Ever thought about going to Moscow for a holiday? No? Matt Cassidy tells us why you should reconsider.
So you have completed the laborious task of gaining a visa to the Russian Federation but what is there to do?
Have a look about
Simply amazing. Most people will have seen Red Square on TV but its true magnificence can only be fully embraced when you are standing in the middle during a 360 twirl. I visited in February so the Christmas market was still on the go and you can go skating in the rink that was constructed - I chickened out.
Lenin's body is also something history buffs cannot miss. However, the Bolshevik leader is displayed only for four hours a day and with it being free to see the leader of the Russian revolution, the queues are continuous. Also remember not to talk in the tomb - the guards get rather tetchy about it.
Being Red Square, you will be searched by security when going into any building so the less stuff you have on your person the better.
Churches and cathedrals
You do not need to be a devout believer in the Lord above to appreciate churches in Moscow; they are stunning feats of architecture, Saint Basil's in Red Square and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour are the perfect shots for your instagram. But show respect inside - no talking is allowed, if you can overcome being dumbfounded by the sheer scenery that is in front of you. The Kremlin is also awesome and a must see.
Capitalism has taken a hold in Russia. All the huge fashion brands such as Dior, Gucci, Victoria's Secret and many more are present in Moscow. If you love shopping, Moscow is the place for you. Even if going round the mall for a deal is not your thing the shopping centres are feats of architectures themselves.
Take a trip on the metro
Train stations in Russia are famed for their architecture and Moscow's metro is probably the finest. There are great works of art as well as sculptures dotted all around the stations. There are also the longest elevators in the world. For any Bourne Trilogy fans, the station that is in the film is well worth a shot. The metro is a cheap and efficient way of getting round Moscow and the ticket can also be used on the bus as well.
But remember to get off at the right stop especially at night. After a few jars, I decided to wander off the train at the wrong station away from my friend. Needless to say I sobered up fast.
Pints pints pints
A night out on the town is a good one in Moscow. I must admit my preconceived ideas of what of Russian pub would be - an old foul smelling cabin was blown out of the water. The bars and clubs are funky, cool, and most importantly, lively. The rouble was weak when I travelled, so eight one litre beer bottles and four pizzas cost the grand total of €20 - cheap as chips. Shisha is also freely available for those who wish to indulge in flavoured smoke.
Booze wise the Russians seem to be into their craft beers. Of course, trying the vodka is compulsory - superior to your naggin from the offie.
Russian cuisine is not famous around the world and to be honest I stuck with what I knew - good old burger and chips. There are plenty of American style diners as well as Japanese and Georgian style restaurants to fill the gap. But give a bit of leeway for the service, as you may have finished your main course before your friend has received his/her starter.
Always be sure to ask for bottled water. What comes out of the tap is well, anything but water.
Genuine Russian vodka is always a good present but from my own experience I was inundated with requests for Matryoshka dolls and therefore came home with a case load. The wooden ones are cheap but if you feel the need to burn the cash get yourself the ceramic version. Be warned they weigh a tonne.
What to expect at the airport
Going through passport control is not a pleasant experience in Russia. Although you might not speak a word to the person behind the glass, he/she is giving a real grilling with just the eyes alone. Eventually the 'questioning' process is finished and you are handed two immigration cards which you sign. You are given one to keep for the duration of your holiday. This card or piece of paper is needed for registration at a hotel and when leaving the country. Losing it is not worth thinking about.
So a few reasons why you should go to Moscow. Have you applied for your visa yet?