Saturday, February 5, 2011

Moscow 2011: Moscow Day 1

Moscow 2011: Moscow Day 1


We appeared to be one of the last flights to get into SVO.  The airport was pretty deserted with most shops close.  The immigration checks went by pretty quick and we were waiting for our bags only after 15 minutes when we left the plane.  I was somewhat worried our bags might have gotten lost with the many layovers and flight changes (last time we saw our bags were in Hong Kong) but thankfully they arrived without any issues.  We pre-arranged a taxi from a website pointed out by tripadvisor to pick us up from the airport.  The taxi service was two times cheaper what the hotel was going to charge.  I would recommend this option for the cost and not having to deal with taxi drivers who may not speak English or try to rip you off.  (There is also a train service available from airport to downtown but this was not feasible for us due to our late arrival.  In hindsight, the taxi service was the better option as we would not have been able to deal with the luggage and the lack of English in the train/metro).  The driver was promptly waiting for us and within 35 minutes, we were at our hotel for the next 5 days – Novotol Moscow Center.  

We again got a good deal at our hotel thanks to the Accor 50% Super Sale.  Moscow hotels are generally really expensive and cost in the range of 200 to 300 USD per night.  For the price we paid for our room, it was somewhat basic. The room itself was pretty big (we might have gotten an upgrade to a corner room but can’t confirm) and there was plenty of space.  There was a sofa bed in the room but no coffee table – kind of weird.  The hotel itself is on the outskirts of downtown Moscow but this was not an issue as there is a Metro stop next to the hotel.  There were plenty of eating options around the hotel ranging from McDonalds, a TGIF, several Japanese/Chinese restaurants and our favorite Mu-Mu.  Some pictures of the hotel:

The first place we visited in Moscow was Izmaylovo Market.  We decided on doing this first as it was a Sunday and per the guide books, most stores are open on the weekend.  The trip to the market was pretty easy once we figured out the metro system. The market was not crowded when we got there at around 10.30 in morning with some stores only starting to open.  The market sells a wide variety of souvenirs ranging from Mastroka dolls, antiques, fur jackets and hats, Russian army uniforms, etc.   

Pictures of the market:

We got done with the market around lunch time and then took the metro to the Red Square area.  At this point, we were starving and found a food court in a shopping mall.  The stalls spoke some basic English and with some pointing at food we wanted, we had a Russian lunch of baked potato, borscht soup, herring salad and a pork chop.  

With our tummies filled, we next explored the Red Square area.  The main tourist attractions such as St. Basil’s and Kremlin are all within walking distance of this area.  We could not find the entrance to the Kremlin (it’s a “fortress” with a wall surrounding it) and decided to leave Kremlin for another day where we had proper directions.  We visited St. Basil’s Cathedral where each “dome” is a chapel by itself.  It was somewhat a let down on the inside if compared to Cathedrals in Rome.  

Pictures of St. Basil from the outside (no pictures allowed inside) & Red Square:

Before calling it a day, we visited the GUM shopping mall.  This mall seems targeted at the high-end market.  There was an impressive food store inside selling high-end stuff like Jamon Ham and $1000 aged bottle of balsamic vinegar. 

GUM shopping mall from the outside:

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