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Moscow, Again, or What Is It That Flows Together? Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Culture, Russian food, Russian life, when in Russia

Alexandr Pushkin, that most famous of the Russian poets, wrote

«Москва… как много в этом звуке

Для сердца русского слилось!»

[Moscow… how much there is in that sound

That flows together for the heart of the Russian!]

If we approach the problem from a strictly «количественный подход» [quantitative approach], there are «почти девять миллионов» [almost 9 million] search results on Google for this phrase.

But what interests me most is not «количество» [quantity], but «качество» [quality]. In other words what exactly “flows together” for the hearts of Russians and foreigners alike at the mention of «сердце Родины моей» [the heart of my Motherland].

I must admit, my experiences of Moscow are mostly second-hand, through history textbooks, literature, conversations, etc. I spent a total of about 7 days in Moscow in my whole entire life, in 1996 and again ten years later, in 2006.

Thus I decided to do some arm-chair travelling with the help of you, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you for all your awesome responses to the question on our Facebook page.  Once again, I’m blown away and deeply grateful!

There were a lot of mentions of «музеи» [museums], «Красная площадь» [the Red Square], «мавзолей Ленина» [Lenin’s mausoleum] and «Собор Василия Блаженного» [St. Basil’s Cathedral]. All are must-see when one’s in Moscow, for sure.


Another must-see is «московское метро» [Moscow subway], that boasts some of the most beautifully decorated subway stations in the world. At least, it is true for the old stations. The new ones are either plain or plain weird, like «Достоевская» [Dostoyevsky station] with mosaics depicting key characters and scenes from the “Crime and Punishment” and “Brothers Karamasov”. Not the most «жизнерадостные» [cheerful] or «оптимистические» [upbeat] choices, especially for an underground space. But if there is going to be a macabre tour of Moscow, this station must be on it along with «мавзолей» [the mausoleum] and possibly «Патриаршие пруды» [Patriarshiye, or Patriarch’s, Ponds] from “Master and Margarita”.

Several mentions were about unfriendly, unsmiling people and the general hustle and bustle. I guess the latter is unavoidable in any large city. Besides, life is hard for Moscovites, what with «пробки» [traffic jams], «толчея в метро» [crowded subway], «дороговизна жизни» [expensive living] and freaky weather extremes.

Seriously though, many of my American friends note this outward somberness, lack of joy on the faces of Russians. To which I say – just get to know them better! Yes, Russians are «скупы на улыбки» [thrifty with their smiles] with strangers. But once the initial barriers are broken, it’ll be hard to find a more «отзывчивый и приветливый друг» [understanding and companionable friend] and a more «гостеприимный хозяин» [welcoming host].

Many of you mentioned delicious food, from «блинчики» [blintzes] and «пирожки» [small pies] to «борщ» [borsht] and «мороженое» [ice cream]. In my opinion, if there were only three things you could try while in Moscow, I would make it «чёрный хлеб» [dark bread], «беляш» [small round pie with meat filling], but only if it’s «с пылу с жару» [so fresh, it’s still hot] and «мороженое» [ice cream]. Oh, and just for my American friends, I’ll add «горячий шоколад» [hot chocolate] to my list.


Not sure «как обстоят дела» [how things are] with hot chocolate in other countries, but here in the States it’s just hot water with some cocoa powder mixed in. In Russia this drink is called «какао» [cocoa]. That’s for kids. But «горячий шоколад» I had in cafes in Moscow, boy, it was served with small spoons – that’s how thick it was.

And since I’m no this hot chocolate detour, here’s the recipe I found that best approximates the hot chocolate I had at various cafes in Moscow and St. Petersburg:

  1. Start with 100 grams of high-quality dark chocolate. Break it into pieces and «растопите» [melt] it «на водяной бане» [in a double-boiler].
  2. Add 1 table spoon of water and «размешайте» [stir].
  3. In a separate «кастрюлька» [small pot], «доведите до кипения» [bring to boil] 250 milliliters of milk or light cream.
  4. Slowly pour milk into chocolate, «непрерывно помешивая» [constantly stirring].
  5. «Взбейте» [whisk] hot chocolate for a few minutes. Optionally, add sugar to taste and/or fold in some whipped cream.
  6. Pour the real hot chocolate into cups and forget about cocoa powder for the rest of your life.

The tough part about travelling to Moscow is how expensive it is, especially for a foreign tourist. So here’s my question for you – if you only had an overnight stay in Moscow, what would you like to see or do? «Москвичи, посоветуйте нам, гостям столицы!» [Moscovites, do offer your advice to us, the guests of the capital!]

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  1. Linda Buchanan:

    The pictures are great. I’m still working on the last blog. This is my seconod one. Thank you so much.

  2. Janani:

    Well The unsmiling people i have seen but life’s like that cosly as it was 10 times my country and the rush in the метро станция metro station it was specially where there is a change for линия… You get down in any metro station and on your way out you get to see many shops… and specially shops seeling food items where I used to have i have a fruit pie for 20 rubles. I thought moscow was costly as i kno i could have had with same money 10 samosas which are similar kind of eatables a bit bigger and kartophel curry in it for a filling – which is a filling for the stomach when you eat even one! but all said and done I love Moscow only it was cheaper and that i think of and i am there why the granitsa – moya lyubov’ – ty menya zdyosh? I want to see you again like the khotya kak mimovidyeniye.

  3. Bob:

    The hot chocolate wars have started! 🙂

    For me, the best hot chocolate in the known universe comes from a place in St. Petersburg called Кофе Хаус – it’s on Vladimisky Prospect, about a block off of Nevsky.

    The hot chocolate is so thick it flows like molasses. Add two shots of Bailey’s Irish Creme Liquor, have a seat by the front window, and enjoy!

  4. delia:

    Hi there:
    I am in Moscow right now. I come every year to visit my family. Yes, it has become so expensive!! Can’t compare it to what it used to be (I lived here more than 20 years ago), can’t compare it to the prices in the States or Europe. Every time I come, I see differences. I can’t say I like everything but I love the city. If I were to spend just one night… I think I would go to Старый Арбaт прогуляться (for a walk). This might be the only place where people are not in a rush. You can buy сувениры (дорогие) or just look at them, there are plenty of антикварные магазины, кафе и, конечно, МакДональдс и Старбакс. You then can walk through Красная площадь, Большой театр, ГУМ, набережная (The Moscow river bank). If you want more сувениры, keep in mind that summer is the right time to go, as there are lots of киоски (kiosks) right on the Red Square by the metro entrance (вход в метро) in summer only. Or I would go to Izmailovo (Измайловский Парк), кажется, новая станция метро Паpтизанская (please correct me if I’m wrong) for more антиквариат, советские или русские сувениры. Погода сейчас теплая, иногда идет дождь /The weather is pretty warm with showers.

  5. delia:

    I meant to say, “Every time I come, I see changes…”

  6. Richard:

    I was in Moscow for two weeks and stayed with a local couple. I remember seeing St. Basil’s Cathedral for the first time, it literally took my breath away it was so beautiful. I had my picture taken with “Lenin” in front of his mausoleum 😀 Great memories of a very beautiful city!

    Is there a Russian saying that would be the equivalent of “it took my breath away”?

  7. Kerrie:

    I love Moscow, have visited four times and can’t wait to get back there. If I could only spend one night in Moscow I would definitely ride the metro, go to Red Square and St Basil’s – I agree with Richard above; the first time I saw Red Square and St Basil’s, it took my breath away, I felt overwhelmed. I would stroll through Alexander Gardens (hopefully it’s a Sunday and a band is playing), walk through GUM window shopping, buy an ice-cream in GUM and perhaps sit for tea and something to eat in one of the cafes. Back on the metro to Sparrow Hills; love the view of the city from there. Walk to МГУ – another sight with the ‘wow’ factor! I would go for banya at Krasnopresnenskaya Banya – what an experience! It’s a must! For the evening I would hope to have dinner and spend the evening with my Moscow friends – Alexander, Natalia and Evgeniy xoxo <3

  8. Agata:

    Hi there,
    I was in Moscow exactly a year ago for 2 weeks and I absolutely loved it. My husband and I were staying with our friends so luckily we didn’t have to pay for our accommodation but generally though I know that Moscow is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world (or even the most expensive one), I must say we were pleasantly surprised by the prices. And believe me, we’re far from being rich;)
    Of course you can spend a fortune in fancy restaurants and so on but also it’s easy to find an alternative. We ate lots of delicious блины, пельмени and картошку (www.kartoshka.com) that you can buy almost everywhere, and we got loooots of souvenirs which really weren’t that expensive. Even the ones we bought near the Red Square. But I also recommend to go to Izmailovo (Измайловский Парк), though I’m not sure which metro station it was either. And people seemed very friendly to us – probably it helps if you speak Russian 🙂 Perhaps I have such good memories of Moscow because I come from Poland and probably there aren’t so many cultural differences between Poland and Russia, or maybe there is simply something magical in that place – I’m sure I will go there again.

  9. Alan:

    A late post. Moscow, Again,
    I have been to and through Moscow four times now and each time I stand in awe and respect for the history of what this city and its people have been through and experienced over the centuries. Such destruction, turmoil, loss of life and then resurrection.
    My most amusing experience occurred as I stood, wearing a Russian cap I had purchased in Kazan and looking up at the statue of Zukov on his horse near Red Square.
    One of the very first phrases I learned when I started Russian School was ………. ” Извините, где – “Красная площадь?” answer “Красная площадь там”. Just then a Russian woman with a little girl walked up to me and said …. ” Извините, где – “Красная площадь?” without thinking I instantly pointed and replied … “Красная площадь там”. Then I woke up and thought …. hang on a minute, I am the tourist here, you are stealing my lines but I was so pleased with my instant and automatic response I have since felt like a local and every time I return I feel right at home.
    I do not yet fully understand the spell this country and city casts but I am certainly very much under that spell.

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