Ever since I knew I’d be going to Moscow, the thing at the top of my list was the Cosmonaut museum and the monument to the conquerors of space. SPAAAAAACE!
It’s probably been at least 20 years since I went to the Kennedy Center in Florida, and I know it was great but I don’t remember a whole lot about it in detail. Then of course there’s the Air and Space museum in DC which is fantastic, but I was looking forward to seeing the story from a Russian point of view.
The Cosmonaut museum was super awesome. I must have spent 2-3 hours there, and it’s not big, but it packs a lot in. I’d been worried I wouldn’t be able to read anything or get any details, but I paid for an English audio guide as well as a pass to take pictures, both for photography and to use Google translate’s instant photo translation on my phone. (Proof we live in the future – does this mean we’ll have a babelfish or a universal translator soon?!) To be honest, I’d have skipped the audio guide and just used the photo pass. The guide was annoying and slow and only an overview, and while it’s great that they have it, I preferred working out the actual labels I was interested in.
Anyway, in addition to the proud display of Soviet and Russian space achievements, they also showed what other countries had done, particularly the US, in a great cooperative spirit, which is so nice to see. One of the things I love about space exploration is that it brings countries together that are often at odds in other areas. There was, I thought, a particular emphasis in more than one place in the museum on the fact that the plaque placed by Apollo 11 says ‘We came in peace for all mankind’. And even just seeing Russian and English directions for assistance on the back of the Soyuz landing pod (a real, used one!) shows the expectation that everyone will help when necessary because it’s about humans rather than Russians or Americans or whatever. SEE, WE CAN ALL GET ALONG. In space at least.
Before I went in, I walked around the monument (which the museum is underneath) and there are lots of monuments of famous Russian cosmonauts. Including, right next to Yuri Gagarin, one of Valentina Tereshkova, which I was specifically looking for and really excited to see. It’s rubbish that it took so long AFTER Valentina to get another woman into space, but I’m happy that the USSR did put her up there, and what an awesome lady to go first. She is all about going to Mars and she’s nearly 80 now!
Aside from the cosmonauts, the Moscow Metro may have been my favourite thing about the city. the stations are amazing, and all so different. It’s pretty hard to get a proper look at them when it’s busy because no matter where you stop, you’re in the way. But pro tip: It’s all pretty empty on a Saturday morning. You can spend a long time bouncing around between stations and metro tickets aren’t timed, so you could technically be underground all day for less than 50p. I only did 2 hours at a stretch though because that’s long enough to be away from daylight.
I did go to the Kremlin because I felt like you sort of HAVE to go to the Kremlin, but I wish I’d only done the Armoury Chamber and not paid another 500 roubles to get into the Cathedral territory. I just wasn’t up for another 6 or 7 cathedral interiors. Plus it was a gorgeous sunny day! I tried for like, the 3rd time to go see Lenin’s mausoleum but it was closed again (it appeared to not have any kind of normal opening schedule) so instead I got some mulled wine and a pancake at the christmas market in Red Square and planned the rest of the day’s wandering while getting warm-booze-toasted in the middle of the day.
I had some lovely outside wanders in Moscow too. Red Square (and GUM) at night (where they kept playing the tetris song, which I found hilarious), the Boulevard ring at sunset on that beautiful Friday when I escaped the Kremlin early, Gorky Park and Muzeon Arts sculpture park on the river, where they have all the old Soviet monuments that have been removed from various places around the city. There’s a whole lot of Lenin and Stalin going on in there, but there’s lots of other non-soviet-themed sculpture in the park as well.
It finally snowed on Saturday, which made it feel like proper winter at last and gave me my first taste of the treachery of walking on snow and ice on the way to the Moscow Swing Dance Society. The blast of cold was, as always, appreciated when I exited the dance, for at least the first 3 minutes anyway.
On my last day I decided to go ice skating at VDNH because YAY and Russian winter etc etc. I’d seen the rink in Gorky Park which was impressive, but apparently the VDNH one is the biggest in the country (which begs the question, is there a bigger one somewhere ELSE?) so I HAD to go there. Turns out ice skating is like riding a bike. I’ve not been in years and years (no idea why because I love it) but I got on the ice wobbled for like, 5 seconds, and was off just fine. I’m not the best at stopping, but I didn’t fall or careen into any stray small children. I even got some good pace going. It was a good day for it too. Between that, the dancing the night before, and very little sleep in between, I was sufficiently tired out for my overnight train to Kazan.
Moscow sort of felt to me like the Russian equivalent of London. It was an interesting place to see, and there’s a lot happening, but I think St Petersburg is nicer. This seems to be the consensus among all the Russians who asked me which I preferred as well. In fact, I think some of them might have been shocked if I had said I preferred Moscow. I had just as much fun there though, and once again had absolutely fantastic hosts.