Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Izmaylovo Market

All expats, and many tourists, find their way to this flea/craft/art market. We have been there many times.

I’ve not been able to find much about its history. Apparently an art market started here in the 17th century. I have no idea how it fared during the Soviet years.

Izmaylovo market entrance
 We always bring visitors here and it can be hard to drag them away.

Think of a Russian souvenir and you can pick it up at Izmaylovo, and generally at better prices than the souvenir shops in the city. The stall holders often speak some English and are open to bargaining – some more than others. Your best bet is to buy several of something and ask for a bulk discount.

Of course, you will want to take home some Matryoshka dolls. These hand-painted dolls depicting rural workers are better quality than the glossy things most retailers sell. They cost a little more, but they are the only sort my wife will buy.

This is about the only place expats can pick up English language movies on DVD – pirated – they make no pretense – the disks often don’t have any label at all. Of course, I wouldn’t buy such a thing...the mere thought...tsk tsk.

 Catch the metro to Partisanskaya station (which is also worth seeing) on the dark blue line number 3 from Ploschad Revolutsi (which is near Red Square). When exiting Partisanskaya turn left and follow the trail of people about 500 metres towards what looks like a Russian theme village. There’s a gold coin entry of 10 roubles (I think you can manage 30 cents).

Partisanskaya metro station. It contains some wonderful Soviet post-war sculptures


Best to come on the weekends. Not all the stalls are open during the week. Wednesday, in particular, is not good as this is when many stall holders visit their wholesalers and much is closed.

Art for all tastes...

...or perhaps you prefer painted boxes (these are very good and quite reasonably priced)...
...not interested?...okay, well perhaps a furry hat?..no?...
...what's that?...you'd prefer a helmet to a furry hat...and some munitions to go with it? Well, you might have some difficulty with Australian customs...
...perhaps a hand made Azerbaijani carpet would be a safer bet. We've bought a number of carpets from this friendly chap at a fraction of the price we'd pay in Australia.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


This fascinating place, which is located about 8 kilometres north of Red Square, was established in 1935 as an agricultural exhibition centre. Failure to met deadlines and falling foul of ideological fashion got the architect and Commissar for Agriculture responsible for the project thrown in the slammer for a few years. Eventually the centre opened in 1938, but was closed during the war.

Entrance archway

Post-war, it reopened in 1954. Some industrial pavilions were then added and in 1959 the revamped centre became known as the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy (abbreviated VDNK). This large park and its many pavilions was much used during Soviet times for exhibitions and conferences.

Today the official name is the All Russian Exhibition Centre (VVC), though I think of it as VDNK (Vay - Dey - En - the K is pronounced like the ch in loch), as the nearby Metro station has retained that name.

The Armenian pavilion

There is no charge to enter the park and wander around. It makes for a great afternoon exploring. A wonderfully eclectic and quirky collection of pavilions, fountains, statues and a Vostok rocket - together with a fairground (Muscovites are very fond of these). Often busy on weekends, those pavilions that are open tend to contain tacky markets, temporary exhibitions, fast food stalls and the odd show.

Very close to the Cosmonaut Museum and Monorail this park is certainly worth a visit.

Charming golden dancers surround the 'Friendship of the Nations' fountain. All the fountains in Moscow are shut down during the winter. Ostrankino Tower in the background. 

Pavilion of Ukraine

Detail of the Pavilion of Leningrad
Vostok rocket and the tail of a Tupolev aircraft.
The Stone Flower fountain. Central Pavilion in the background.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Moscow Monorail

A few months ago the Sydney monorail was dismantled. Having grown up in Sydney, I was always in two minds about that monorail. Obscuring some of the city's beautiful building facades at first floor level with a length of thick steel girder never seemed a very good idea to me. It also didn't serve any serious mass transit purpose - it was basically just a toy. And expensive to ride. So I'm sort of glad it's gone, though I will miss the occasional enjoyable jaunt on it around Darling Harbour.

The Moscow monorail was completed in 2004 and there is no danger of it obscuring any beautiful building facades. It is located about 8 kilometres north of Red Square in an area of apartment blocks, roads and parks.

Monorail view near Timirazevskaya.
Not much chance of people like me complaining about the track ruining the architectural ambiance out here.

The line is 4.7 kilometres long and links the grey Metro line (9) at Timirazevskaya (which I think of as Timmy-skaya) with VKND on the yellow line (6). So it serves some useful transportation purpose, though I suspect many of the people riding it are still just having a jaunt.

The monorail is integrated in to the urban transit ticketing system, so a regular ticket covers the journey (the public transportation ticketing system is something Moscow does seem to have got right).

Moscow monorail coming in to VDNK station

The monorail can be included as part of a fun day out. Catch the Metro to Timirazevskaya. Then catch the monorail (which goes right past Ostrankino Tower). Get off at VDNK (the monorail goes on one more stop). Visit the Cosmonaut Museum (see my last post) and have a wander around the VDNK Exhibition Park (see next post). End the day by catching the metro at VDNK metro station.

Sergeya Eisensteina Ulitsa station at the eastern end of the line. The train is just completing a small loop at the end of the track to commence its return run.

Monorail carriage interior

Telesenter monorail station. More utilitarian than attractive. As the station name suggests, there is a large television broadcasting station nearby (the gray building just visible in the background)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Cosmonaut Museum

This really is a great museum, and it’s in an area where there is quite a lot of interest. 

Nearby is the huge VDNK exhibition park (another post needed for that), the Moscow monorail (yet another post to come), and Ostrankino Tower (the tallest free-standing structure in Europe and 7th tallest in the world - see post dated 22 May 2013). Beyond the Exhibition Park is a pleasant forest park, also called Ostrankino, which backs on to the Botanic Gardens. So there’s a good weekend’s worth of sightseeing in this area. If you have a week or so in Moscow, I strongly recommend spending some time around here.

To get there, take the yellow line metro (line 6) north to VDNK. You can’t miss the museum – it has a magnificent statue of a rocket taking off on the roof. 

Every European city square seems to have a statue of some guy on a horse pointing at something in the distance. Statue designers take note - please,  no more guys on horses - THIS is a statue.

  Entry (at the time of writing) was the more or less usual price for Moscow museums of 250 roubles (about $7 US) - plus another couple of hundred roubles if you want to take photographs. 

Yuri Gagarin (first man in space) welcomes visitors. Gagarin is very highly regarded in Russia.
A replica of Sputnik - the first thing humans flung into space, is top left.
Belka (foreground - means 'Squirrel') and Strelka ('Arrow'). They went into space in August 1960 and survived the trip.
One of Belka's puppies was given to President Kennedy's daughter.

There's a full-sized replica of the Mir (means 'peace' or 'world') space station to explore...

...hmm, not quite the Starship Enterprise.
The funny looking craft in the middle (with the solar panel) is a Lunikhod. One was sent to the moon in 1970 and wandered a round for a while taking snapshots. Its still there. The spacesuit on the right was worn by Michael Collins in Apollo 11. I'm not sure how it ended up here - a search of Google shows it was auctioned in 2009, so maybe this museum bought it.

So that's what it's like inside a Soyuz.
I like the little globe on the dashboard - so they can see where they are I suppose.
Diorama of Vostok 2, whose crew landed about 1800 kilometres off target in a Siberian forest.
Pinnacle of contemporary technology one minute - campfire the next.

The space shuttle program that didn't happen. Replica of a Russian Buran shuttle
And if you happen to be in Gorky Park, there's one of the original Buran shuttles there. Unfortunately, you can't go inside.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Moscow River

We’ve just returned from a couple of weeks in the south of France. Sunny, with temperatures in the high 20s. Arrived back in Moscow to bleak skies and snowflakes yesterday.

During the Second World War (Great Patriotic War to the locals) the Russians managed a remarkable feat in moving much of their heavy industry east of the Urals, out of bombing range. So here’s a suggestion – move Moscow south to the warmer Black Sea coast. Shouldn’t take more than a few years with a determined effort. Might be a bit of work, but afterwards everyone will be saying ‘why didn’t we do that ages ago?’. Might even see some smiles on gloomy Muscovite faces.   

On to the theme of this post. Many cities in Europe are closely linked to the rivers that run through them. Think of Paris, think of the Seine. London – Thames. Vienna – Danube. Rome – Tiber (did you really know that last one?).

Here’s a challenge – can you name the rivers that run through these European cities?
Berlin -  Madrid – Oslo – Prague. Answers below.

In Moscow it is, sensibly enough, called the Moscow River. 

What to say about it?. It’s quite wide. It flows past one of the long walls of the Kremlin. It freezes in winter. Visitors can cruise up it in tour boats in summer. The banks of the river provide the only hills in the otherwise flat landscape of Moscow (Sparrow Hills even has a ski lift - see my very first post). So there you have it.

Moscow University's 'Stalin skyscraper'.

Moscow City
Another of the seven 'Stalin skyscrapers' - now the Radisson Hotel

Covered pedestrian bridge near Kievskaya

Evening cruise - just add wine

Berlin – Spree; Madrid – Manzanares; Oslo – two rivers, the Akerselva and the Alna; Prague – Vltava (hands up if you said Danube).  

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


In my previous post I described our automotive adventures on a trip from Moscow to Suzdal. This time, I briefly look at the destination of our epic journey. 

Suzdal is a charming, rural town of about 10,000 people located 220 kilometres east of Moscow.
It was founded a little before Moscow. Its kremlin (fortress) was built by the same chap who founded Moscow, Prince Yuriy Dolgorukiy. Unlike its counterpart in Moscow, all that remains of Suzdal’s kremlin is a long, grassy mound.

What Suzdal does have in abundance that Moscow lacks is rural tranquillity. Enough to absorb even the busloads of tourists which descend on the place over the summer weekends. 

Suzdal was bypassed by the railway. Usually a disaster for a community, this has turned out to be a blessing for this lovely town of churches. The lack of a railway meant it was also bypassed by industry. 

 If you ever plan a trip there (and you need an overnight to make it worthwhile), we stayed at the Kremlyovsky Hotel. Very nice place and the receptionist even spoke some English.

And while I’m giving credit where it due, I’ll give another company a kick in the backside. I had organised our hire car through Sixt via Expedia. When I arrived at the Sixt desk with my Expedia reservation, Sixt refused to acknowledge the price quoted, of which I had a printed copy, and charged me almost FOUR TIMES that rate. This is the first time I have ever had this happen to a booking made through Expedia. I will never hire a car through Sixt again. SO BE WARNED – an advance quotation from SIXT is meaningless – they’ll just charge what they want when you arrive to pick up the car.