Tag Archives: Moscow

2014: Best Travel Memories

2014 has been an incredibly busy year, but we’ve had the opportunity to go on many wonderful adventures! Here are some of our favorite moments:

Visiting the Taj Mahal-taj

“Monkeying” around in Jaipur-

monkeysRoad Trip Across the US-

roadtripBeatles’ pilgrimage to Liverpool-

liverpool2Eating at La Boqueria in Barcelona-

boqueriaExploring the Isle of Skye-

skye3Snow day in the Red Square-

snowdayShopping the European Christmas Markets-

marketsChristmas Lunch at Edinburgh Castle-

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2015 certainly has a lot to live up to! What are your favorite memories from 2014?

© Destination Duo, 2015

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Why You Need to Visit Russia in Winter

When I first told friends and family about my upcoming trip to Russia in December, I was met with skepticism. The most common remarks ranged from “But WHY?”,  to “Can’t you just wait until it gets warmer?”. In fact, even while I was already there, Russians kept encouraging me to “come back in Summer”.IMG_2313

Despite the naysayers, I am so glad that I went when I did. Seeing Moscow at its most “authentic” was truly an unforgettable experience. Yes it’s cold and it gets dark early, but this is how Russians spend at least 6 months out of every year. I developed a much better understanding of the attitudes and mindsets that make Russians so notoriously tough. Further, there were hardly any tourists around, which meant that we had the opportunity to enjoy major attractions to ourselves with little to no lines. There’s just something really cool about being one of only a few visitors walking around the Kremlin…it feels so exclusive!

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Here are some additional benefits of visiting Russia during Wintertime:

1. Christmas/New Years’ Markets and Festive Decorations- If you visit Russia over the holidays, be sure to check out the Christmas markets. They sell candies, matryoshka dolls, baked goods, and other Christmas-y gifts and souvenirs.

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Other interesting sights at the Christmas markets include ponies, reindeer, and Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost). Every market has different features, making each one fun to discover. Near Cafe Pushkin in Moscow, for example, we enjoyed walking around an outdoor art gallery.

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There are also plenty of ice sculptures. Some of my favorites included an ice maze and ice slides. Ice displays are a time-honored tradition all over Russia, and exist in both large cities and way out in Siberia.

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Stores and businesses are also outfitted for the holiday season. GUM shopping centre in Moscow, for example, has quite the display, with Christmas stalls throughout.

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2. Sparkling Night Lights- Moscow is a beautiful city at night. While these lights can be seen year-round, longer hours of darkness during Winter means there are more opportunities to literally see the city in a different light.

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In fact, one of the best ways to see Moscow at night is on the River Moskva. Luckily, all of the major sites lie along the river and are easy to spot. The Radisson hotel runs dinner cruises all-year long, and even has ice-breaking capabilities for when the river is frozen over.

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 3. The Snow makes for great pictures- If anything, Winter in Russia often results in heavy snowfall. We were lucky enough to get snow on the first day we arrived in Moscow. The sights were very picturesque, and exactly like I’ve always imagined it would be. It just added that extra magical touch to everything we saw.

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As you can see, Russia is absolutely gorgeous during this time of year. So don’t let the weather deter you. Trust me, you’ll be thankful for the experience and will walk away with a new appreciation of this beautiful country and its people!

© Destination Duo, 2014-2015

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)

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

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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.

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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)

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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 😉

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

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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