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My colleague and I left for Moscow around 9pm Thursday night. With a three-hour flight and two hour time difference we landed around 2am, retrieved our bags, and found our driver. One piece of advice we’d gotten was to prearrange a car to pick us up at the airport. Apparently taxis can be a bit sketchy in Russia as anyone is allowed to pick up passengers and charge whatever they deem appropriate. As a country with a huge divide between rich and poor with almost no one in between, this is just one of the ways people have found to earn extra money on the side. This divide was also apparent when booking a hotel for our stay.

The company-approved hotels weren’t close to the center so after some searching online we found a spot about five minutes walking from the Kremlin and Red Square. Hotels in Moscow aren’t cheap. Well, there are cheap hotels and expensive hotels but like with the income levels it seems there is little in between. Since this was a trip I was really looking forward to and because it’s always nicer to be close to the center, the hotel was booked for something like 150 euro per night. And that was after finding a website with an offer to stay two nights, get the third free. I must say that as I walked into that hotel at 2:30am it was quite apparent that the place would be worth every cent. It was, by far, the nicest hotel I’d ever stayed in and that was only judging by the lobby. The room was also beautiful and was equipped with the nicest and softest sheets my skin has ever felt. Wow.

Friday was the first day in the city and after a late breakfast we headed for Red Square. The plan was to take a bus tour of the city, but the weather was far too beautiful to be cooped up on a bus. Instead we spent the day walking and taking tons of pictures of nearly everything we saw. One word to describe the first day would be “colorful”. Maybe because all of the images I grew up with of Moscow and Russia were black and white or depicted a dark scene, I didn’t expect it to be such a vibrant city, but it is. The State Historical Museum is constructed of bright red bricks. St. Basil’s cathedral is covered with every color in the rainbow. And every dome atop every cathedral is covered in gold that sparkles under the sun. I was in awe all day and couldn’t stop snapping photo after photo.

From Red Square we walked over and along the river to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. This cathedral was originally built in the 1800’s, demolished by Stalin’s forces in the 1930’s, then rebuilt in the 1990’s. Many other cathedrals in Moscow have a similar story and though the buildings themselves may be new or recently refurbished, it’s easy to feel how much struggle and history lies within their walls. As a non-religious person, I was in awe of these magnificent buildings. The exterior is only the beginning. All of the cathedrals I entered were decorated on every surface with icons, frescoes, and beautiful chandeliers. Muscovites love their gold It was all so beautiful. As much as we enjoyed seeing all of these sights in the day, we were just as excited to come back after sunset to see them all again at night. Again, we were not disappointed. If there’s one thing Europe knows how to do, it’s light their buildings.

The first day in Moscow was a complete joy. The weather was beautiful and we covered a lot of ground getting oriented with the city, taking lots of photos, and enjoying being somewhere completely new. Here’s a sampling of pictures from the first day. I’ll be back later in the week with day two, followed by day three. Stay tuned.

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