Today's guest post takes us east to enchanting Russia as Ashley R. Cummings shares five tips for getting the most out of a visit to Moscow.
The thought of traveling around a country with a culture and an alphabet that is completely unfamiliar can be intimidating at first. If you pocket some important information about Moscow before you embark on your trip, however, you are ensured to have a great experience. Here are a few things I tell any friend who is planning a trip to Moscow.
Unless you are planning to pack a fur hat, coat, thermal underwear, sweaters, a ski mask and wool socks, go to Russia in the late spring or summer. Summertime in Russia is beautiful, and since most of your travel requires more walking than the average person is used to, it is nice to not experience what it feels like to be an icicle.
Thinking and walking like a New Yorker will bring you one step closer to thinking and walking like a Russian.
Russians walk at lightning speeds without making eye contact or smiling, and don’t be surprised if you get pushed and shoved in a line, on the metro, or in a bus. This is normal. It doesn’t mean they are upset, it just means they are in a bigger hurry than you. That being said, even though Russians may have a stern look on their face and may not stop their car for you when you are crossing the street (seriously, look both ways), Russians are happy to help with directions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Much of the beauty of Moscow lies underground. Each metro station is clean and ornamented in beautiful décor that you won’t want to miss. However, there are some things to know before entering a metro tunnel. Everything is written in Russian. When you buy a map, make sure to buy a map that has Russian letters and the English transliteration, and then think of it as a matching game. You don’t need to be able to read Russian to navigate the subway, you just need to be able to recognize the letters and the metro line color. Despite what you might hear, the metro is well constructed and easy to follow. If you simply chart out where you want to be before you enter the metro, and then count the number of station stops before you get off, you will get to your destination in a timely manner.
Russian food is delicious.
If you see borsch (beetroot soup) on a menu, don’t automatically think of the canned beets your grandma used to force down your gullet as a child. Keep and open mind and an open pallet and you will be pleasantly surprised at how delicious your new favorite soup tastes. You will also want to try pelmeni (a meat dumpling), galuptsy (meat filled cabbage), pirozhki (bread cakes with yumminess inside), and vareniki (vegetable or fruit filled dumplings). Yum. Unless you have an adventurous pallet, some foods to avoid are sala (think of an inch of bacon fat), kholodetz (meat jello), and kvas (bread juice…I personally like this one, but most foreigners don’t).
Be sure to visit Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the city center, on Red Square. For good luck, you can toss some rubles over your shoulder in the city center and make a wish. On Red Square, you can also see the embalmed corpse of the fearless Russian leader, Lenin, which is creepy and cool. Make sure to check your camera, unless you are interested in what a Russian jail looks like. The Kremlin is also right next-door. If you are interested in buying a martryoska (stacking Russian dolls), do not buy them at Red Square. Buy them at Old Arbat Street and you will save a ton of money. Remember that Russians are used to bargaining, so you can bargain your way down in price. You will also not want to miss the Temple of Christ our Savior, the Tretyakovskaya Gallery, the Pushkin museum and Victory Park, to name a few.
Russia is one of the most enchanting and amazing places in the world. If you know these few things, you are sure to have an amazing adventure in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.