(Carl here) since Kathy posted some thoughts on St Petersburg I figured I need to catch up a bit on our time in Russia while we’re drinking our coffee in Helsinki. Next post will include the pickpocket attempt in St Petersburg.
We had nice weather for our last day in Moscow. Cold (mid 40s F) but sunny with a little wind. We had breakfast at our hotel and headed to Red Square to visit St Basil’s. We queued up for tickets (500 rubles each) at the gate around 10:45. The guard opened the gate promptly at 11:00 with bells in the square ringing in the hour. The automated ticket machine was broken (surprise) so we got tickets at the window. The church interior is a warren of narrow passageways and dark chapels (which may actually be individual churches) with some icons and architectural detail displays. There was a group of four men singing a capella in one of the chapels to plug their CD. The singing was impressive, especially the bass resonating throughout the chamber, and my favorite part of the visit. The displays (descriptions in Russian and English) about the Fools for Christ (yurodstvo) were interesting – people who apparently undertook all kinds of ‘foolish’ actions in the name of Christ. I imagine their lives were pretty miserable and that means of escape provided some relief (and derision from others). All told I thought the exterior was much more interesting than the interior (skipping the interior wouldn’t be a great loss).
We ate lunch at Dolmama Armenian restaurant which we found nearby in Google Maps. The entrance is back off the street behind an Armenian church so a bit tricky to find. The restaurant facade is nondescript and the inside is nicely decorated. We ordered a couple of appetizers and mains from the English version of the menu. However what showed up was not quite what we ordered (or so we thought). They were close but the English descriptions may have been mistranslated or our waitress may have misunderstood. For instance one dish was supposed to be eggplant stuffed with ground beef and rice but we got a whole baked eggplant simply dressed with oil. The best dish we had was pancakes (crepes) filled with ground meat and spices, served with sour cream. The Armenian wine wasn’t bad (but the price was – around $12 a glass). Altogether lunch was around $60. Though a bit pricey for what we received my main complaint is that we didn’t seem to get what we ordered. Oh well.
We had heard that Arbat Street was a good place to (s)troll for souvenirs so we did. It was disappointing, with the usual complement of shops, guys shoving flyers at you, and folks dressed up as historical figures, movie characters, large animals (think King Julian from Madagascar), etc.
The rest of the day was spent playing metro tourist, ie, visiting some of the more interesting metro stations on the various lines. The design and detail in some of the stations was impressive but our favorite was Revolution station with statues to communist soldiers, workers, kids, pets, etc.
We spent that evening preparing for our midnight train ride to St Petersburg, doing laundry, packing, organizing – the fun part of travel. Do svidaniya Moscow.