Tag Archives: architecture

Moscow’s Soviet Sights

Moscow is now a part of the Russian Federation, but until 23 years ago, it was the capital of the Soviet Union. Reminders of the city’s Soviet past abound, with impressive yet deceiving displays of grandeur and strength that bring to mind the shortages and propaganda which characterized the times.

Before coming to Russia, I imagined Moscow to be a bit like London: a large city that has become an amalgam of its past, present, and future. And on the surface, it definitely is. But what is fascinating about Moscow is the fact one can’t help but be taken aback by some of the reminders that this modern, cosmopolitan city was once a part of the USSR. So here I present some of the most interesting Soviet sights in Moscow.

One of the most apparent reminders of the Soviet era is actually underground. Constructed during Stalin’s regime, the Metro is now one of the most efficient ways to travel through Moscow. Commuting isn’t typically seen as an exciting experience, but truly this one was! By the end of the trip, I had regretted not getting out at each of the stops just to have a look around.

The Metro is very ornate (for a metro, that is), and each stop is designed with a different Soviet theme. In Ploshad Revolutsii (Пло́щадь Револю́ции), for example, bronze Soviet revolutionary statues grace the archways. One of the most interesting representations of Soviet society is the large statue in Partizanskaya (Партизанская), which depicts partisans fighting for the homeland. And the Mayakovskaya (Маяковская) metro ceilings reveal small but discernible Soviet emblems, including the hammer and sickle. These symbols essentially became Moscow’s equivalent of Disney’s “Hidden Mickeys”, as I found myself finding them in random places throughout the city 😛

IMG_2491(Pictured Above and Below: Ploshad Revolutsii)


IMG_2291(Above: Soviet Symbols in Mayakovskaya Metro; Below: Sculpture in Partizanskaya Metro)


An interesting reminder of the former Soviet Union in Moscow is the “cult of personality” that surrounds its past leaders. In fact, a visit here would not be complete without seeing people dressed as Lenin and Stalin. My photo did not turn out, but this was one of two Lenin and Stalin look-a-like pairs.


Many Soviet leaders are buried in the most recognizable part of Moscow- the Red Square. The Necropolis lies inside the square, along the walls of the Kremlin. It includes the graves of many famous (and infamous) leaders, including Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, and Stalin.

IMG_4805(Above: Kremlin Necropolis)

IMG_2766(Pictures above and below: Stalin’s grave)


Visitors can only see the necropolis if they also go to Lenin’s mausoleum, which perhaps best represents the cult of personality that encompasses leadership during Soviet times. For those who don’t know, Vladimir Lenin established the Soviet Union. His body was embalmed after his death in 1924 and is now on public display in a mausoleum that was built especially for this purpose…you heard that right! Personally, I think this is a “can’t miss” sight in Moscow, but some may find it a little morbid.

IMG_2455(Above: Lenin’s Mausoleum)

Pictures of the body can’t be taken while inside, and the guards are very strict about this. Rules about visiting the Mausoleum are constantly changing, so I’ve included the latest and most accurate information:

-The mausoleum is free; It’s open every day except Mondays and Fridays.

-There is a line to get in, but it is very short. Typically, visitors will only need to wait a few minutes at most. At least during the Winter months.

-There are metal detectors at the entrance, where bags will be inspected. Bags no longer have to be checked inside the State History Museum as they have been before.

-Photos can be taken outside on the Necropolis, but cameras need to be put away once inside the Mausoleum. Guards will also instruct visitors to take off their hats.

One of the biggest displays of Moscow’s Soviet past is the architecture throughout the city. Some of the tallest buildings were created under the command of Stalin, who had them constructed to display the great wealth and success of the USSR. The imposing Soviet towers known as the “Seven Sisters” can be polarizing to onlookers. Some people think they are really ugly, while others think they are beautiful. I’ll go with the second description, as I quite like them…but you can decide for yourself 😉


 (Above: Hotel Ukraina, now a Radisson; Below: Moscow State University)


IMG_2515(Above: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

While Moscow is now a part of the Russian Federation, it’s history as the Soviet capital is abundantly clear. From the Soviet symbols throughout the city’s Metro, to the nostalgic depictions of past leaders, it’s amazing to see little pieces of the past that remain.

 This is just a brief introduction to some of the many Soviet sights throughout Moscow, but any history buff could spend days walking around the city without getting bored. For those who want to bring something back home, most tourist areas also sell USSR souvenirs. From lighters to shot glasses, to authentic military memorabilia, Russia acknowledges and (somewhat ironically) capitalizes on this part of their history.

 © Destination Duo, 2014-2015


(Copenhagen) Denmark in a Day

Ok, this post is a little misleading…I can’t tell you how to visit Denmark in only one day, and quite frankly, I don’t know that you would want to cram everything this beautiful country has to offer into a single day trip. That being said, there are those rare opportunities to travel through a country, but when you are also limited on time. This happened for me, when I went to visit my friend in Sweden. I flew in and out through Copenhagen, and took the opportunity to explore many of the “must-sees” of the city in only one day. We also spent a second day at Tivoli Gardens, but that will be saved for another post!

My friend and I came into Copenhagen, Denmark on a short train ride from Sweden. We arrived at the gorgeous Central Station:DSC03748 DSC03753

Our hotel was only three blocks away from the station, so we dropped off our bags and went on our way for the day. We walked past Central Station again and made our way past nearby Tivoli Gardens. For those of you who don’t know (including myself at the time), Tivoli is a very famous and popular amusement park and “pleasure garden”. That’s what wikipedia chooses to call it, at least. I would just call it beautiful landscaping, but tomato-tomahto I guess. The entrance is marked by a huge gate:


We made our way to City Hall Square, which marks the entrance of Strøget, the largest pedestrian-only shopping area in Europe. City Hall Square is literally what it claims to be, and is usually the host to many events and celebrations throughout the year. On the day we visited, it was Turkish Heritage Day and the square was filled with Turkish music, food, dancing, etc…it was fabulous!

DSC03757 DSC03762

We made our way to Strøget, where neither of us had money to do much shopping. We had a lot of fun just strolling through, however.



It was here that I noticed that most of the people around me were speaking Russian! I heard some Danish, some English, but the overwhelming number of people around us were speaking Russian…I’m not sure why that is, but it was very noticable. In fact, I later realized that we were the only tourists in our small hotel who did not speak Russian! Anyway, back to Strøget, while we didn’t do a lot of shopping, we did have a chance to stop at many of the cafes in the area:

DSC03766Cool Food StandDSC03769Drinking Tuborg (A Danish Beer)

DSC03895Danish Bakery Food

DSC03897It’s an Italian Ice named after me! Actually, it’s the Danish word for “Strawberries”

We took a detour away from Strøget to browse the city area some more…ok, I lied, we got lost trying to find the metro station; Nonetheless, we came upon some really neat old buildings on our way. I’d highly recommend getting lost in this city if you have an hour or so:

DSC03772St. Peter’s- Medieval Church

DSC03777Rundetårn- 17th Century Observatory

DSC03782Copenhagen University Buildings

DSC03781National Cathedral of Denmark


Copenhagen University

In case you haven’t noticed yet, Copenhagen has fascinating architecture. I honestly wanted to take a picture of every building we saw. It doesn’t fit any particular “style”, but that’s what makes it so interesting. There is everything from medieval to modern and it’s all blended together.

Eventually we found our way to the Metro and headed out to see the famous “Little Mermaid” statue in Østerbro. In Denmark, she’s called “Den Lille Havfrue”, which is what you will see on all of the tourist trinkets and souvenirs. She is a pretty lengthy walk to get to, but the scenery around is well worth the trip. As we got off at the metro stop Østerport Station, we made our way past the Kastellet, which is a star shaped fortress. From the outside, we thought we were walking past a really beautiful park:

DSC03805 DSC03808 DSC03810 DSC03811

Once we got around to the front, we realized that this was a fort:


Immediately to the right of the fortress is picturesque St. Alban’s church:

DSC03815 DSC03824

And immediately along the footpath next to the church is Gefion Fountain:


FINALLY, we made it to “Den Lille Havfrue”…Disney and H.C. Andersen lovers rejoice! This is a statue that sits on top of a rock overlooking the harbor. It is also an iconic symbol of Copenhagen. People complain that the statue is somewhat disappointing because it is smaller than they expected. And this is certainly no statue of liberty. But who ever said it was? I actually really enjoyed visiting this statue because not only is it sitting right on the shore, but you can walk right up to it. No ropes, no fences…it sits there as part of the scenery as if it wasn’t a huge tourist attraction:

DSC03840To give you some perspective on size…

At this point in the afternoon, we were totally spent from the heat (yes, Denmark gets really humid!) and the shin splints we’d acquired from all of the excessive walking we had done this week. From the metro station, we took ourselves straight back to Central Station and passed out as soon as we reached our hotel.

DSC03841Cooling off with a refreshing Coca-Cola

DSC03847Walking back to the metro

DSC03851Waiting for the metro to come

**I should mention, by the way, that the metro system is very easy to navigate. While the stops are in Danish, the metro itself is a very organized system and the maps are easy to read. It’s color coded like the London Underground, and has larger “connection” stops between the different lines. Japanese tourists who don’t know the alphabet were still able to find their way around, so you have no excuse to feel helpless here. The one “complaint” that I do have about the metro, however, is that the stops are very scattered. This means that you will most likely have to walk quite a ways to get to your destination. For us, the farthest we had to walk from one stop was about a mile each way.