Flying back from Cyprus via Aeroflot next May and decided to spend three days in Moscow. We’re aware of the visa issues and are working on obtaining them. (We are USAians.)
We’re planning on staying in the Arbat area. Any suggestions for the best way to spend three days? We will, of course, do the usual Red Square, St. Basil, etc., but I would appreciate advice and input from anyone re places, transportation, clothing, and so forth.
This assumes, of course, that we are still at peace with them…
May weather should be mild. Allow for rain (take an umbrella), but you aren’t going to need a big furry hat. A medium-thick jacket and a scarf should be ample.
The biggest difficulty for tourists is that Moscow just isn’t very tourist friendly - there’s no tourist information office, even (or wasn’t when I went).
The underground metro network is extensive and runs very well (and is a dazzling monument to Soviet Russia), this is how you’ll get around. Road names and train stations are all in cyrillic script only, so the map in Latin alphabet you buy before you get there won’t be much help. Learn to count the stops on the metro so you know when to get off the train.
Restaurants will likely have menus in English if you stick to the centre of town.
Visit the Park of the Fallen Monuments - great collection of old revolutionary/Soviet era statues.
As far as Cyrillic goes, if you want to give it a shot, you should be able to pick it up with a day or two of study, especially if you know Greek letters. The G sound looks like a gamma; the P sound looks like pi. The D sound perhaps a stylized delta. Etc.
I lived there in 1977. I have no suggestions, as it has changed too much since I was there, but I just wanted to say, have fun.
No, wait, I do have a suggestion. See if you can get tickets to either the Bolshoi or the circus. The Russian circus is nothing like the US circus. It’s more like Cirque de Soleil with some stand-up comedy, and close-up magic. I don’t know how long the Bolshoi season runs, but I think they do some spring and summer performances because of the number of tourists who come into town. You’ll see something from the repertoire, not a new ballet, probably, but seeing the Bolshoi do Swan Lake is an experience not to be missed.
Agreed with others that Moscow just isn’t very tourist friendly. Red Square, St. Basil’s, the Kremlin, and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior are in the same area and a nice way to spend several hours. The Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow is also amazing. If you have transportation and can get outside the city, the monastery at Sergiev Posad is beautiful.
Excellent input and suggestions so far. Thank you!
Anyone have any comments or input re cell service? Using Google Translate with cell camera to translate Cyrillic signs? As was mentioned in one response, we are fairly comfortable with the Greek alphabet, having used it on Cyprus to decode traffic signs.
The only other thing I can add is be sure to visit a Georgian restaurant while you’re out there. It’s not a cuisine that is well-known here in the US, but I find it fantastic. I’ve only been to Moscow three times and, while I enjoy Russian food because of my Polish roots (there are many similarities), Georgian food was just something else all together. It’s like a cross between Slavic, Mediterranean, and perhaps South Asian food. Lots of herbs, spices, and stuff like walnuts and sour plum sauce.
My experiences with Moscow is that it is … well … an acquired taste. It’s not a city that is immediately friendly and open to tourists. I find it fascinating and have grown to enjoy it, but my first visit left me quite frustrated. The subway system is a fricking work of art there, though. It’s just amazing.
Just one anecdote to share, because I’ve always wanted to share it:
My first visit to Moscow, I’m sitting on a bench in Red Square with my former roommate and current Moscow resident. He speaks fluent Russian and is kind of my guide to Moscow. (He went on to be a professor of Russian studies, a think tank guy, occasionally heard on BBC and news programs speaking about Russian relations with the West, etc.) I can kind of sort of get by with Russian via my Polish knowledge,but it’s really choppy. Anyhow, I’m sitting on the bench, smoking a cigarette when a member of what I assume is the Russian underclass approaches me and asks me for a cigarette and a light. Of course, I oblige. I give him a cigarette, light it for him, and he walks away. About 30 seconds later, he walks back to me, shakes my hand, and then says something which is beyond my 1st grade Russian skills. As he walks away, I notice my friend chuckling to himself. I say, “What are you laughing at? What did he say?” My friend says, “Well, he said. 'I apologize. That was very rude of me. I didn’t thank you. Thank you for the cigarette. And if anyone ever disrespects you, let me know and I shall kill him.”