This morning we had more structured plans than just wandering around, so we needed to focus in terms of breakfast. We headed to a cafe just a couple of blocks away to a cafe called Mu-Mu, which we noticed earlier.
The food was quick and cheap, but unfortunately not very good. I would stay away from anything that has meat in it. 🙂 Anyway, at least we had some food in us.
After that we headed again to the Red Square as we wanted to get inside the Lenin mausoleum and the Kremlin walls. The mausoleum is open only from 10 to 13 on all other days except Mondays and Fridays, so we needed to be there early as there is always a line. True enough there was already a longish line stretching from the mausoleum towards the State Historical Museum, which we joined. I have read online that you’re not supposed to take any bags with you, but everyone was queuing with bags and backpacks, so we figured out that either the rule is no longer enforced or there would be lockers later on. I think that we spent about an hour and fifteen minutes in line. There was a bag check at the entrance and then we just followed everybody pass the graves at the Kremlin walls to the mausoleum and then out. The mausoleum was dimly lit and of course no pictures were allowed. The embalmed Lenin looked no more real than any figure at Madame Tussaud’s and it is strange to think that he has been dead for 90 years.
After the mausoleum we headed to the Kremlin Museums Ticket Office and once again it was a bit tricky to figure out what ticket we wanted. Instead of just getting an entrance ticket with access to everything, you need to choose which sights inside the Kremlin walls do you want to see. Any ticket will grant you access inside, but then you just get to see the places that are on your tickets. There is a ticket to the Armory Chamber, the ticket for architectural complex of the Cathedral Square, ticket to the current exhibition, and ticket to the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower. Apparently Armory is very popular and there are special slots to visit it and you really should get tickets in advance. Other tickets are available more freely.
But of course this wasn’t just it. There were also different windows for different tickets and some of the windows were closed due to lunch break or something like that. I really hate this kind of arrangements as at least some of the tourists were confused and wanted to buy tickets which weren’t sold at that particular window, so the line moved kind of slowly. We ended up getting a ticket, which allowed us the access to the cathedrals within the walls. This was also the only time the ticket clerk spotted that my boyfriend was not Russian despite him staying a bit further away. 🙂 The tickets cost 500 rubles (8,30€) each.
The Kremlin was different from what I expected it to be. To be honest I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe imposing buildings where politics is made? I guess the only time I see Kremlin on TV is when Putin’s politics is discussed or some agent or a spy is being chased. 🙂 Instead there were quite a lot of churches and museums.
The day turned out to be super hot, which was probably the first for this summer. After Kremlin we had a break at a nearby Bar BQ Cafe, which despite being in a very touristy area turned out to have quite decent food and really good drinks.
After that we were scheduled to have a Moscow Off-the-Beaten-Track tour, which we had booked again via Sputnik8, because we had a pretty good experience with this company in Saint Petersburg. I have booked the tour starting at 15:00 near the Red Square and they texted me something about the meeting point being rescheduled and that the tour will leave from the new meeting point at 10:00. I texted them back that we could not make it at 10 o’clock and that I have booked the tour starting at 15:00. They texted back that the tour at 15:00 is ok, so we were waiting quarter to three near the meeting point, because we couldn’t get to the meeting point as the Red Square was being fenced off for some reason.
After waiting for half an hour I called the agency to see where our guide was. It turned out that the guide was at that alternative meeting point even though this was not the 10 o’clock tour. I’m not sure how this happened. I understood that the tour details will remain the same and the tour organizer seemed to think that the time remains the same, but the meeting point changes. We were assured that the guide is coming and it’ll take 10 minutes. I think us and the guide finally met at 15:40 after we’ve been standing in the sun for 50 min and were already quite pissed off and thirsty. I had to call the company again to see whether the guide was coming and it turned out that she has been there for at least five minutes just waiting for us to find her. So let’s say that the tour didn’t start very good.
After a while we kind of gotten into the tour, it was interesting and after we managed to buy some water things got even better. 🙂 I wouldn’t call it really off-the-beaten-track as the sights were pretty regular. The most interesting story was probably of Savvinskoye Podvorie, which is a really nice building which was moved from its place when the street was widened and is now enclosed inside a building block. More on this here and here.
The tour was also about an hour shorter because the Red Square was in fact sealed off, so we received some discount for that as well. All in all the tour was pretty good, but next time I would make 100% sure we’re on the same page when and where the tour starts. After the tour we headed back to our hotel to get changed and headed again into the city to have dinner.
We did some googling and decided on a restaurant called LavkaLavka, which is a type of farming cooperative and also a restaurant. They serve local food (even though local is a quite large area when we consider the size of Russia) with a twist. I must say the food was really good, but we ordered the same main course, which I liked a lot, but my boyfriend didn’t like at all, which was strange. It turned out that he had different meat than I did and it tasted completely different. He then didn’t want to complaint at that point anymore. Otherwise we liked the place and the food a lot. They also had Russian craft beers available, which was quite rare at restaurants.
After the restaurant we stopped by their shop, which was next to the restaurant and got a couple of more beers and two really nice whole wood cutting boards one for us and one as a present to our friends. The restaurant and the shop are totally recommended! The final bill was also quite reasonable 4800 rubles (80€) including three courses and several drinks.