Moscow, you’re killing me. This is going to be a rather short lived affair if you continue charging me such inflated prices for food & drink which, truthfully, is not how I imagined this playing out. In my head, you and I were supposed to be mates? A notion that was quickly shattered after receiving the bill for my very first coffee in Russia. No word of a lie – one regular latte cost 430 Rubles ($14 AUD). How? Why? Clearly I didn’t get the memo? My jaw literally smacked against the pavement.
I really hoped this was an isolated incident. Oh boy was I wrong…as later that evening we headed down to the very trendy Gipsy Bar along the Moskva river, only to find myself paying 560 Rubles ($18 AUD) for a pint of beer! And lets not even talk about the small punnet of strawberries at 590 Rubles ($19 AUD).
Now as a backpacker – this is problematic. Because at that pace, I will find myself home within the week; barefoot & broke. Not ideal.
Thankfully things started to look up following a free walking tour of Moscow, in which I picked up many helpful hints regarding places to eat, shop & socialise…without the high price tag!
I looked at it as a form of marriage counselling, you know? To iron out the issues we (Moscow & I) were having…
Gorky Park (Moscow’s answer to New York’s Central Park) is the perfect place to spend a summer’s afternoon. Huge cushions (I am talking 8+ seaters) are scattered across the lawns for anyone’s use and the atmosphere here is alive with people playing games, cycling and roller blading.
However, as great as all of that sounds, it was the funky little pop-up food stalls selling Moscow street food that were calling my name – cheap, locally made tucker straight from the source – nothing better.
Check out the Bakery By Men stall which is owned and operated by a couple of local lads who certainly know how to bake! They do these unbelievable cheese pastries as well as a ripper macaron – strawberry, divine.
The architecture of Moscow is something else. I found it imposing yet elegant, there is just so much history here – it’s truly a remarkable place. The underground metro stations are simply beautiful, in fact you could easily spend a day just travelling between stops simply to take in their design. Large chandeliers hang from the ceilings, intricate tile work and stunning architraves – you need to see it.
Considering proximity and political history, many Ukrainian restaurants can be found in and around Moscow. And in many ways, their cuisines are one and the same.
Korchma was recommended to me by a local guide and was my first taste of traditional Ukrainian foods. At a restaurant I tried Borscht, a clear cold beetroot broth containing finely sliced vegetables, beef and served with sour cream for taste.
To complement, the waiter recommended I try a selection of Pirozhki (baked or fried bun) each stuffed with either sauerkraut, seasoned mince or potato. All of it was delicious and being a bit of a soup fan, I particularly enjoyed the light nature of the Borscht so will certainly be on the hunt for a decent recipe once back in Australia…
To finish we were treated to a typical Ukrainian tradition. A very systematic process in which we started with a shot of mead (an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting honey with water).
I gagged almost immediately, my facial expression left nothing for the imagination. Admittedly it was slightly smoother than the average liquor however I still struggled to get it down. Thankfully there was an immediate chaser – pickles! Bizarre but it will do.
Next up was a large glass of Uzvar Kompot (effectively a juice made from cooking prunes in water, later sweetening it with either honey or sugar). Truthfully I tried not to give my taste buds sufficient time to process what was going on, throwing each item back without thought or consideration. The waiters were laughing aloud at the expressions we were pulling and to be honest, I probably would have done the same! We finished off with boiled potatoes tossed in salt, herbs and roasted in duck fat – such an experience!
It was my last night in Moscow and I wandered down to Red Square to sit and watch the world go by. St Basil’s Cathedral was even more beautiful by night as the gold trim appeared to catch and reflect light from surrounding buildings, making it glisten against the night sky.
Moscow, I met a different side to you that I quite like. You’re strong yet vulnerable, difficult but rewarding. In many ways you were the perfect introduction to Russia and have left me excited by what’s to come. Tomorrow we board the Trans-Siberian railway…
Do you have any more tips for cheap Moscow attractions? Drop us a line in the comments.