He started by saying “When you are indoors, do not whistle, we consider it bad luck here.” Ivanov, my local guide who I found through an online portal has already made the feeling about the place unusual. I had known Moscow mainly for the Soviet reign or the Red Square. The Red Square reflects on centuries of history and echoes of those large-scale Soviet military parades, and unbelievably, all roads in Moscow led to the Red Square. But Moscow assured me, that it is much more than the central square figure, the famous Kremlin, where tourist flock to visit Lenin’s tomb and click pictures by those mesmerising onion-shaped domes of St Basil’s Cathedral. Moscow needs the curious traveller to visit a little further inside their world and explore the beauty of the city’s variety in culture and commerce.
It’s hard for me to describe how both puzzling and enthralling Moscow is. I’m convinced that it’s not only the visitors but those long-time residents too who find it tough to get their bearings due to the sheer size and a sense of political and social flux. The communist legacy of the Soviet Union has left its undying mark in Moscow’s history. Incredibly I failed to find a single tourist infrastructure to help me understand the city. Although this seems to be on the mend with Russia set to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Moscow is not a comfortable place to fall in love with but has an addictive vibrancy to it. To put that in perspective, Moscow I felt is genuinely a place that never sleeps, as people frequent those 24-hour hours a day, filling all sorts of shops, cafes, and cinemas; even hairdressers and florists work at night.
Ivanov says enough of the prophetical talk of the city and takes me first to Tverskaya street. He says this is the right place to dip into the essence of Moscow’s active lifestyle. Here the constant buzzing from cafes and restaurants coupled with the world-renowned Bolshoi Theatre adds to the splendour and flame. I had the choice to hop through various cafes or just sit around watching people.
Next up it’s a visit to the 19th-century Old Arbat, again with more cafes and souvenir shops, topped with some of the best Moscow street performers. The street performances are performed by renowned artists sometimes but mostly by local ones, and yes they can show some amazing stuff!
Moscow food routine
Russian food has been a mystery to me, and no one I know has ever come here for that. But the cuisine is full of surprises! Start with blinis (pancakes) with sweet or -savoury fillings, as well with the affordable red caviar. Further moving towards some heavy duty Russian soups, such as Solyanka, based on meat or fish, could be really filling. Here in Moscow, there are a lot of food tours on offer, which could be expensive. If local listings are appropriately checked, there could be cheaper ones as well, depending on the cuisine choice on offer.
The food is good, but at times, due to lack of spices, one could feel the blandness in it, but there are other cuisines such as Georgian, which becomes an inviting change. There are a few restaurants, easily found around multiple areas of Moscow. Famously known for its soups and kebabs, Georgian food is abundantly available due to its preference for many here as well as a thriving Georgian population around Moscow. But the best part of Georgian cuisine is the particular red wine some restaurants tend to serve. Overall Moscow is a meat eater’s city, so vegetarians can look away or scour the city for a rare veggie dish.
The partying people of Moscow
Since Russia separated itself from the Soviet stronghold in the early 1990s, a party culture has emerged since and the Russians party like there is no tomorrow. There are plenty of party places, as even I had perceived it to be a Vodka cultured town, Moscow is actually considered as a great beer city. Hop into one of the old school pub or club, featuring musicians and DJs of kinds. The partying culture and heavy metal music have seeped into the Moscow bloodline. Along with that, many places emerged of late, which offers a taste and style of the new generation of electronic music.
Moscow is also famous for its many underground rock bands, who frequently perform in many of these places and the people absolutely love it. The best part of all, some of them remain open until early hours!
Russians are serious about their culture and make grim faces when explaining that. Which of course has got nothing to do with the massive history of violence, scandal and fighting that Russia, especially Moscow, has been through. One thing about Russians is their overall toughness, and it’s evident how history plays a part in forming the future cultures. It’s very compelling!
The significantly restored Bolshoi theatre is the pick of the city when it comes to art and performances. The Opera is the landmark show here, but even to attend that, there seems to be no fuss or obligation about how one dresses up, so much that people often turn up in shorts and t-shirts.
Other places for art, culture or history there are the Pushkin Museum and Tretyakov Gallery, both quite renowned. Tretyakov features Russian Art collection, pre-revolutionary paintings among other works, while Pushkin is packed with European art headlined by Van Gogh and Picasso. Towards the east of Moscow, some controversial works are housed by Winzavod! There are regular exhibitions held in Winzavod and known for actions of some famous Orthodox religious activists.
Wiznavod has a hip vibe to it, and while in the eyes of Russians, remains controversial. Coming here seems like a culture shift from the rest of Moscow, and possibly another reason to come here and see the place.
My notes on Moscow
Hotels are expensive, so look at cheaper accommodations or hostels. Transit within Moscow is more relaxed and less expensive, especially the metro services – more inexpensive and convenient. It’s a safe city, but the Safety in Russia, in this case, Moscow does not have a high reputation, but keeping the passport copy along helps when there are checks for papers, while generally everybody avoids walking round suburbs late on.