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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Russia - Moscow 7.5

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  • Leningradskiy Train Station
  • Hotel National
  • Moscow Free tour
  • St. Basil's Cathedral
  • Gum Department Store
  • Japanese restaurant

30 minutes before the train glided into Moscow Leningradskiy Train station, our train attendant knocked on our door to ask if we wanted some coffee or tea in Russian.  Although we did not get too much sleep that night, we were too wired to feel tired.  The train arrived on time at 7:55 AM.  Once we got out of the train, we easily spotted our driver arranged through our hotel.  

15 minutes and 1,500 rubles later, we were at the Hotel National checking in.  The classic Hotel National in Moscow is the total opposite of swanky W hotel that we stayed in St. Petersburg.  Built in 1903, it has a rich history.  Lenin stayed here in room 107 in March 1918.  The location of Hotel National is excellent.  It sits opposites of Red Square, and has a metro station next to it.  

Our room was not ready yet when we arrived, so we decided to get some breakfast at a random cafe nearby. The city was slowly waking up, and traffic was getting busy.  It was clear we were not in St. Petersburg anymore.  The city felt more commercial, crowded, and busier.   The weather was about a few degrees warmer as well. 

We had booked the Moscow Free Tour online for this morning at 10:45 AM.   In St. Petersburg, we had not gotten any chance to take the Metro.  I was glad to finally get a chance to take it to our tour meeting point, Slavyanskaya Square.   Our tour guide, Airat, was a colleague student majoring in Political Science who spoke great English.  He did a great job not only feeding us historical and factual information, but also engaged in some interesting conversations about Russian culture and politics today.  

The 2.5 hours took us through most major sights in Moscow and ended in Christ the Savior Cathedral.  We were glad to do the tour the first thing when we arrived in Moscow.  It was a quick way to get us oriented and to plan what sights we wanted to come back and visit. 

By the time the tour was over, our room was ready for us.  Before we walked back to our hotel, we stopped by the gorgeous GUM, which stands for State Department Store.  Created a century ago, The building was magnificent with ornate facade and glassed ceilings which occupied almost the full eastern side of Red Square.  It housed many top designer shops and probably was one of the most gorgeous department stores I have ever seen. 

We went inside the Gastronome No. 1, a gourmet shop inside the GUM.  I guess all the sour creams & dills in almost every Russian dishes had gotten to us, and H was really craving for a cold cut sandwich. We did some food shopping, headed back to our hotel to finally take a shower, make sandwiches for lunch, and take a much needed nap. 

We left the hotel after a couple hours of rest, and walked back to the Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral.  Bigger than the Church of spoiled blood in St. Petersbugr, St. Basil's Cathedral stood on the north end of the Red Square.    From afar, it almost seemed unreal that these onion shaped domes and vibrant colored architecture should only exist in a fairytail.   

The Cathedral opened late in the summer time.  By now, we were sort of used to the a-lar-carte admission fees through out all the Russian tourist sites.  However, it was the first that I saw an additional cost for Photography (160 rubles) and videotography (180 rubles).  As elaborated and impressive the exterior of the cathedral was, it could not be said about the interior.  

After the Cathedral, we were ready for dinner.  Both H and I really enjoyed the Georgian food at Kavkaz Bar in St. Petersburg, so for dinner, we decided to take Metro to Genatsvale restaurant for Georgian food again.  Once again, we were running circles trying to locate the restaurant.  It was another frustrating hour long search.  Finally, a super nice Ukraine woman walked with us for a good 15 minutes to bring us to the restaurant.  But guess what? The restaurant was closed for private event!! Of course, as I am writing and visiting the restaurant website for the first time, I just discover that Genatsvale restaurant has a few locations in Moscow. UGH!

Once again, we found ourselves in the situation that we were too tired, hungry, and annoyed to sum up the strength to look for another restaurant.  And frankly, I was done looking for addresses in Russia.  I just wanted some familiar comforting food at this point.  We ended stopping by a Japanese restaurant on the way back to the hotel to have some sushi & noodles for dinner.  It was not Georgian food, but nonetheless comforting. Walking out of the restaurant, I was in a better mood. 


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