There Is No Cow in Moscow

St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square

St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square

MOSCOW is the heart of the Russian beast, of course, documented from at least the mid-12th century and prominent since the 1300’s as the Grand Duchy of Moscow.  Before that it was just a village on the river Moskva.  It lost some prominence in the 1700’s with the founding of Saint Petersburg, but regained it in the Soviet era.  It withstood the onslaught and sieges of Napoleon in the early 1800’s, ditto Hitler in WWII, so naturally became a little bit defensive about the challenge laid down by the US during the Cold War.   Already the head of a 15-nation USSR with a strong buffer zone in Europe’s own Warsaw Pact, Moscow increasingly found itself at the center of an empire spreading (ideologically at least) all over the world, first China and Mongolia then North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, with more to come, increasingly more totalitarian dictatorships than economic socialists—Angola, Ethiopia, Libya, Syria, Nicaragua, Afghanistan (sound of needle scratching long and hard over vinyl)—and the rest is history.

Communism fell, and after a rough start, Moscow’s future is bright at the head of a reinvigorated Russia, as long as the Mafia gets their cut.  It’s more than a little bit ironic that twenty years after communism’s fall, Moscow has more billionaires than any other place in the world, and I doubt that the GINI poverty index is so good, either.  Moscow’s Commie rep as a drab collection of khaki-colored comrades sipping cold soup in cement-grey cell-blocks is a thing of the distant past.  Today Moscow puts the ‘vibe’ in ‘vibrant’ with the word ‘nonstop’ plastered all over, from café to pub to all-night disco.  And of course they’ve always had some of the finest literature, music, dance, and art the world has ever seen.  Catch the classic rock band Mumiy Troll.  And there’s still the Kremlin and St. Basil’s and Matrioshka dolls just waiting to have their outer layers removed.

The Kremlin includes the Saviour (Spasskaya) Tower, leading to Red Square. Also on the Red Square is the St. Nicholas (Nikolskaya) Tower. The two other principal gate towers—the Trinity (Troitskaya) Tower, with a bridge and outer barbican (the Kutafya Tower), and the Borovitskaya Tower—rise from the western wall.  Churches and other landmarks include the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Cathedral of the Annunciation, the Palace of Facets, the ArmouryPalace and ArmouryMuseum.  Hostels are good but not cheap, and then there are the regulatory hassles.  Persevere.  It’s got to be worth it for that train, right?

There are a dozen Moscow hostels listed in the book with full specs and contact info.  The book can be purchased from Amazon for less than a ten-spot US.  Have you been to Moscow?  Where did you go?  For more information on Russia and snippets of my travels, look here: