Moscow - 24 Hours in Moscow


This past week, I flew to Moscow for work. During my short stay, I decided to visit one historical Russian site, the amazing Czar's Museum ( better known as The Armoury Collection). It's one of the top five "must-see" tourist stops in Moscow, right after the Red Square and the Kremlin.

To enter the museum, I first find the ticket office, just outside of the Kremlin (photo enclosed). I arrive around 1:45pm at the booth and I notice that the place is crowded and chaotic. People seem confused because it's unclear which line one must take to purchase tickets.

I join one of the three lines available with our knowing if it's the right one. The language barrier does not help me and I discover 10 minutes later, that I''m in the wrong line. The ticket booth lady directs me with hand signals, to stand in another line.

A few minutes later, at around 2pm, my line is motioned to step up to the sales window. We're supposed to merge with the Kremlin line, one at a time. Yeah right! The plan may be reasonable in London, where people obey line rules, but here in Moscow, it quickly turns into a push and shove situation where shoulders, arms and bodies fight to get ahead. Great!!! what should I do now? Not knowing what to say in Russian to defend myself verbally, I decide to push back.

I extend my arm in front of the next aggressive person in the opposite line trying to get ahead of me and say NO, firmly. I quickly step ahead of this person and reach the front of the line. Eureka! I try to remain focused on the purchase of my ticket as I speak to the ticket lady in English, but she only speaks Russian. Oh no, I apologize with my hands, and say "Armoury Museum? please?" she understands!! What a relief! She hands me a ticket and motions me to go in the direction of the Kremlin pronto. With my ticket in hand, I exit rapidly with out looking back and head to the museum.

The entry ticket to The Armoury has "a time of admission" printed next to the date. One is only allowed in at this time. It's 2:05pm and my time of admission is 2:30 pm. I have to find the entrance door of the museum very rapido!! Not an easy task in this city with few signs in English. I press on as quickly as my tired legs can carry me, and I enter the Kremlin (the museum is inside this complex). Right after the entrance gate, I see some people standing in a line. Could this be my line for the Armoury? according to my map, the Armoury building should be just there, so I join the line and take a chance.

Well, it would have been too easy if I had picked the right line, that's just how it is in Russia. But off course, I'm in the wrong line. I learn this as I reach the door. This is getting old folks. I'm in the line for The Diamond Fund Collection (sigh). I ask the guard where I should go, he points me to nearby line, just a few steps away. So there I go.

Could this finally, be the right line. I have to wait 15 more minutes before I'm allowed inside the building to find out. It's 2:15 pm and the hot summer sun burns through my clothes with no shade in sight! Ugh! I'm very tempted to leave before I melt, but I remain in place. People begin to gather behind me. Everyone appears stressed by the sun. I later learn that there is no need to stand in this wretched line. Everyone with a ticket, gets in with out delay, even if you show up at the exact time of admission printed on your ticket. Lesson learned, don't wait in line, just get there on time!

I enter the museum through a basement door, pass a large coat check area on my left, the souvenir stands on my right and left and the desk that rents Pre-recorded guides in English (and other languages) of the collection. Get one if you go!! I didn't and was very sorry I passed it by.

Finally, I reach the museum. It's two floors of dazzling royal gems, fancy Faberge Eggs, gilded Carriages and Sleighs, elaborate Armours, eye-popping Jewel encrusted Crowns, hand painted thrones, ancient tapestries, and surprise, surprise, Catherine The Great's Coronation dress embroidered with silver threads. Darn, how I wish I had the recorded guide. The collection is fascinating.

After I finish visiting the Czar's collection, I learn that I can opt to also visit the The Diamond Fund Exhibition Collection for an extra 500 Rubles with leaving the building. It sounds very tempting - royal jewels, no lines, ...humm, I think that's a yes. I pay up and march right in. The exhibit, unfortunately, is disappointing. It consists mostly of cut stones from the Urals, gold and silver mammoth nuggets from local mines and VERY few royal jewels. I anticipated more Czarist's Bling! Oh well, my advise to you is, save your money for the more impressive Royal collections like the The Tower of London in England, or The Topaki Palace in Istanbul.

Finished with the museums, I leave the Kremlin and walk through the Alexander Gardens (right along the Kremlin). When I reach Sbarros Pizza and McDonalds, I discover there's an entrance for a subterranean mall. Surprisingly, it's a large mall with three underground floors. Who knew! such a large place underground, right next to the Kremlin.

In the basement, I discover an interesting food court. It has a nice variety of international foods, all of them, extremely well priced. I see a Sushi, Sbarros Pizza (these I recognize). I also see Russian Blinis and Middle Eastern Food. Some places, I can't make out, because the writing is in Cyrillic. I purchase some wild rice and vegetables from the Middle Eastern stand and my meal, plus a drink costs me less than 10 dollars. An awesome deal in Moscow, I swear!

After my satisfying, but unmemorable meal at the mall, I head to the glitzy, trendy, scenic rooftop lounge (photo enclosed) of the Ritz Carlton-Moscow - the O2 Lounge. Wow, what a view! You can eat sushi or just have drinks, as you take in the stunning views of the Kremlin. Really, it will take your breath away... and so will the prices on the menu. Stay and have a drink so you can enjoy the view and the beautiful people. Don't forget to take pictures of the gorgeous views. I hear these views are particularly memorable at night, when the Kremlin lights up like a Christmas tree.

After I finish taking my pictures from the O2Lounge, I head for the cozy, quieter lobby lounge of the Ritz. It's tea time, I'm thirsty and my feet need a rest. Twenty dollars and three cups of delicious tea later (served in gorgeous china), I decide it's time to head back to my hotel. I'm exhausted. I've seen bling all day - ancient bling at the Armoury and Noveau bling at the Ritz. Time to pack it up and go to sleep.

If you decide to go to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, it's located right behind the National Hotel with it's main entrance, facing Tverskaya Avenue.

Dosvitana! (see ya later!)

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