My recent visit to Moscow (my first stop on a two-week trip to Europe) was a lot different than usual (aka visiting family). Growing up in Moscow, I was only exposed to some of the city’s attractions, sort of like most native New Yorkers that have never been to Statue of Liberty. This time I decided to “attack” the city as any other tourist would. In fact, before I left I even went through Frommer’s Tour Guide of Moscow.
At the end of the week, I felt very torn. On one hand, I saw A LOT (Kremlin, Red Square, Moscow River, Novodevichy Convent, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Bolshoi Theatre, Tretyakov Gallery, and many other churches/buildings/bridges/museums/etc. that the city was studded with)… some places even for the first time. And it felt so close and familiar and dear to my heart. However, on the other hand, i felt saddened by the condition of the city and perplexed by strange habits of the Muscovites. For example, I realized that my aunt’s apartment building (part of 1980s build out of identical complexes all around Moscow outskirts) has not been renovated since it was built. So inside, apartments had modern electronics, furniture, fast internet access, but from outside, the buildings looked like they were going to crumble down at any moment (though I was impressed that Russians could build elevators that ran for 30 years+). The same sad state of disrepair seemed to affect a large percentage of Moscow buildings, both residential and commercial. But among those, there were also beautifully renovated old and newly designed buildings, churches, bridges, etc. that reminded me of when I was growing up… when things were better or at least, better-maintained.
Moving from sad to peculiar… I definitely couldn’t relate to some of the Moscow fashions. Apparently, men in Moscow can’t leave home without their over shoulder “man” purse and a rather large beer belly. And I really mean… most men. And most women were dressed either very provocatively or like they just walked off a fashion runway (in flashy designer clothes)… at 11 am on a weekday!
But the most disappointing of all was still the absence of customer service (AND sometimes outright rudeness) and basic tourism-related “amenities” (i.e. w/c, signs, etc.) that I am so used to in NYC.
Still, despite of some negativity that i’d encountered, Moscow was different, visually stunning and photo rich. The strong hold of Christian Orthodox faith was prominently on display throughout every corner of the city. The arts and architecture were a peculiar blend of leftover communist symbols and budding modernism. It’s unlike any European city I’ve seen… well, except maybe St. Petersburg, but more on that later.
Below are some of my favorite photos from the trip. For the full collection, see my Moscow set on Flickr.