Business Trip Extension in Moscow
The overnight train between Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow (500km) costs $46 for first-class accommodations that are clean and attractive. There were two people to each compartment, with comfortable bunks. The small table in each compartment was covered with linen, a potted fern, and a boxed breakfast containing yogurt, bread, sausage, and red caviar. Before we went to sleep, we were offered a nightcap--I chose cognac and the guys, beer. In the morning, we were served hot tea from the samovar-like device in our car.
The translator left us in Moscow--she was going to her dacha with her husband, son, and parents for Easter week (celebrated on May 5). Our driver met us and took us to the Marriott Grand Hotel for check-in. I gave the guys until 9:30am to get ready for our trip to the Moscow Flea Market at Izmailovsky Park, where you can find anything from Soviet-period relics to truly valuable works of art. I got directions from the translator, and we took the Metro all by ourselves! They groused a bit but ended up enjoying themselves hunting for bargains. I found an old and heavy, solid brass mortar and pestle there.
The Metro was incredible. The stations are called "underground palaces," and they truly are. Decorated in mosaics, marble, granite, onyx, semi-precious stones, chandeliers, stained-glass windows and sculptures, the Metro has more than 160 miles of track. About 9,000 trains carry more than nine million passengers each day.
At twilight, I walked back to Red Square to see St. Basil's Cathedral lit up at night--swirling colors and redbrick towers each topped with an onion dome, extravagant and brightly colored. In front of Lenin's tomb at one side of the square, many young recruits were lined up taking each other's pictures. It was a balmy evening, and only a 1km walk from the hotel.
The rest of the team left the next morning, but I stayed an extra day. I took the Metro again, this time to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts--it has the best and largest collection of Impressionists in Russia. Between it and the river stands the newly rebuilt (2000), enormous, gold-domed Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The original, built in 1883, was torn down by Stalin and replaced with a gigantic, year-round, heated swimming pool. I joined literally hundreds of people for Palm Sunday services. As I left, all five tower’s bells started ringing. Once back at the hotel, I took a short, final walk towards the Kremlin in search of caviar and discovered a shop in an 18th-century building with curved, ornate, and gilded ceilings and 20-foot-tall mirrored walls selling beluga for 125 grams for 1,100 rubles. I bought my limit--250 grams for $73!