We did it! We made it to the Russian capital after lots of changes and Visa stuff (see previous). After leaving Vilnius, we had a stopover in Riga prior to the flight to Moscow. Travelers leaving the EU for Russian Federation countries go through a completely different checkpoint, with a very careful examination of one’s Visa. Ours were in place and off we went. By pre-arrangement, a car and driver greeted us at the Arrivals Hall for the short drive to the hotel. By the way, greeters now hold up electronic devices showing one’s name (none of those old-fashioned signs requiring writing).
We were situated in the central part of “downtown” Moscow, minutes from Red Square, elegant shops, the historic Bolshoi Theater and other fine hotels. Moscow is an ideal city for walking, with very wide boulevards. Most of the major arteries require one to cross the street via underground tunnels as opposed to surface crosswalks. You’d have to put a gun to my head to drive in Moscow, because the routes are extremely convoluted and the streets signs make no sense. Other than that, it’s great!
I had purchased tickets to the Boshoi Ballet from home as I did not want to miss this iconic and historic landmark — founded in 1776. It is absolutely pristine. I have no idea what we saw — did not recognize the music or the story — but that was hardly the point; it was all about the experience. What an impressive and beautiful facility.
We had a tour guide for the first morning — walking in Red Square and pointing out the various buildings and landmarks. That was extremely helpful to get our bearings. The timing was fortuitous as this was just days from the inaguration so some buildings (the Kremlin, etc) soon closed for the duration of our stay.
Below is a great view (left) Cathedral of Christ, followed by Church of All Saints, then (far right) St. Basil’s Cathedral (Red Square) — all historic and all visible from far away.
Day 2, we got confirmation of what we had hoped not to hear: Nothing could be done about the incorrect exit date on our Russian Visas issued at home. A series of mis-communications with the passport/visa agency (highly recommended to us) resulted in our Visas expiring after 5 days instead of the original plan to provide for our time in St. Petersburg. The hotel GM tried with both the US and Russian authorities but to no avail. I’m not sure what exactly happens if one overstays one’s exit date, but I wasn’t going to be the one to find out. Stern warnings were heeded.
The hubby and I evaluated the situation – split the allotted time between two cities (separated by a four-hour train ride) or ..? We decided to stay in Moscow and really see the city, then return to StP on a future trip. All of you who have been to St.P and raved about it lest not think we “suffered” — I rerouted the remaining days on our trip to Paris. That’s a winning solution for sure. It was a lot of moving about, paperwork and the like, but in the end one cannot speculate about what didn’t happen. It’s all good. And we think the magnificent Ritz Carlton Moscow personally felt a bit responsible for all the travails as we received upgrades and were showered with amazing service.
Our time was spent trying restaurants, museums, shopping and walking — pretty much what one does in any European capital. Along the way, we made a new friend in Jenny (below) who politely asked if we needed help as we pondered our map en route to dinner. She spoke beautiful English and walked us to our destination while we chatted all the way. We exchanged contact info, and she provided great travel tips while we were still in the city. All I can say is, come visit us in LA so we can return the favor!
Some of the trip highlights:
And how about the frame shown below, found in our room the night before our departure. How’s that for attention to detail?? Bravo. And now it is on to Paris …