The Rough Guide to Moscow is the insider''s handbook to Russia''s fastest-changing city. The guide includes extensive coverage of all the sights, from the Kremlin cathedrals and palaces to Stalin skyscrapers and the KGB museum. There are lively reviews of the best places to stay, eat and drink, plus the low-down on the ballet, concert-going and clubbing. Coverage is also given to nearby attractions including Lenin''s estate, the medieval town of Suzdal and the Trinity Monastery. This new edition also includes a full-colour introduction with over 30 photos of the best activities and sights Moscow has to offer. Finally there is informed background on Moscow''s history, politics and culture, from Ivan the Terrible to Putin and Tchaikovsky to Tatu.
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Dan Richardson was born in England. Before joining Rough Guides, he worked as a sailor on the Red Sea and lived in Peru. Since then he has authored or co-authored guidebooks to St Petersburg, Moscow, Hungary, Budapest, Romania, Bulgaria and Egypt; lectured at the Foreign Office and been a volunteer aid worker in Albania. When not abroad, he lives in London.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
WHEN TO GO AND WHAT TO TAKE
Moscow lies on about the same latitude as Edinburgh in Scotland, but its climate is closer to that of Edmonton in Canada (a bit further south), due to its location far from the sea, on a great continental land mass. Summers are hot, and winters cold by Western European standards – although the dry, often sunny weather makes them tolerable, if not always pleasurable.
As most foreigners have an exaggerated fear of the cold in Russia, the most popular time to go is summer, lasting from the beginning of June to mid-September. Days and nights are warm and sultry, with heat waves likely during August, when Muscovites leave in droves for their dachas in the countryside. Culturally, things are rather slack during this period, with the Bolshoy Ballet away from June until early September and many other theatres closed for the duration. Conversely, politics often hot up in August, sometimes boiling over a month or so later. By mid-September, autumn is under way, with cloudy skies and falling temperatures, but you can still look forward to a week or two of Babe leto ("Granny’s Summer"), when Moscow is an Impressionist’s vision of autumnal hues, in the final glow of warmth.
Subzero temperatures and snow can set in up to two months before winter officially begins in December. Blanketed in fresh snow, Moscow is magically hushed and cleansed, and Muscovites revel in the crispness of the air. Days are often gloriously sunny, and the temperature only a few degrees below zero, so skiing and sledging are popular pursuits. The secular New Year and Orthodox Christmas in early January are occasions for shopping and merrymaking, much as in the West – so if you have friends here, it’s a great time to come. At some point, however, a cold snap will send the temperature down to -20°C or lower, while traffic and thaws turn the snow into mounds and lakes of black ice or brown slush, which linger on until late March.
By this time, everyone is longing for spring, whose arrival is unpredictable, with trees starting to bud weeks before the slush disappears in mid-April. Mid- to late spring is perhaps the best time for festivals, with the Orthodox Easter celebrations followed by the "Moscow Stars" festival, May Day, and the Victory Day celebrations on May 9. On the downside, however, cold snaps can happen at any time until the end of the month, and thundery showers may occur well into the summer.
It’s wise to give some thought as to what to take – and worth packing that bit more to stave off problems later. Expect occasional showers almost any time of the year, and bring a waterproof jacket or compact umbrella. Mosquitoes can also be a pest in summer, so some form of barrier/treatment cream is advisable. For travel in winter (or late autumn or early spring), take as many layers as you can pack. Gloves, a hat and scarf, and thick socks are mandatory; thermal underwear saves you from cold legs; and a pair of boots with non-slip soles are recommended for the snow and ice. Indoors, you’ll have nothing to worry about, as most apartment buildings and hotels are well (if not over-) heated.
A NOTE ON THE CALENDAR
In 1700, Peter the Great forced the Russians to adopt the Julian calendar which was then in use in Western Europe, in place of the old system dictated by the Orthodox church. Ironically, Western Europe changed to the Gregorian calendar not long afterwards, but this time the Russians refused to follow suit. The Julian calendar was less accurate and by the twentieth century lagged behind the Gregorian by almost two weeks. The Soviet regime introduced the Gregorian calendar in February 1918 – January 31 ran straight on to February 14. This explains why the Soviets always celebrated the Great October Revolution on November 7. In this book we have kept the old-style calendar before February 1918, and the new style only after it was introduced.
CHANGES IN THE NEW RUSSIA
The speed of change in Russian society inevitably means that certain sections of this book are going to be out of date by the time you read them. Laws and regulations frequently change without warning, especially concerning visas and currency exchange; restaurants, clubs and services come and go; and there is always the possibility of radical decrees from the Kremlin. Yet, despite universally gloomy news reports about Russia, Muscovites are resilient and the city is big enough to absorb a lot of trouble – so don’t be deterred by run-of-the-mill reports of Mafia killings, horrendous accidents, and so on.
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