A foreign country not only with a foreign language, but also with a foreign script. The largest in the world, repeatedly attacked but never defeated. Proud and stubborn to this day, indomitable even if all the other large western states continue to criticize. Russia is different, as is its capital Moscow. You must have seen that.
Moscow, that's all I know Moscow, Moscow, where shall I go in Moscow, sung the famous band Wonderland a million years ago and the singer was after a girl, of sure. But I've got to get her back again, he sings, so today I'll take the train to Moscow. But this town is a very good destination for other ones too: It's the greatest town of all of Europa, a true capital with more than 12 million inhabitants. And 30 years after the end of the communist era the mega town has nothing to do with all of the thins we foreigners think about her.
It isn't grey
No, Moscow these days isn't grey, it isn't old, it isn't boring, dusty or in ruins. The opposite is true: If you walk the streets of the russian capital you will see a very modern city with a lot of interesting buildings, a lot of students and young party people, tourists from all over the world and all the things you know from Paris, New York or Rome. Yes, they have Uber. The have Starsbucks. Yes, they have bicycles to rent. And the internet is everywhere.
It is quite surprising to arrive at the airport, because a lot here is still different than elsewhere. You can't just take a taxi from the taxi rank, because that's forbidden. Russia, a state that has had a large tradition of permits from the Soviet era, it is necessary to get a taxicab at an extra booth. You are surrounded by countless taxi brokers, who of course all have the very best offers. Once you've got hold of a ticket, you're already sitting in a car, not in an old Russian limousine, for example, but in a Mercedes Benz.
Next to Kremlin
The driver doesn't speak English, so it seems that is is a good idea to give him an address. Ours is right in the center, right next to the Kremlin and Red Square. And the hotel is still not expensive, although Moscow is always at the top of all world rankings in terms of cost of living.
The hotel is also clean, very cozy and with a music bar in the basement, which we will talk about later. Another surprise when exploring the area for the first time: Directly opposite is the state administration, a small district with large German-made cars that is guarded by military personnel.
But they smile friendly and let anyone pass. Police state Russia, but nice. The whole city looks like it has been freshly cleaned, there are construction cranes everywhere, there is construction, construction and renovation.
The traffic here in the city center is rather tame and clear, nobody honks, but that's not advisable, because at all intersections there are police officers who apparently also effectively prevent anyone from smearing the walls with graffiti, as is customary in Germany. Moscow is clean, time and again you see women and men sweeping the streets, sweeping the paths and emptying waste paper bins.
In excellent condition
The buildings are impressive from the first moment, many are ancient, many are shiny new and almost all of them are in excellent condition. So many churches! For a country from which the west has almost completely turned away, everything seems to be working very well. There is no longer any comparison with the old days of the Cold War, when Moscow was better off than the rest of the Soviet Union. But the city has never had a chance in these days to compare it with western capitals.
That's over. Now Moscow plays on the same level. So many churches, all with the unique onion domes, in between large town houses from the time before the revolution. Moscow has parks and large squares, with the Moskva River in the middle, on which excursion boats sail, and impressive bridges from which the view opens far into the city.
Books are everywhere
You have to try Moscow ice cream, a specialty, but also see what the Russians are doing while they are out and about. For example, they read, and they do this without a mobile, becauser they mostly read books. Everywhere they sit on park benches and in buses and in the subway, which is unique in the world. And reading. Really true. Where else can you see that?
Past the famous Bolshoi Theater and the headquarters of the KGB, which used to be known to be so cruel, it goes around the inner city ring. Every stone here is pure history, a document of fallen empires, of revolutions, of great men and brace women. There are monuments everywhere, some old, some only newfangled art.
The sky arches over the city with black clouds, but the sun shines on a Moloch that doesn't look as if it is four times the size of Berlin. Moscow appears contemplative, without the usual hectic pace of the big metropolises. A good place to be we think after a few russian beers at the evening. Out on the streets the youth plays party.
(will be continued)
A few more pictures for you: