Within a whirlwind of events, I managed to catch only a glimpse of Moscow's incredible city. The buildings are prodigious and trigger the "ooo, look at that," and "wow, did you see that?" conversation. Since we were only in Moscow for two nights, we will certainly be returning for a longer and more adventurous stay very soon.
We stayed just a few subway stops away from the center of the city. If there's one form of transportation you take while in Moscow, let it be the subway.
Each stop is slightly different from the previous. Some have chandeliers, while others have stained glass windows. Regardless of where you stop, there will be a beauty and a cleanliness that has been lost on other subway systems around the world (London, you do a pretty good job).
We went out with some new friends, colleagues of Tyler through Fulbright, the second night to a small bar called Pivbar, where we enjoyed some beers and brats.
I mentioned my desire to see the Red Square at night, the only one in the group never having seen it, and to my pleasant surprise, everyone decided to join.
We ventured into the cool Moscow night, bundled up in our not-quite-winter clothes, past the always impressive Four Seasons Hotel, and finally through the arches that revealed our destination.
The square is surrounded by the Kremlin and Lenin's tomb on one side, G.U.M. and the National Museum on the other two sides.
And finally, Saint Basil's at the far end.
I walked home with a great satisfaction and lingering thrill at the sights I had just seen for the first time.
The next day, Tyler and I had a big breakfast to fuel us through the morning and ventured back into the city, to the same place, to see a now familiar sight in an entirely different light (and to do a bit of shopping, no doubt).
We strolled down different streets, taking our time, walking by not-yet-opened boutiques, passing important people on their way to important meetings, and students taking a last drag off a cigarette before beginning a morning class.
Eventually, we came across the arches once more that ever so carefully show passers by what they're missing.
Isn't it beautiful? Picture it covered in snow.
For now, it's fall and GUM or ГУМ in Russian, "Glavniy Universalniy Magazin," is in full fall swing, decorated to a tee. I can't imagine how beautiful it must be at Christmas.
Similar to Les passages couverts in Paris, its ceiling is entirely covered in glass and arches over the main hallway.
There are three stories of luxury shops (Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, and Manolo Blahnik to name a few), a movie theatre, lots of small cafes, and a speciality grocery store, sure to make any self-professed foodie weak at the knees.
Gastronom №1 is a store filled to the brim with imported and local goods, each section housing a different variety of food.
It spans nearly the entire length of GUM on one side and is decked in the same glamor that the rest of the building is adorned in.
Why aren't all grocery stores complete with marble floors and walls, with chandeliers dropping from the ceilings and old bookshelves housing all sorts of goodies?
My favorite part of Gastronome №1 was of course the pastry counter. I pressed my body against the marble and pointed at everything that I wanted to try, but having been so full from breakfast, settled on just one warm, custard filled, powdered sugar topped, almond croissant. It's a proper croissant that is equally flaky as it is moist, leaving a trail of crumbs throughout your scarf.
I grabbed a Russian Harper's Bazaar on the way out, popped into a few other stores, not nearly as tasty, and then out the main revolving doors.
I glanced back once more before leaving Red Square, excited about my next trip to see so much more, but pretty pleased with the glimpse I'd caught.
P.S. I'd love to hear any suggestions of things I should see or do next time I'm in Moscow. Leave me a comment below and I'll be sure to check it out!