As you approach Red Square, a stream of contradictions swirls before your eyes. At one end stands the awe-inspiring St. Basil’s Cathedral, complete with multi-colored onion domes. The influence of the Russian Orthodox church ripples outward across Russia from here. Opposite the Cathedral stands the State History Museum - home to a slightly cleansed version of Russia’s last one hundred years. The deep-red Kremlin wall runs the length of the square from the Cathedral to the State History Museum. It stands as an enduring reminder of political power in Russia from Tsars to the Bolsheviks, Perestroika to new democracy. Lenin peers across the square from his tomb situated directly in the center of the square. In perhaps the biggest contradiction of them all, he lays facing the GUM - one of the world’s most exclusive shopping malls and home to only the best designers and labels. Naturally, where there is glitz there is gay. Still, being “out” is not common in Russia and while some may have a gay life on the weekends, the topic is not discussed day-to-day. It seems that many elements of “Old Russia” still permeate this constantly evolving city. But the bottom line, however, is this: if you’ve got the cash, you can do whatever you want. This is Moscow. Where money talks and nothing else.
Moscow is situated along both sides of the Moscow River, which contains several islands and inlets. Red Square is at the center of it all, and several ring roads circle outward from there. This is not a walkable city. Fortunately, the extensive (and gorgeous) metro can take you everywhere you’ll want to go. Most museums and sites are situated around Red Square and north toward Pushkinskaya Square. The Arbat - a major pedestrian thoroughfare and once the center of Soviet Union counterculture - stretches west from Kremlin. Hotels, restaurants and nightlife are all around you. After all, this is the largest city in Europe! Grab a free city map when you arrive and get acquainted. This place is huge.