365 Days of Writing Day 168 – Exploring North

GUM Farmers MarketPedestrian Street Nesting DollsCup of Cake Cup of Cake English Porta Potty Red Square Beverly Hills Diner

As I had headed South in the morning, in the afternoon I headed North.  I made my way back to the familiar neighborhood of Kitai Gorod and started walking.  I had walked only about a mile when I turned a corner and found myself on a street we’d driven down on the way to my hotel from the train station.

An aside here about the Sapsan trains which run between St. Petersburg and Moscow.  I went on line weeks ago to pre-purchase my Sapsan ticket.  There were dozens of departure times – one every fifteen or so minutes.  I searched the site to see what the difference was but couldn’t fathom it.  I picked a departure time that wasn’t too early but got me to Moscow with enough time to be able to have nearly a full day to sightsee.  It was only once I arrived in Moscow that I learned the different trains arrived at different Moscow stations.  I had inadvertently selected one which was a bit further out of town  If you’re taking the train, check to see which station is nearest your hotel then purchase a ticket for that train.  Also, if you’re like me and hate facing backwards in a car, train, bus or airplane be forewarned in each compartment half the seats face forward and half face backward.  I, thank heaven!, got lucky.  My seat was facing forward.  I can only imagine the trouble I would have had switching seats!

Also, I thought I had purchased a ticket on a direct train but mine made two stops – granted they were very quick stops, less than 2 minutes!, – but it added time to the journey and, lastly, the train was definitely NOT high speed.  The Metro trains in Moscow went faster than my train.  Had the scenery been worthy of photographing, I would have been happy with the speed but since it wasn’t anything I wished to get photos of, I wish it had been speedier.

Okay, back to exploring.  As we drove down that street I now found myself on, my local contact mentioned there was a really nice cafe called Propaganda just up the block.  I was starting to feel hungry so I went in search of Propaganda. I walked in circles around that block and two blocks up but never found it, sad face.  By now I was starving and had to force myself to not take the lazy way out and pop into one of the dozens of McDonald’s or Subway fast food places nearby.  I opted for a nice place called Marzipan (I know, not very Russian).  I had a not very Russian lunch – well it did at least include beets (as in the basis of Borscht!). In addition to my beet and goat cheese salad, I had a pizza.  Yes, I realize that pizza is in no way Russian.  At least I didn’t do fast food!  I consoled myself with the knowledge that I would be having a very traditional Russian meal at dinner.

After lunch, a bit more exploring netted a really lovely pedestrian only street with lots of cafes (yes, I would have eaten at one of those had I found the street before lunch), a farmers market with a dazzling assortment of fresh fruit and veggies (where had I gotten the impression that Russians lacked fresh produce?) and pastries mostly made from honey.  I walked until I found myself in a business district which wasn’t very appealing.  I realized I hadn’t visited GUM the huge mall back near Red Square.  The mall, I recall from the audio track of the Hop on/off bus boasted the largest glass ceiling in Moscow? Russia? Eastern Europe?  One of those is correct.  The mall was like Rodeo drive only longer and bigger.  One designer store after another.  Most people were tourists like me, just walking through, but there were more than enough people loaded down with designer shopping bags to make me realize there is A LOT of money in Moscow.  Exiting GUM I found myself facing a row of car showrooms – Maserati, Bentley, Rolls Royce!  Like I said, A LOT of money!

I stopped for a cup of coffee at an adorable place called Cup of Cake.  I really wanted one of their impossibly delicious looking pastries but it was nearly five o’clock.  In just 2 hours I’d be sitting down at Cafe Pushkin and I wanted to be hungry!  This was to be my big splurge and I didn’t want to fill up before dinner.  I moseyed along without purpose until, walking through one of the underground passageways, I spotted a booth which sold nesting dolls feature rock stars.  OMG if I could find one of Cher my boss would be over the moon (if you know him – you are not allowed to share this tidbit!).  I went in and asked but the woman said it had sold.  That means they’d had one!  They couldn’t be the ONLY place in all of Moscow who stocked it – I was on a mission.  I went back to Red Square where there were dozens of booths set up to sell nesting dolls.  I went booth to booth with no luck.  I found Katy Perry, Harry Potter, ZZ Top, Madona, Avatar and many more but no Cher.  I did buy myself a John Lennon/Beatles one – it was just $18.00.   That took the rest of my afternoon.  The sun had come out so I was hot and sticky.  I headed back to my hotel for a quick shower before dinner.  While at the hotel I did a search for Cher nesting dolls.  They were hideous!  If they had been $20 I would have ordered them but for $55.00 and up, I just couldn’t bring myself to click buy.

Next installment, dinner and leaving Moscow….

Photos: GUM shopping center, Farmers Market,  Pedestrian Street, Nesting Dolls, Cup of Cake,  Porta Potty in Red Square, Beverly Hill Diner (for those who want an American meal)

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