to a clear view of the Red Square, I was left in awe. The St. Basil’s Cathedral in front of me, the G.U.M market to the left and Putin’s lovely home to the right, the Kremlin. I sucked up some air and walked slowly on the cobbled road, mesmerised. This was the centre of the former USSR. Wow.

Moscow is gorgeous, huge and a bustling city. I fell in love it completely. The Moscow metro network drove me nuts, the architecture left me with a gaping mouth and of course, the sports car and bikes made me believe that Moscow was the best place in this world. This would be the place where people work hard, earn money and spend it on a life style that’s grand.

Of course, there other sides to Moscow but I was lucky enough to have been completely ignorant about them.  If you happen to visit here are the five places CANNOT miss in Moscow.

Red Square & Kremlin

Red Square Moscow Russia
This is the centre piece of Russia. You simply cannot afford to miss this one if you are in Moscow. It’s something like going to Agra and not seeing the Taj Mahal. It’s a great place to take in the fact that you have arrived in Russia and also the place where you can come at close range to the burial grounds of the former USSR Presidents. This place is sure to move you.

Bolshoi Theatre
Opened to public in 1825, the marvellous building has some of the plushest interiors you can ever see. The grand balconies give you the ultimate theatre feel. While backpacking on a budget, I highly recommend saving up for this experience.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour Moscow Russia

When I entered this Cathedral, I was spelled bound by the detailed frescos and the dome. The environment is surreal and the devotion worth admiring. I spent a lot f time just walking around watching pious Orthodox Christians placing candle in front of pictures of Virgin Mary. It was a moving experience!

Gorky Park
Does ‘Winds of Change’ by the Scorpions strike a chord? Yup, they were talking about this very park. It’s an interesting space in the city and I’d say you could afford to visit this place as it’s very cheap.

Pushkin Museum
Designed by Roman Klein and Vladimir Shukhov and financed primarily by Yury Nechaev-Maltsov this museum doesn’t have any direct co-relation with Alexander Pushkin the Russian Author. Opened to public in 1912, the museum houses some of the best fine art collections in Russia.

I really enjoyed Moscow but, my journey didn’t end there. I was going to Kazan next.

Russia

How I Got into Russia

Russia has been in the news lately for Ukraine and the Sochi Olympics. This mysterious country has always been on my travel bucket list. I’ve heard the western stories about oppressive lives that people in Russia lead and I’ve heard about stories of Russian magnanimity during India’s wars with Pakistan.

I’ve read George Orwell’s 1984 and while it made for a dramatic read I wasn’t completely sold.  I was more inclined to believe in the stories I heard from my family.  I was very keen on seeing the country myself and when I got a chance, I grabbed it both hands.

Heading towards Moscow

The Visa

I was told that getting a Tourist visa for Russia involved a lot of red tape and hardship. I checked out the Russian embassy’s website and figured out all the things I needed. Surprisingly it wasn’t too long, albeit I had to incur some unnecessary expenses. As an Indian passport holder I was required to submit a copy of return flight tickets, hostel reservations and an official ‘Invite’ from an approved tourism company in Russia.

As per the laws, I had to call for ‘Invite Card’ from Russia and submit the original copy along with my application.  This cost me an extra Rs.5000, which really pinched my wallet.

The rest was as easy as a breeze.  Three days later I had my Russian Tourist visa in my hands!

The flight & food

Aeroflot In-flight food

I had chosen to board from the New Delhi airport partly so that I could spend a few hours in Delhi to catch up with some friends and partly because I wanted to see the world class T3 Delhi terminal. It was totally worth it.

I was on an Aeroflot flight and I must say that as the national carrier of Russia, I was disappointed to know that they didn’t serve alcohol on board. I was expecting a river of vodka flowing in the aisle and all I would have to do is dip my glass and get some delicious Vodka.  Oh I hate when bubbles burst.

I was given my subscribed Veg. Meal and I did in fact enjoy it. Well, what a let down, I can’t complain about the airline food. All in all, it was a comfortable 6 hours on my way to Moscow.

Landing at Sheremetyevo International Airport

On landing at Sheremetyevo airport, I was a bit lost. Here I am in Russia, at an international airport, BUT there’s hardly anyone around. I was a bit scared as I was so used to having mobs of people around me. I was in a bit of a shock.

The gorgeous smiles of the Russian air hostesses passing by were helpful in easing my nerves! The Russian journey had begun well 😉

food caviar

TC Original: My Tryst with Caviar

Caviar in Russia
Caviar in Russia

Eating caviar will never be as fun as the first time I tried this supposed delicacy.  Now I am a foodie inspired by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Bear Grylls but when it came to actually trying new food, I was a bit hesitant.  It was of course the first time I stepped out of India and I had a hard time adjusting to the bland, almost tasteless food that Russia had to offer.  No don’t get me wrong, there are certain cuisines in Russia which have some hints of flavour and taste, but that’s for another blog post, I’m going to tell you about my tryst with caviar in this one.

I’m very choosy about my sea food. Living in Mumbai, I do have a large variety in terms of fish but I am snooty. I prefer eating fresh produce, found in my Uncle’s backyard in Goa.  If anyone’s ever had fresh sea food, you wouldn’t dream of having fish that has been brought in over many days from the high seas.  Moscow and Kazan, the cities I was staying in, unfortunately imported all its sea food from the coastal regions of the mammoth land mass, so fresh ‘Riba’ (Fish in Russian) was completely  ruled out.  There was however one thing that got me curious, Caviar.  Russia is famous for its caviar and I surely wanted to try it once!

Now the method of having caviar in Russia is to take a slice of bread. Plaster it with an inch of butter. Open the golden tin of caviar and scoop out the orange little balls with a spoon onto the bread and butter.  Spread this evenly and prepare to take a bite.  This was a bit difficult for me as I could smell the distinct odour of old fish.  It was I must say, extremely revolting.  I closed my nose and shoved the piece of bread in and started the awkward munching, hoping against hope that I don’t puke it out. Just when I thought the worst was over the little eggs started popping off in my mouth, oozing liquids that accentuated the taste of fish.  Now that’s where I realised it was an acquired taste.  Beer is bitter, but everybody loves that bitter tang that it imparts. I couldn’t brave myself up for another slice of bread with caviar. Enough of adventure for a day, I thought.  A fellow traveller with whom I was sharing the caviar tin with had a ball laughing at my contorted face.  Mind you I had paid 600 Roubles for a 100 gram tin of caviar.

It was a troubling experience for me honestly, but here’s the funny thing. I think I’m going to try caviar once again.  It’s not to prove a point or act even more stupid. It’s simply to relive that memory and in the process hope to may be acquire the taste.