Tag Archives: Moscow

Are you watching Eurovision?

This is kind of funny – I mean the Eurovision Song Contest. Everybody says they don’t like it; everybody says that is not a serious contest; songs are not good; singers are not professionals and the winning song will have a ‘short live’…

But in many European countries professional singers are trying to be the ones that represent country. But what’s even more fun that everybody knows or have heard at least some thing about Eurovision Song Contest. & to be more fun, in Facebook Eurovision Song Contest has got already 307  791 likes. Even more – to some posts about favorites before tonight’s semi-finals there are more than 4000 comments (and they keep coming )…

Wondering what it’s all about? Every year European Broadcasting Union is organising a song contest where every European country can be represented with one, lately published song. The winner takes it all – I mean the fame 🙂 but the winner’s country is the host of the next years contest. This year Eurovision Song Contest is hosted in Dusseldorf, Germany because last year it was won by Lena – a girl with a simple but ‘sticky’ song ‘Satelites’.

What ever is the people’s attitude to this song contest, millions of Europeans are watching this contest on TV and hosting country gets some additional tourist attention as well. Tickets to the finals are sold out in every country. Besides the local crowds, there are people who travel to the new destination every year just to be part of the event. Last year Oslo was hosting all the participants and travelers to the Eurovision Song Contest.  Before that many popular European travel destinations like Moskow, Belgrad, Helsinki,  Kiev, Riga, London, Stockholm, Dublin, Paris and many more European cities have welcomed Eurovision Song Contest.

What is your favorite Eurovision song?

P.S. Even though this is a song contest, many people turn on TV when the final voting goes on ( every participationg country can select their TOP 10 but own song).

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Traveling Russia? Celebration of May 9

Today is the May 9. If you happen to travel in eastern Europe or be in any part of Russia you know it by now 🙂 In Russia and places with large russian community this day is very special.  End of Second World War. Many say that Victory Day celebrations  is one of the most celebrated amongst New Year’s Eve and  Birthdays in Russia.

“There’s a war hero in every family, not necessarily someone who fought but someone who worked and survived during the war,” therefore celebration of May 9 is very popular in Russia.

Historically it is celebration of Victory in Second World war in 1945. In Moscow on May 9 there is a big military parade and it is the national holiday ion Russia. In other big cities there could be some meeting  or smaller parade held. In this day you can see many orderly people in jackets with a lot of medals and flowers walking around.

Lately as a sign of May 9 celebrations is a ribbon of St. George as well. Many people might even don’t know what it means but you will see many people wearing a small orange – black  striped ribbon.

Simple idea , started in 2005 has huge success not just in Russia but in every other place  with russian community. Every spring ribbons appears on cars, bags, posters as a sign of memory and respect. Ribbon itself origins  way back to the times of Imperial Russia, when it was introduced as the highest military decoration instituted by Catherine the Great.

Not positive side of  May 9 celebrations in Russia – by the evening there will be more drunk people on the streets. Because one of russian traditions for remembering a friend is to drink a small glass of vodka. If celebrations beginn in the morning, how many friends there are to ‘remember’ & how many other reasons to have a tost ‘for Victory’? That is one of the things that are mistery for people just traveling in Russia…

Day of Cosmonautics. Anyone for a Space travel?

Today, April 12 is the World Cosmonautics Day. I don’t know how about the rest of the wold, but Russia is very proud about this – 50 years ago Yuri Gagarin was a first man travel to the space. Y.Gagarin made a first space flight on the spaceship ‘Vostok’ launched from Baikonur Space center.

Somehow during my last trip I had few places around me in relation with the word  ‘Space’.

1. The Hotel I was staying:

Hotel Cosmos, Moscow

Hotel Cosmos, Moscow

2) the monument across the road:

Moscow monuments

Moscow monuments

3) the museum on the way:

Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow

Museum of Cosmonautics near VDNKh, in Moscow

Well, to add some more – here is one I took last summer, while in Orlando, Florida:

Atlantis launch on May 14, 2010

Space shuttle Atlantis take off on May 14, 2010

The view was so cool that for a minute I forgot to take a picture 🙂 … so as you see – it’s gone already…

Some time ago space was just for science and very few people could go there. Now some people are not dreaming about space traveling but actually getting ready for sightseeing of the planet Earth. What will be next?

Practice what you preach: Travel Planning

All the latest posts have been about my resent trip to Russia. I know this travel destinations sounds a bit exotic to many people, therefore I wanted to share my travel experience in Moscow. But at the same time I havent forgotten other travel related activities & planning some other trips as well. But before that here are 3 reminder things about planning a trip:

1. Of course, when we think about trip & related expenses, first advice from everybody is plan in advance. What comes to this trip I did it – got flight tickets already in December ( 4 month before the trip). Since then I’ve been comparing the prices that been offered as a ‘special deal’ and can say that the price I bought the tickets was one of the best. Few times for the short period there were some offers with prices close to one I had but basically it showed that as it gets closer to departure date a ‘special deals’ or ‘sales‘ prices don’t go lower that the basic level price, if booking good time in advance.

Moscow. Sheremetyevo Airport.

Moscow. Sheremetyevo Airport.

2. Other thing I wanted to mention is a hotel reservation. Earlier on to book a hotel room in Russia with international booking engines was almost impossible. There were just few international brands with 4-5 star hotels. What I was usually doing for my Russian trips, is doing search on local russian sites & then looking for the website of particular hotels I was interested. That way I could get at least reasonable price range for 2 – 3 star or private hotels.

When planning my trip to Moscow this year, out of curiosity I did a search on Booking.com – the hotel booking site I use for European destinations. Big was my surprise to find that they have added many hotels and even hostels with reasonable prices for Moscow and Russia in general.

What I like about Booking.com is that you can find hotel reviews there. For booking a hotel in Moscow that is very important because many ‘hotels‘ arent really a hotels, but just one floor or even one very big apartment as a ‘small private hotels’. Last time I visited in Moscow I actually stayed in one like that. The best things were central location and the price  around 2000 rub. Not so good things – that is a big apartment were you rent just one room ( with shared kitchen, shower &WC); furniture in rooms are not the best quality; no internet access.

3.  Last thing I’d like to mention here is – get off the beaten tracks. And here I mean your habits of planning the trip.

For several years I had clear picture what is the best way to plan my a trip to Moscow. As mentioned before, I was nicely surprised to about opportunity to book a hotel in Moscow on my favorite booking engine and was about to do it. In the last moment I decided to check out the special offer from event organizers.

I know the hotels they were offering – the good ones. And I knew the price range of hotel rooms there. From my experience before I knew that mostly every time hotels offered by organizers are good but they cost much more I’d like to pay. Definitely not a budget friendly ones. So I just do my own research & find the one  nearby area.

Same was about to happen this time as well. But for god knows what reason I downloaded a hotel registration form. And what I see there? Both 3 and 4 star hotels are offered with very reasonable price. Of course I want it. Why I didn’t take the offer before? Because I knew the price for that hotel & I could not imagine that special discount for event participants will be so big…

What I wanted to say here is that even you’ve been doing something for years & you think your solution is one of the best one, check out the some other options that are a bit outside your regular beaten trap. Because it might happen that NOW there is a better, cheaper or more convenient way…

What comes to me – I’m about to try one more thing I havent done – use Priceline.com for bidding on hotel room for one of my next trips.

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Traveling to Moscow? 7 Things to Know

Everything is back to normal again because  I’ve been at home already for a few days. But there are few things I’d like to mentioned about my resent trip to Moscow.

1) After  finding out that I was in Moscow many people say – WOW, that’s great – but they don’t feel like to do the same. Why? Because they feel a bit afraid from traveling to Russia.  Yes – Russia is different from the rest of Europe. But that makes it interesting 🙂

Moscow. English signs

In central part of Moscow there are many signs in English

Big cities, like Moscow & St Petersburg are save travel destinations for tourists. Many people do speak English. In central part of Moscow there are many signs in English as well. During my trip I met a couple from Brasil they said that they love Moscow absolutly. They didn’t speak English either… many travel guides do speak Spanish or Italian.

 2) When people get Russian visa they are told that they need to register within 3 working days. If you stay in 2-3 star hotel in Moscow, they already provide this service automatically. If staying in smaller private/ family run hotels or outside the big cities ask them about options. It is better to have this registration because otherwise can get some fines.

I’d like to mention that it is normal that Russian police officers now & then check someones ID. Always carry a passport with you. In Russia passport is the main ID document.

3) There is no Tourist Information Center in Moscow such as. Though you can find many leaflets, basic maps or information on most popular sightseeing places in the hotel’s lobby or ask information desk about how to get from place to place. Though if you have a good guide-book with area maps & metro plan it is kind of easy get from place to place.

4) Moscow is a big city. The best thing to avoid confusion is to prepare for the trip in advance: Where,  what is located? How to get there?

Do online research for sightseeing places worth to visit in Moscow or get good travel guide-book. Russians use public buses and taxis (or private cars) a lot but I would strongly suggest use Metro (subway). Print out Moscow Metro map to make marks where the hotel is located and how you will get there. Just write down directions & the name of nearby metro station.

5) What comes to the Metro (subway) – there are subway maps everywhere in stations & inside the train. It is cheap & convenient way of transportation in Moscow. Just look for the place or building with big red sign ‘M’.

Moscow. Sign for the subway - M

Moscow. Sign for the subway - red letter 'M'

Yes, there are a lot of people using it, therefore get 10x card for fast entrance through ticket chek point. There are special doors for entrance and others just for exiting. Find the name of metro station you need, pick the ‘line’ & follow the signs to the station or changing the train ‘lines’. Entrance in to the train is fast. Quick out – quick in & it’s gone…

6) It might not seem fair that there are special ‘foreigner’ price for the entrance tickets to many museums or theater performances. But there is nothing much to do – foreign travelers pay 2 – 3 times the price that locals pay. That’s why often you’ll see one price in English but other ones in Russian.

So there are two options to solve this problem. One – you speak more or less fluent Russian to buy tickets; two – if there are some local people you know, who could buy tickets for you (& don’t talk much while passing the lady who is checking the tickets 🙂 )

Moscow streets. Rush hour traffic jam.

Moscow streets. Rush hour traffic jam.

 7) Be aware of the cars ot the streets. I would say that driving culture is very low in Russia. They more or less follow ‘red’ and ‘green’ lights but otherwise be careful. Main streets are very wide with a lot of cars and traffic jams. Therefore going from places to places by car takes time. But the main thing I wanted to say here is that if you want to cross the street even on pedestrian walk, watch out for the cars.

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3 more places to visit in Moscow

Here are some pictures from the places I went on my last day in Moscow.

Some of the buildings & Lenin monument in VDNK

Some of the buildings & Lenin monument in VDNK

VDNK – All-Russia Exhibition Center – established in 1935. The exhibition center was rebuilt by the vision of  J. Stalin to creat a cultural center by a soviet city figure that glorify the ideology of communism and socialism. Now it  large trade show park, exhibition center.  Has a lot of attractions & entertainment going on every day. Interesting place to visit to see the buildings & monuments representing achievements of previous Soviet Republics. In the nearby area there are few famous monuments & Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics to see.

Friendship Fontain at the VDNK

Friendship Fontaine at the VDNK

GUM - Central Department Store in Moscow

Building of Central Department Store in Moscow

 GUM – Central Department Store. One of the shops worths to visit just to see the building itself. GUM has a long history and is positioning himself as a country’s main department store. There are three lengthways with three-floor passages, deep basements & the glass roof. At this place you can see fusion of world-famous fashion brands and ‘Soviet time’ attributes.

Inside interior of GUM

Inside interior of GUM

Last but not least – Red Square – most famous place of Moscow or even whole Russia. I would say the Red Square is a ‘must’ for every visitor in Moscow. Good sightseeing place to visit & gives the feeling of being in Russia. From Red Square there is an easy access to other memorable sightseeing places.

Moscow. Red Square

Moscow. Red Square

Moscow – city that never sleeps.

Every day of my visit to Moscow has been busy & long. With many thing to do & many things to see there is less time for sleep. Every night I’m returning at the hotel around 11pm. It is kind of late but main streets & metro are still busy. Actually while in underground it is easy to lose feeling of the time.

New Arbat Street

New Arbat Street is busy all the time. Many shops are open till 11pm

I got impression that Moscow is the city that never sleeps. Many shops, pharmacies are working 24 hours. In the Metro there still a lot of people (especially in central part of city) after 11pm. The only thing that now there are more police officers all over the places. The good side of it is that in the Metro it feels save during any time of the day.

Another surprise for me was that largest Moscow’s bookstore on the New Arbat street is working from 9am to 11pm.  If you speak Russian then in this shop you can find almost any book needed. Best of all – books in Russian are much cheaper as everywhere else.

Popural Russian rap star - Timoty

Timoty - rap & pop singer, musician

Last night I had an opportunity to see some of the popular Russian artists in live concert at the party I was. Timoty and Maksim are popular TV stars and have many radio top songs as well. Both artists performed few most popular hits in Russian & English. Good entertainment for the crowd here – people know the songs by heart and can sing along…

Afterwards there was a DJSmash with some electronic and remix music – most be a popular amongst the crowd here because people were cheering him up. Later I looked up in Internet on this DJ and guess what was his latest popular remix? Believe it or not – Moscow never sleeps 🙂

Popular singer - Maksim

Russian pop star Maksim

So all this was like a small insight of Russian entertainment for me 🙂

Today I have 10 hours before going to the Airport but it is raining again. Not really nice time for sightseeing 😦