Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Russia & Sweden 2014

Hello, Moscow - better late than never!

It had been a strange and somewhat disorientating day so far. Following short positioning journeys the previous day, Sunday had got underway at London's Heathrow Airport. Flying a Boeing 747, an aircraft type normally associated with intercontinental flights, and experiencing a substantial three-hour time difference, both made the journey seem longer than it actually was. The arrival process at Domodedovo Airport had been slow, chaotic, unwelcoming and unprofessional - not the best start in a new country. The 90-minute transfer in the hotel car had been pleasant enough, except for the astonishing fact that we witnessed five road traffic collisions en route, the first two of which had taken place inside the airport car park! Close to journey's end, the driver had made a point of taking us right past the Kremlin's walls, causing much gawping and jaw-dropping on our part, as though we were a couple of youthful amateurs let loose with passports for the first time.

ABOVE: Absolutely not a typical traffic pattern on Tverskaya Street!

And finally here we were, newly settled into plush new surroundings at the InterContinental hotel in Tverskaya Street. Having briefly freshened up and with clothing suitably adjusted for the heatwave conditions, it was now time to venture outside and get a feel for the immediate neighbourhood. Our explorations got off to something of a comical start, because on this, reputedly the most expensive street in Moscow, the first thing we saw was a rickety old farm tractor heading ponderously out of town.

It was a short distance to Pushkin Square, an elongated open space cut in two by Tverskaya Street. As the most popular meeting place in town, it's reckoned to be one of the busiest squares on the planet. The main feature in the section to the northeast of Tverskaya Street is a bronze statue of Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), which was erected by public subscription in 1880. Pushkin is the best loved of Russian poets, and fresh flowers appear on the pedestal throughout the seasons, even in the depths of the bitter Moscow winter.

At the far end of the square, the Rossiya Theatre (formerly the Pushkinsky cinema) was festooned with advertisements for its current production, the musical Chicago. Our attention was attracted by one of the theatre's near-neighbours, situated just off the square. The not-very-snappily named Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God at Putinki was a spectacular creation with no fewer than six so-called tented roofs, the five tallest of which were surmounted by small blue onion domes and glistening gold crosses.

The other side of Pushkin Square, lying southwest of Tverskaya Street, was more park-like in character. It was also the location of the country’s first-ever branch of McDonald’s, at one time the busiest in the world. From what we could see, it was still very much a crowd-puller.

In due course we made our way back to base, where the most attractive lobby bar was our venue of choice for cocktails and a light supper. I sampled a Negroni and - what else? - a Moscow Mule, both nicely made and well presented.  A selection of Yakitori skewers, again beautifully presented, provided delicious and well proportioned sustenance. It was an enjoyable end to an interesting and diverse day. We retired for the night full of anticipation for the following day's sightseeing programme.

Sunday 18 May

Next Day