I have been in Moscow for 5 days and have to say I really like the place. It has been great to walk through so many landmarks that I have been familiar with since childhood, when they were beamed into our front rooms during the Cold War. Red Square is a particular favourite of mine and it amazes me every time I walk through it.
I had a great few days with Martyn Green during which we walked all around the very heart of Moscow and also frequented more than one of the local hostelries. The people are friendly and, In my opinion, you can sense a little bit of national pride and excitement that the World Cup, for which they have been planning for years, is about to begin in their country….and quite rightly so. The city is immaculately kept and is full of impressive buildings and structures. The press boxes are all nearly completed at the southern end of Red Square and as the various presenters introduce their programs around the world, they will have the very impressive St Basils Chapel as their backdrop.
In true World Cup tradition my liver & kidneys are already under assault and the competition hasn’t even started yet. I’ve just been wandering around the city this morning and down by the FIFA ticketing centre and the fans are starting to roll in. I’ve seen Peru, France & Argentinian shirts moving around and everyone has smiles on their faces and you can palpate the excitement that is building. It was great to watch mates moving away from the ticketing centre, tickets in hand and laughing and joking with each other knowing they are about follow their teams World Cup campaign.
I’ve had a crazy nigh out with an American guy called ‘Cosmo’ who I met on the free walking tour and a mad Turkish bloke who had the exact personality and looks of the Russian cosmonaught in the film ‘Armageddon’. It ended with me walking (slightly staggering), across Red Square, with McDonald’s milk shake in my hand, whilst the sun was already well into its course across the heavens.
I am in a hostel called ‘The Cube’, in which you literally live in a small box about 1 meter wide by 2 ½ long. My initial thoughts of ‘WTF’ have been replace by a liking of the design and how well it actually works!
I have booked my trains and accomodation to Volgograd and Nizhnhy Novogrod where england will play their first 2 games. I have a room in an apartment in Volgograd and a whole apartment in the second location, both of which cost less than £8 a day!!!
Things I’ve learnt about Moscow.
1) The name Red Square has nothing to do with the colour of the place etc its translates to ‘Beautiful Square’
2) The average winter temperature is about -20
3) The flag on top of the kremlin stays up permanently, not just to indicate if the premier is in residence.
4) St Basils Chapel is in-fact 8 Separate chapels put together, of which only one was originally called st basils, the name was eventually used to describe the whole complex.
5) Lenin’s body is embalmed and lies in a mausoleum in the centre of the west side of the Square,
6) Stalin’s Body used to be next to Lenin’s but when the communist state collapsed he was moved and buried next to the mausoleum
7) Stalin’s memory is going through something of a resurgence and he is being thought of fondly…..the 20 million + of his own citizens who he had killed are conveniently forgotten
8) Where nuclear missiles and tanks used to pass through the square on Russia day (this Tuesday), they are now being replaced by a free concert…
9) On 28th 1987 Mathias Rust, a German teenager managed to fly a light aircraft through the worlds most heavily defended airspace and eventually end up with the plane parked in-front of St Basils Chapel. He did the flight in the name of peace and it certainly was a small factor which contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
10) I really like the place.