before you go … MOSCOW

Juniapetur, The World, Rebooted ®
Moscow, Russia

(tell me MORE)

Moscow is both elegant and dreary. Visit the subways and be prepared to be awed; it is some of the best public architecture anywhere. Cruise the Moscow canals in the heart of the city and you’ll be in beautiful undeveloped countryside.

Then there’s all the rest:

Smog, bad roads, jammed traffic and dreary Communist era housing, including those 7 Stalin buildings straight out of Ayn Rand (who, by the way, was born in Russia). Moscow has relic after relic underscoring how bad architecture can really get (think East Berlin during the Cold War – dead, dreary, distant and cold).

Moscow, the dichotomy. fascinates. It’s because of Russia’s history:

Russia regularly, for centuries, has embraced, then pushed away from the west. An early Czar decreed the country would be Christian and from that day on, it has been. The Communists were atheists, but the Russian people have always been deeply religiously Russian Orthodox Christians.

Peter the Great built a truly western city in the 18th century, St. Petersburg, and made it his capital. When the Communists seized control of Russia in 1917, Lenin returned the capital to Moscow, and there it has remained. The drawing closer to the west (end of the Cold War) and pulling away (Putan and more recent history), therefore, is nothing new – just continuing iterations of Russian history.

The Muscovites are not unfriendly, but they wary Ask a simple question and you may sense the person answering has odd questions running through his head (“why do you want to know that?” “what are you really up to?” etc). That’s a collective paranoia from the Czar/Communist days hardwired into the culture. Shrug it off.

There’s much more to see in Moscow off the regular tourist track. Sure, you’ll walk Lenin’s tomb (hurry, he may be kicked out sooner than anyone thinks). You’ll prowl the Kremlin and stroll past the building where Lenin worked. A church that Stalin leveled has been rebuilt so meticulously you’ll think it’s the original from the middle ages. And then there’s GYM (“government department store”) on Red Square dating from the1890s that sports some of the highest priced merchandise in the world (a $30,000 scarf anyone?). And a block further, the notorious Lubyanka Prison, once an innocuous 19th century insurance company, and now, still, in the 21st century home to the Russian secret police (yup, they still exist).

Don’t miss: Riding the Moscow subways; the 1930s shipping terminal that Stalin built; go in one of Stalin’s seven buildings and visit Lenin’s Tomb (but watch your step, it’s dark in there).

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