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Moscow!


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So a few months ago I happened on a great deal for a FF ticket to Europe. 25k miles return to just about anywhere. Of course, I had to see the farthest I could fly... and I ended up having a choice between Moscow and Istanbul. I've always wanted to go to IST but since I have an old teammate living in Moscow, I figured, now is my chance! Russia for the win! Besides, IST is a big airport and the chances of even just having a stopover there at some point in the future are pretty high. Russia it is!

I had a connection in Amsterdam on the way there and ended up arriving about 5pm local time. My friend said she would meet me at the airport so we could take the airport train in together.
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Aaah TGI Friday's... in Cyrillic...

Since I had hardly slept in the last two days, Monday night wasn't looking like it was going to be very exciting for me. Luckily, Eva had a sushi place just downstairs from her house so we just ran down there, ordered sushi and came back upstairs and hung out. Since we hadn't seen each other in just about 10 years, we had a lot to catch up on!

The next morning Eva had school, but only during the morning. So I decided I would meet her at school and then go to lunch with her and her friends.
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My walk on the way... This restaurant made me giggle.

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There are statues of people all over Moscow. I'm not sure if I even know who this one is...

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So many foreign restaurants around her school. Turns out we had KFC for lunch...

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We ended up visiting this one later in the week haha!

After finishing lunch and having a Krispy Kreme and a Starbucks (I'm in Russia... who needs to eat Russian food? :/ ) we made our way to Red Square. It isn't far from Eva's school so we walked as the sun came out after our coffee stop.

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The state historical museum

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The Kremlin

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Lenin's Mausoleum

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GUM shopping mall

We decided to go inside the GUM shopping mall. It's quite fancy, lots of high class stores like Chanel, Burberry, etc. But I guess they have a display that changes for the holidays and Eva hadn't seen it recently so we went to check it out.

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Still getting used to seeing Cyrillic everywhere. I wish I had known how easy it actually was to read and I would've studied it before I left. As it was, after my trip was up, I was reading fairly well (albeit slowly).

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The ladies selling their breads and treats.

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The display... ready for Thanksgiving... which is weird since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving. But that's what it looks like anyway.

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And of course, it's not a trip to Red Square without a view of St Basil's Cathedral. GUM is in the background. They turn on the lights every evening. Quite pretty.

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St Basil's and the Kremlin.

After Red Square, we went for a little walk. We ended up on a bridge with some nice views of the city and found some fun photos to take. Turns out Eva travels with a tripod at all times, so that was super handy!!
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City views
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Hello random statue!

We continued on our walk and decided to go inside our first church of the trip. However, I guess they had closed it for some reason, so we just were able to look at the outside.
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Christ the Saviour Cathedral
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A statue of Tsar Alexander II of Russia.

Now it's dark so we decided it was time for food. Eva said there was a food court she really enjoyed and lots of different things to choose from, so we went there. We took the metro... and turns out Russian Metro stations are very decorative. They even have Metro tours for tourists. It's not every station, but there's definitely a lot of them that are quite beautiful.

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A painting of Moscow in one station.
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Stained glass in another. They had a ton of these in different patterns. This one was my favorite.

We got to the food court, and it was similar to what you think of with US food courts, but higher class restaurants. You ordered and then got a buzzer so you could find your seat and then pick up your food later. Eva got Thai and I decided on Indian. Again, no Russian food yet (Eva has lived in Russia/Ukraine for about 9 years so she's not a huge fan of the food anymore...) but I knew that the next day I'd be trying some out, so just had to wait a little longer!). Since I don't live in a place with restaurants nearby that serve anything but burgers and pizza, I was still happy getting some other ethnic food!
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My Indian thali. Delicious but not spicy at all. Sigh.

With our meals finished, it was time to head back to Eva's. She had school all day the next day and I was happy to go to bed at a decent time...!

Wednesday saw Eva going to school in the morning and I took my sweet time getting up, having my coffee and figuring out what my plan was for the day before heading out. I had read a few blogs/websites about cheap Russian places to eat in Moscow, and I kept reading about Lepim i Varim. They are handmade dumplings. I guess that the Mongols brought their dumplings with them to Siberia and the Urals and they kept spreading to Eastern Europe. You've probably also seen Polish pierogi and the Ukrainians have their own version called vareniki. So these were the Russian version, and supposed to be amazing... and cheap. Done!

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I followed the maps to this sparkly street... so pretty! I kept walking and then...
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Poof! There it was!

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The ladies hand making the pelmeni.

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My delicious meal. I ordered Borscht and dumplings with beef and mushrooms in turmeric dough. I also had some mushroom sour cream to go with them. Soooooo good.

After lunch, I decided it was time to find some Russian beer. Eva doesn't drink due to an allergy, so I figured my time to try out Russky beers would be when she was at school. I guess brewery taprooms aren't a thing in Russia, so I just had to find some pubs that served craft beer. Easier said than done... but I managed to find a few.

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This was my first stop. The door was open. Yandex maps (Russia's version of Google) said it was open. I walked in and tried to order and she said something to me in Russian which I understood as her telling me they were closed. There was a lady mopping the floor so I have no idea. But, no beer here sadly. Off to the street to try to find another one...!

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So I found 69 pints. Pretty small inside. There was one other couple in there the entire time I was there. No one else. I guess not many people have beer this early in the day!

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Next stop: Beermarket. Nicest inside by far.

On the way back to meet Eva, I happened across a giant McDonald's. It's 3 stories. Crazy. They love their Macs here.
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Our supper for the night was at Eva's house. There's also a small grocery store beneath her apartment... so we stopped there for a few things. I decided on pelmini and sour cream. Yum!
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I used a few spices from Eva's cupboard. They were yum. Not as good as the homemade ones as these were just cheap and frozen, but I do love dumplings in any form!

Thursday was supposed to be one of the nicest days I had in Moscow. What better to do than go on a bike tour of the city? Great idea I think!
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And then a bird shat on me while I was waiting. Great.

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My bike for the day.

We went all over Moscow. About a 12 mile circle according to my Strava. Our guide was full of tons of information. Information overload. It was hard to absorb it all...
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Can't swim here...
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Bridge views
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One of the seven sisters of Moscow. There were supposed to be eight, but they only finished seven of them. Stalin liked fancy buildings so all of the buildings built during his era are pretty intricate. He died before the eighth one could be started. We saw six of them on the tour.

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More bridge views

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Entrance to Gorky Park. One of the biggest parks in Moscow. The whole city has a ton of green space, there are parks everywhere. This one has a lot of activities in the summer as well.

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Lunch! I got a smoked salmon salad, a meat crepe and some mushroom soup. Yum!

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We stopped by a grocery store downtown. I ended up going back a few days later for a better look. It's one of the oldest grocery stores in the city. Super pretty. Also pretty high class... not many deals here.

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Our guide was nice enough to take photos of us while we were going. I tried to stay near him so I ended up getting quite a few! Win!

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The first Metro station in Moscow. They're super deep so they could be used as bomb shelters. At one point, people just essentially lived in the metro stations as they were evacuated down to them 5-6 times a day... so may as well just stay put.

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The Bolshoi theater. Swan Lake happened to be on a few of the days I was there. Tickets were about $400. Nope. Not in the budget. Would love to see a Russian ballet at the main theater in Russia though!

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Biking views

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I really liked this.
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There's no Chinatown in Moscow. This is as close as it gets. It's a Chinese tea house. It was built by the Perlov family in order to woo the Chinese ambassador in order to get a tea contract with them. He didn't care. But Moscow loved it. So now it's an institution.

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Haha he caught me!

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So this photo I got in trouble for. We stopped right in front of the building so it was pretty hard to get a decent photo in the first place. But my guide scolded me for taking photos... oops! It's the Lubyanka building. The headquarters of the KGB and it was also a prison. There are police officers walking around the sidewalks outside all the time still.

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One of the parks we stopped at. These ponds all freeze over and become free skating rinks for Muscovites in the winter. So awesome! Just bring your skates and go!

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Some sculptures at the sculpture park.

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Biking through the park.

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So this is a sculpture of Peter the Great. Except it wasn't originally. Originally, it was a statue of Columbus. Turns out the US didn't want to buy it, so the artist changed the face to Peter's face and sold it to Russia. Haha!

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Leaving the sculpture park

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So this is the first Soviet McDonald's. There was a 6 hour line when it opened. Crazy!

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Biking though the park.

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The original Smirnoff distillery. It's not made in Russia anymore...

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Ha! This place isn't open anymore. Oh Thomas Cook... >.<

So after the tour I went to meet up with Eva. Since I had time, I figured I'd stop by this bar I saw on the way to her work.
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Looks like my kind of place!

I walked down the stairs and found it... and it was locked. Turns out they were under construction for a week... and wouldn't open back up until Monday. Just missed them! Annoying!

So I had to find a new place. I found a place called Rule Taproom only a 20-30 min walk away. So away I went!
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Yandex maps takes you down the weirdest streets. I felt like this wasn't a street at all. Turns out it was exactly where I needed to go.
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The bar across the way...

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Of course, since there are hardly any bathrooms in Moscow, that was my first order of business. How cool that the sink is a beer tap!
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And it's time for a beer.

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Belly up is the place to be!
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Eva met me here and we had a round together. She really liked her NA ginger beer. She said she plans on returning :)

After our beer, it was time to find some dinner... so remember I said we would eat at California Diner? Yep, it's that night!

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I had a smoked salmon sandwich. At least if I'm going to eat at a diner, I'm going to try to have something local-ish. Fish is it haha!
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And we had to have ice cream sundaes for dessert. They were giant. I had a brownie sundae and Eva had a banana split.

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On our way home down and down and down and down to the metro.

Friday was my day to see Lenin. So I got up early with Eva and we left at the same time, planning on meeting at home later to eat at home before heading to the train.

Lenin is open from 10am-1pm daily. Except it's not every day. Not Sundays or Mondays. And not Fridays.... GRRRRR!

So I got to Red Square and there was no Lenin to see. So time to see things again!

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Turns out when you get to Red Square before 10am, there is hardly anyone there. Hardly anyone enough to look like you're by yourself in front of St Basil's. Win!
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Colorful Red Square. Sometimes the blue sky actually came out. It was sunny and blue for awhile and then got grey again.

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GUM before it opens

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So few people! I love it!

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You can see when the sun comes out and when it's hazy...

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Moscow street art

Since Lenin was a bust and it was turning out to be a pretty nice morning, I decided to take a boat cruise. It was only an hour and turns out it would go past everything I've already seen, but I thought it would be a nice day to be on the river and nice to have different views of the buildings.
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Waiting for my tour!

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I believe this is the Krymsky bridge. Of course, the entire tour was in Russian so I have no idea what they were saying the entire time.

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We found Columbus again!

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Nice views of the Kremlin, St Basils and some cathedrals

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Red October chocolate factory. It used to produce the Russian Alenka chocolate, but it was moved in 2007. They were going to redevelop the site, but then they decided to use the space for bars, restaurants and shops and now it's quite a popular area to go in the city.

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more river views

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The best view I had the entire trip of the downtown skyline...

After my river tour, it was time to find lunch. I decided today was the day to go to Teremok, a classic and cheap Russian diner. Turns out the one I found was in a food court type thing underground kind of in a metro station. Oh well!

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I had vereniki, borscht and a mushroom&cheese crepe. Not as good as other places I've been. Definitely Russian fast food.

And now it's time to go shopping. The Ismaylov market is the place to go apparently. Has the best deals for souvenirs and is an interesting place to go.
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The very empty metro station

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Here I am! Looks like Russian Disneyworld!
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All the colorful buildings. Russia definitely used its crayolas when they were painting...

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I found a Kevin!!

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Matryoshka dolls... tons and tons on sale. Plus the giant one.

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The buildings inside. There was a vodka museum (I didn't go in. I didn't exactly know what it meant... there wasn't any explanation on the outside... and I didn't think paying $10 or whatever to walk around some dusty bottles would be a good use of money.

I walked around the market and looked at all the souvenirs and then headed inside to Disneyland... where the weather started to turn. It got a bit chilly and more overcast. As I was walking around (sadly not hungry as I had gone by a bunch of food vendors in the market and had to say no) I found a stand with mulled wine. I mean, why not? Sounds warming...!

And then after walking around (not much is open at these markets during the week. The weekends are when it's packed. With both vendors and tourists. I was happy enough with the peace) I decided it was time to see if I could find a pub nearby. Lo and behold... there was one!

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First I ended up going all the way back to the train station. And then found that I would have to walk back in the exact direction I came. Of course, I passed a Subway...

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Found one! It happened to be on a street that I didn't even realize was a street on the side of the market. Don't go inside, but go to the right (but still in the fenced off area... and there it is!)

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Some of the shops on the street.

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Time to try another beer! They didn't have much left on tap (a lot of it was sold out I guess) so I went with a can. She helped me pick one out. I just wanted a Russian IPA. This one was from Saint Petersburg. Not bad. And the pub was cute.

After my beer, it was time to head back to Eva's house. We had the train that night after all! Had to pack a daypack and get everything ready, plus make some supper to have before heading out on the 10pm train.
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A metro station on my way home.

To St Petersburg I go!!!

Posted by rhwanderlust 06:52 Archived in Russia

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