Roaming In Moscow

Yesterday I arrived in Moscow to attend the isicad 2010 and COFES Russia Seminar as well as visit a few CAD vendors. Since this is my first time to Russia I decided to come a couple of days early and do some tourist stuff.

Moscow reminds me a lot of Mumbai. Two striking similarities are huge traffic jams and crazy cab drivers. The cabbie who picked me up from the airport drove like the wind and almost crashed three times. But from his body language it all seemed to be part of the plan.

Speaking of language, that’s one thing quite different from Mumbai, or for that matter any other Indian city. English doesn’t work very well here. I had a tough time asking the cabbie whether I had to pay him or the travel agency that sent him had already covered that.

On the way to the hotel I stopped at a store to buy something. Even before I opened my mouth to speak the guy at the counter shoved a keyboard toward me. As I looked at it bewildered he pointed to his computer screen. A web browser was pointed to a Russian to English translation web site. So I typed in my question and hit Enter. Amazing.

Today I decided to roam around Moscow a little and asked the travel agency what they could do for me. They sent an English speaking guide to my hotel along with a cab and we set out exploring the city. Here are a few pictures. Click the images for larger views.

St. Basil’s Cathedral at the famous Red Square, which is considered the center of Moscow and all of Russia

The State Historical Museum at the Red Square

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which took 40 years to build. This is an exact duplicate of the original. Stalin blew the original Cathedral to bits to build a gigantic statue of Lenin. Instead, thanks to problems with funding, flooding and war, an open air swimming pool was created in its place. In 1990 the Russian Orthodox Church built a replica in 5 years.

Question: Why did this bride and groom run across the street? Answer follows.

The main building of the Moscow State University is also the tallest educational building in the world. It is one of the seven sisters, a group of seven skyscrapers in Moscow built by Stalin.

Answer: The bride and groom ran across the street to have their picture taken in front of the Moscow State University.

I am told that the wealthy live in fancy apartment buildings like these

The memorial at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the Russian name for World War II.

One of the tanks used in World War II

The Moscow Triumphal Arch in honor of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting Napoleon.

The is where Vladimir Putin used to work – the HQ of the KGB

This is where he now works – the office of the Prime Minister. And its call the White House.

Along the way I stopped at a souvenir shop to pick up a souvenir of Moscow. As I entered the shop a guy walked up to me and handed me a shot of vodka, which I downed without thinking twice. Upon leaving the shop I asked my guide, “Do they serve vodka to everyone or was it written on my face?” My guide replied, “No sir. They do it to all tourists“.

Boy, I love this city. I think I’m going to go souvenir shopping again this evening.

  • Brian Hall

    Love the computer translator in the shop!! Great idea!! One might think that there would be “an app for that” on the phone already, right??? 🙂

  • Actually, there is. I use iTranslate. Its an iPhone app powered by Google. As such you need to be connected to use it since the translations are actually done at the Google end. That’s also why I couldn’t use iTranslate in the cab.

  • Mook

    Thanks for putting that post together. I’ve been wanting to take a trip to Moscow for years, but I’ve been told that my choices are either a) go with a guided group tour, which is not my style, or b) suffer expensive shakedowns and harassment from Moscow police.

    It sounds like your travel agency guide/translator worked out fine. How much did the guide cost, if you don’t mind me asking?

  • We got pulled over in our supplied car and driver, they kept us for about 20 minutes, then just let us go in 2004.

    Deelip, check out the free computer site stores for internet access and the great chocolate bars sold on the street corners.

    Cheers,
    Devon Sowell

  • Mook, it’s not that expensive. The guide cost me 3500 RUB ($86) and taxi was another 2500 RUB ($61). All this for 3 hours. Not sure how much the guided bus tours cost. But when you have a personal guide and a cab you can pretty much do whatever you want. As opposed to being tied to a group and a fixed agenda.

  • Yeah, its a good idea to move around with your passport and that white immigration piece of paper. In other countries I usually keep it in the hotel safe. But not here.

    I have been advised to keep walking around to a minimum. I enjoy walking around a city as I believe that’s the best way to experience it. I did that in San Francisco once and it was wonderful.