Moscow is the barometer and nucleus of the changes sweeping through Russia. Nowhere are Russia´s contrasts more apparent than here - ancient monasteries and ultra-modern monoliths stand side by side and disparities in wealth between the ´new´ and the ´old´ Russians are very apparent.
Moscow´s origins as a symbol of Russian spiritual and political power go back 850 years. It reflects Russia´s state of flux in its day-to-day life, and when the winds of change start blowing, they blow through Moscow first.
Moscow lies in the centre of what is known as European Russia. To the east of Moscow is the Volga, which flows south, one of Russia´s historic highways.
The Kremlin, a northwards-pointing triangle with sides that are 750m long, is at the heart of Moscow in every way - symbolically, historically and geographically. Red Square lies along its east side, the Moscow River flows past its south side. From here, Moscow spreads out in four distinctive rings of development, each area having its own collection of monasteries, museums and elegant buildings. Most of the city´s sights are within the first circle - an area that can easily be covered on foot. Just don´t forget to venture from the main thoroughfares as the smaller side streets now have a lot to offer. Moscow´s five airports are all beyond the outer ring road, 30 to 40 kilometres from the city centre.
Moscow´s metro is the most common and efficient way to traverse the city. Buses, trams and trolleybuses fill in the gaps. Catching a taxi is simplicity itself - just stick out an arm - but bear in mind that even official taxis are often not metered. Negotiate the fare beforehand. There are more than 150 metro stations - many of them elegant, marble-faced, frescoed, gilded with works of art. The card ticketing system is easy to use and transferable between buses and trams, with plenty of signage and maps to help. You´ll rarely wait more than two minutes for a train, nine million people a day use the system.
Foundation: 1147, by Duke Yuri Dolgoruky
Climate: Cold winters, hot summers
GMT Offset: GMT +3 hours
To do and see: Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Suzdal, Vladimir, Novodevichy Convent (New Convent of the Maidens), Museums, Gorky Park, Arbat, The Kremlin, Central Moscow,
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