Our Diary News from Moscow

The Hotel Cosmos was a huge building - we were on the 23rd floor and had a magnificent view of the Cosmonauts Park across the road. This museum/exhibition was dedicated to the achievements of the Russians in the space race. On display were bits and pieces from their historic flights and scale models of most of their satellites and the space station. The displays were great but it would have been better if they utilised some of their space technology to get the videos, computers and cinema to work!

Our hotel was out in the suburbs; with a sense of adventure we navigated our way around Moscow via the Metro. Although straight-forward and reasonably-priced, for foreigners it has a few quirks. The maps and station signs are all in the Cyrillic alphabet. Still OK - but the big stumbling block is that station signs are few and far between. The trains run at high speed and the names flash past. Counting stops was the only way to navigate. The trains ran frequently - one every two to three minutes - so if you made a mistake it didn't take long before you could correct your error. This lack of signage seemed to be a Russian speciality. However, the Metro has some remarkable stations, architecture wise - following the advice from our Lonely Planet guide we toured about 10 stations to view the interesting sculptures and murals, all for the cost of one trip!

Christine discovered a free walking tour of the historic heart of the city of Moscow - not quite free, as the guide expected a tip, but good value all the same. This we enjoyed - and it gave us a good introduction to the city. Irene, the local guide, recounted amusing anecdotes about both the city and the people - including the reason why Russians don't smile at strangers. Apparently smiling is an expression of close friendship, rather than a polite courtesy.

After the 2-3 hour tour we decided which places we wanted to explore further - the Kremlin and the Armoury were "must sees". We played tourist for a couple of days ogling at the excessiveness of the Tsarist regimes that led to their downfall by the Bolsheviks.