Caffeinated, seeing glamorous Muscovites making their way to work, European influence about us, at the end of a 6-7 day train journey through two massive countries - everything suddenly felt special. We had crossed Siberia! Here we were! In Moscow, Russia, one of the more fabled cities of the world!
The city was blanketed in fresh snow, the sun was shining...
And we were walking distance from wonderous edifices of this intriguing country - KGB Headquarters, Bolshoi Theatre, the Kremlin, St Basil's, Gorky Park... And walk we did. All day. We think 7-8km; Lee thinks 100!
It felt like walking through a 007 movie. People with long coats and fur hats and pens that shot poison darts. All looking very serious.
We were all pleasantly surprised by the city - we were expecting an austere, sombre, Stalinist cityscape. It's not a romantic European city, but it's got a certain beauty, a definite vibe and it's full of surprises. More billionaires than any other city and the evidence all around us. Stretch Porsche limos, fur coats, outrageous shoe shops. Wonderful bakeries. Stunning parks. Long stretches - sometimes small pockets - of intriguing architecture.
We wandered around for many hours, exhausted but very satisfied with Moscow by the end of day.
The chuckle of the day came via Lee, of course. We wanted to settle in amongst the beautiful people in glamorous Gum department store. So, tea and cakes at a swish cafe. Just how swish? Lee's pot of tea - a mere $17! And it was tea bag tea!
Another thing that's expensive in Moscow is accommodation - the most expensive in the world - so we opted to stay at a hostel. Nomad Hostel. We were looking forward to it, incredibly well located, highly rated, only recently opened. We got the chance to rate it on our departure, and we're hopeful our account would send a few potential guests running. The beds and bedding were clean, but everything else was filthy. Really, seriously filthy. And some obnoxious undesirables in situ. Lee endured, we soldiered through.
Day two in town saw us meandering through some of the major sites again - and revisiting our preferred peeroshki shop and Lee chose to shout us a great start to the day at a great French style bakery. It certainly hit the spot for us all.
Then off for a visit to the Kremlin. When we got there the queues were too long, so we ventured off to the nearby Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, where we happened upon an Easter service led by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and televised an hour later. We were all moved by the service, left speechless by the cathedral. This cathedral was torn down by Stalin and replaced with a public swimming pool; rebuilt in 1992 after perestroika to its original specifications. Breathtaking.
We drew comparisons to the infinitely less grand - but equally intense - Buddhist service we witnessed in the dilapidated thousand year old monastery in the Nepali village of Thuman. We felt it was good for the kids to see that the grandiosity of the Russian Orthodox cathedral doesn't necessarily result in a more heartfelt event.
Day three we did manage to visit the Kremlin. We were only able to visit the churches which was disappointing - tickets to the armoury were sold out and the palace closed.
Shane, Helen, Rosie, Tom and Baboushka Marnie