Mother of Russia

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So as you may know, I went to Moscow and St Petersburg in May. These monumental cities stand out throughout European history. Like Kiev the other great Eastern European city, they date back over a millennium as focus for culture, economy and war.

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Moscow proved interesting, but oddly confusing with its circular road and undulating scenery. Despite being in Red Square and the Kremlin is never seemed to have a heart. I don’t mean emotionally. It was simply underwhelming, feeling almost provincial, a bizarre feeling for the biggest city in Europe.

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Being a period of national holidays, the roads were quieter than usual, allowing us to get around quickly. The subway system was immense, reminding me of anywhere in Eastern Europe. They do metro systems the best. And yet all the workers were from east Asia, the lower Stans states. With Polina we visited the Kremlin for its beautiful Orthodox churches, the university for a lookout over the city and Red Square where we tried to not get frostbite. We hit up some late bars, Ukrainian restaurants and a club as well, full of a mix of students, suits and I suspect coke.

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On other days, I found an old monastery and hunted down Chekhov’s grave, in the same cemetery as Yeltsin and Khrushchev. The modern art museum had an interesting exhibit about sport, featuring its present greatest Vladimir Putin in his judo gi. With Robert, an American dude working in Lithuania we travelled the metro finding the ornate stations, usually focused on some great achievement or another, and all very Soviet in emphasis. Despite its reputation, everyday in Moscow felt like Sunday.

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After a mishap with my suit, (I forgot it), I flew to the jewel of Russia, St Petersburg. Built in the 18th century by Peter the Great, its broad boulevards and French architecture got it its name as the Venice of the North. I stayed with Katya I met through couchsurfing. She turned out to be a great host, knowing the city in-and-out, finishing her PhD in art history and lecturing at the university while holding down a job in a boutique. She also interned at the Hermitage, the great museum of Russia, containing various treasures obtained through various means. I constantly saw articles I recognised while trying to avoid the hordes of Chinese tourists wielding cameras at anything on a wall.

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We also went to Peterhof built for Peter’s wife, a grand Russian Versailles. On other days I spent time searching for little glass animals presents, apparently famous in St Petersburg. We walked to the fortress, ate in a Soviet style restaurant that reminded me of that place in Kiev Jan and I went too often. I took pictures of grandiose monuments, enormous churches and vast squares. In the UK we planned cities and they looked like Milton Keynes. Peter had a better idea. I also found a cool punkish bar. I enjoyed it. I’ll be back.

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