After a few days orienting ourselves, learning about our new friends, academics, and especially Russian culture and customs, we were finally ready to journey into the center of Moscow. This was very special because we were able to arrange the excursion on a Russian national holiday: Russia Day! This holiday is officially called “Day of Adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic” (phew!). Russians generally regard it as their Independence Day, like our July 4th holiday.
We began our day with a personal bus tour to get an overview of Moscow and experience some of the most marvelous places in this ancient capital. The city holds over 12 million people (but is rumored to hold up to 16 million!) as a sprawling metropolis, its important to have a good spatial understanding of the layout of the city and its’ features. We visited Red Square, the famous Metropol Hotel, ever-popular Nikolskaya street, and The Cathedral of Christ of the Savior. After lunch at an up-scale food market, we had a scavenger hunt on the cultural and historic pedestrian street, Arbat.
This led us to our next stop, the Cold War Museum in Bunker-42. This 7000 square meter space was one of the main secrets of the USSR. It was built underground, around 18 stories down, in the 1950’s following WWII due to the threat of nuclear war. This provided important information and context for dipolomacy between the US and Russia and how their relations have changed and evolved through the Cold War and beyond.
Russia Day wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a true celebration of Russian urban design and culture, VDNH, the Exhibition of Achievments of the National Economy. This area encompasses 2,375,000 square meters and has nearly 400 buildings! It also has many pavilions, foundations, a ‘cosmonaut’ museum, and the Moscow Oceanarium. Nearly every region or ‘state’ of the Soviet Union had its own building dedicated to it, which in the past, showcased the achievements of the region. Many Russian families celebrate holidays here and it was the perfect place for us to participate and enjoy too!
After our adventures, we sought some comfort food from home. The question of day was “Is It ‘Burger King’ or ‘Burger Tsar’?”