Moscow lights up at night; architects of new buildings incorporate the light, and the streets are hung with red, blue, and white fairy lights. By day, Moscow is looking good too: over the last 20+ years much effort and many resources (public and private) have been poured into restoration of art and cultural landmarks, and the lovely apartments from the thirties-now condos-are in high demand. If you haven't visited since the collapse of the soviets (1991), I suspect you'd see a great deal of change, everywhere you look. Despite current efforts by some to revive Cold War thinking, Russia greets tourists warmly, and it's easy to get around (once you learn a bit of cyrillic). I had much fun sounding the words out, discovering street signs and building signs that were in fact quite familiar ("Stop" for example, looks pretty strange in cyrillic, but in the end, it's just "stop"--and then there's "pectopah" -- we laughed heartily after sounding it out--it's just "restauran. . ". Places like Mandrogi and Kizhi Island are fairly recent additions to the tourist circuit, and they're fun. Although the red stars have been left up on the towers of the Kremlin walls (in memory of the Bolshevik "dynasty" as one Russian explained and because "we're used to them"), the historic double headed eagle of the Romanovs is also back, topping, for example, the reconstructed towers of Resurrection Gate (the ceremonial entrance into Red Square) which had been torn down during the Bolshevik period so that tanks could enter Red Square for displays of might and power. St Petersburg too sparkles and is filled with tourists; the State Hermitage Museum is expanding in the hinterlands, opening it's ultra modern "Vault" up so the public can see even more of the Romanov's spirit of gathering stuff--paintings, furniture, carriages!, china. . . Fruits and vegetables are plentiful; the lines for consumer goods that some of us recall from the Bad Old Days are absolutely gone. Traffic is heavy on the urban streets, as Russians drive happily all sorts of vehicles, from new Toyotas to Fiats and Fords.
Admittedly, we were slightly nervous about our trip this summer, given the escalating political tensions and sword rattling down on the Ukrainian border and rumors that visas would not be obtainable; however we had zero trouble with visas and absolutely nothing happened along our route except our growing sense that it's really time to dispel the cobwebs of the past and let the future happen. We in the West have way more in common with this country than we like to admit--both the good and the bad. As one Russian remarked as we said good-bye after a charming afternoon in her living room drinking tea and tasting home-made pickles, "moonshine," and honey cakes: "Our two governments are just too wrapped up in the politics of power, but the people of our two countries have so much in common."
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Moscow to Tutalev
Kuzhino to St Petersburg