Saturday, July 1, 2017

[MOSCOW] Touchdown Russia

Russia almost never happened. If you read my blog entry about the visa application snafu at the Russian Embassy then you would know why. But you know, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get it your way. If it doesn’t happen, then maybe it’s just not meant to happen. But the circumstances leading to the visa grant seemed to defy all odds and now that I’m finally here in Moscow, I’m glad that it did. That doesn’t mean that it’s the end of your Russian bureaucratic nightmare, though.

My trip coincided with some world football series or something. You can actually come to Russia right now and enter visa free IF you bought tickets to some of the matches and applied for an online ID. It’s also because of this that the accommodation registration rule was suddenly reduced from 7 days to within 24 hours of arrival. That’s another RUB 600 (~PHP 540) for you. Factoring in the invitation letter and cost of the visa, you’ll be spending almost PHP 10,000 on bureaucratic red tape alone. Nobody said it’s cheap!

I don’t know how it usually works but they say if you don’t stay for more than 7 days, you don’t have to register. Anyway, if it’s your first time in Moscow make sure you know which airports you will be landing at and taking off from. They have four, if I’m not mistaken. Domodedovo and Vnukuvo are in the south while Sheremetyevo (Aeroflot’s hub) is in the north. The fourth one doesn’t seem to be uses for public flights. Depending on where you land, there are several option for ground transfer.

Landing at Domodedovo, I opted for the RUB 120 (~PHP 108) marshrutka ride. It seemed to be the better option. The bus didn’t appear to have enough seats and I was so not in the mood for standing. After half an hour we reached the Domodedovskaya stop of the green line which goes all the way to the city center, where many of the tourist attractions are. My stop was Teatralnaya which looks like the center of the tourist infestation led by the mainland Chinese. Wait, did we accidentally land in Beijing?

I located my Airbnb place and had a quick shower before going out. I guess I got lucky finding accommodation not far away from all the action, a mere ten-minute walk to the Bolshoi Theater! Rain was in the forecast. It was still sunny outside but not that humid. I immediately noticed how good my first impression of Moscow is as a city. Sure it can be chaotic just like any other large city in the world but it does have its charms, and by that I mean the architecture prevalent in the place.

Well, it’s no Vienna or Prague, but it’s still fairly easy to stumble upon some random building worth the photo-op. Walking around the Petrovka area, I found this building façade painted with white clouds against a blue background with matching real-world caption saying I Love Moscow. Cute. You will also find many pedestrian alleys replete with benches and tourists walking all around, trying to decide which shop or resto is better suited for them. As such, it gives off this rather cosmo kind of vibe that I find appealing.

The Bolshoi Theater was crowded, which I guess was to be expected. I think I liked the roses better, though. The façade felt a bit unoriginal to me. I mean, I’ve already seen that entire horses running on a portico motif so many times. Brandenburger Tor, anyone? To make your photos feel different, I suggest you take it from an angle that will also capture the rose garden surrounding the fountains. The dash of bloody red will upset the monotonous beige of the building resulting in a good color combo.

But then again, it’s what you do inside those buildings that you’d probably enjoy more. You can watch ballet there I suppose, but it must be pretty expensive. I think I liked the State Historical Museum better in terms of architectural design as well as the striking red façade, which is probably why the square is called as such. I didn’t ask how much the ticket is but it will be one of my options tomorrow because I’m free the whole day. Anyway, the red square is just across the street, sort of.

I could have done something cultural on my first day but I think I owe it to myself to just take a leisurely stroll and absorb everything in a slow pace. What’s the rush, right? The Red Square is second only to China’s Tiananmen in terms of size, followed by Mexico’s Zócalo. I’ve been to all three and I can say that what makes all of them unique is the cultural element which distinguishes one from the other. I didn’t see a Russian flag here, though, or maybe I just missed it? Ok then, what about the surroundings?

Tiananmen has the Forbidden City. CDMX’s Zócalo has the church and the Templo Mayor. The Red Square is the most well-rounded, I guess. Facing St. Basil’s Cathedral, you’ll find GUM to the left. It’s a shopping mall housed in a historical building. The Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum are on the right side. Look behind you and the State Historical Museum will be there. You can also find an actual church next to it and GUM. Camwhore? Shopper? Devout Christian? History geek? There’s something for everyone!

I ended my day people watching at St. Basil’s which happened after I tried hard to resist eating its domes because they look like really yummy candies. While the side facing the square is always busy with camwhores, you can always go behind it. There are benches there and it’s weird how not so many people chill there despite the multitude of tourists swarming the area. From there you have a good view of the river and the towering Moscow State University from afar, or some building that looks like it at least.

[MOSCOW] Touchdown Russia

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