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.