Sunday, June 2, 2019

Cycling In Moscow (Велоспорт в Москве)

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Cycling In Moscow (Велоспорт в Москве) Off-the-Beaten Track!
Moscow, Russia: Wednesday, 15th May 2019
Guided cycling tour in Moscow:
Cycling Distance: 17km.     |     Level: Easy
Time : 11:25am to 2:45pm
Time Taken : 3 hrs. 10 mins. (Including stops for lunch, visiting monastery and lots of photo opportunities).

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    Traffic in Russia, is left-hand drive, so cycle on the right when on the road. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!
2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    Traffic at the suburbs are lighter, whilst near Moscow city centre it gets rather heavy. However, much of the route were on wide pavements, sometimes cutting through parks. It is a fairly flat route. Often we crossed busy roads using pedestrian crossings, do note that it is the practice to alight and push bikes at these crossings.

3. Weather
     May is officially the spring season in Moscow. With all the sludge cleared, the month sees the arrival of new leaves and grass, and flowers blooming in full swing.
The average temperature in Moscow stands at 13°C with a low of 8°C and a high of about 18°C This temperature helps sets the spring season in full bloom in Russia. About 1/3 of the month are rainy days, but we only face one rainy day during our two weeks there.
     Useful weather forecast sites for the Russia is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Points of Interests
    The route was suppose to follow the Grand Moscow Bike Tour, one of the many cycling packages offered by Moscow Bike Tours (GPS: 55.74550, 37.62774). However, as I was the only guest for the ride, I was taken on a off-the-beatan track route.
Places of Interest on Cycling Route:
1. The Flying Bridge (GPS: 55.74946, 37.62950) over the Moscow River, located at the Zaryadye Park (Парк «Зарядье»).
2. Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building (Высотка на Котельнической набережной) (GPS: 55.74719, 37.64273), one of the majestic Seven Sisters (Сталинские высотки, Stalinskie Vysotki) towers built in the Stalinist Empire Style (Сталинский Ампир, Stalinskiy Ampir), seen behind the Bolshoy Ustinsky Bridge (Большой Устьинский мост) (GPS: 55.74720, 37.63878).
3. Bolshoy Krasnokholmsky Bridge (Большо́й Краснохо́лмский мост) (GPS: 55.73673, 37.64700).
4. Tagansky (Тага́нский райо́н), a district in Moscow not often visited by tourists.
5. St. Andronicus Monastery (Спасо-Андроников монастырь(GPS: 55.74915, 37.67010).
6. Design Center ARTPLAY (ЦСИ Винзавод, literally winery(GPS: 55.75223, 37.6712), the Moscow Contemporary Art Center Winzavod, set in an artsy area.
7. 2Gis (2ГИС(GPS: 55.75976, 37.66501), corperate offices converted from a former round factory building, now a chic office area.
8. Ascension Church on the Gorokhovo Field (Церковь Вознесения на Гороховом поле(GPS: 55.76406, 37.67134).
9. The Red Gate Building (GPS: 55.77003, 37.64742), another of the Seven Sisters.
10. Clean Ponds (Чистые прудыChistye Prudy(GPS: 55.76107, 37.64468).
11. Perlov Tea House (GPS: 55.76398, 37.63592), a tea house built in Chinese architectural style.
12. Saltykov-Chertkovy Manor (Усадьба Салтыковых-Чертковых) (GPS: 55.76052, 37.63111).
13. Lubyanka Square (Лубянская площадь)(GPS: 55.75974, 37.62593).
14. Tsentral'nyy Detskiy Magazin (Центральный Детский Магазин) (GPS: 55.76015, 37.62469), the largest children store in Moscow., has one of the best views of the Moscow from it's public roof observation deck.
15. Bolshoi Theatre (Большо́й теа́тр(GPS: 55.76013, 37.61864).
16. Monument to Vladimir the Great (Памятник князю Владимиру(GPS: 55.74965, 37.61017).
17. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Храм Христа СпасителяKhram Khrista Spasitelya(GPS: 55.74463, 37.60549).
18. The House on the Embankment (Дом на набережной(GPS: 55.74524, 37.6118).
19. Bolotnaya Square (Болотная площадьBolotnaya ploshchad(GPS: 55.74512, 37.61683).
20. Children are the Victims of Adult Vices (Дети – жертвы пороков взрослых(GPS: 55.74594, 37.6194).

Other Places of Interest on Original Cycling Route:
1. Peter the Great Statue (Памятник Петру I) (GPS: 55.73862, 37.60835).
2. Fallen Monument Park, officially called Muzeon Park of Arts (Парк ИскусствPark Iskustv(GPS: 55.73406, 37.60679).
3. Gorky Park (Парк Горького, Park Gor'kogo) (GPS: 55.72835, 37.60169).
4. Merry Garden / Neskuchny Garden (Неску́чный сад; literally meaning "not boring" or "merry"(GPS: 55.71570, 37.58738).
5. Old Arbat Street (Арба́т(GPS: 55.74858, 37.58845).
6. The Old English Court (GPS: 55.75251, 37.62728).
7. Chambers of the Romanov Boyars (Палаты бояр Романовых(GPS: 55.75271, 37.62926).
8. Ivanovsky Convent (Ивановский монастырь(GPS: 55.75456, 37.64003).
9. Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (Евангелическо-лютеранский кафедральный собор Святых Петра и Павла(GPS: 55.75262, 37.63070).
10. Red Square (Кра́сная пло́щадь, Krásnaya plóshchaď) (GPS: 55.75393, 37.62079).
11. St. Basil's Cathedral (собо́р Васи́лия Блаже́нного, Sobor Vasiliya Blazhennovo(GPS: 55.75252, 37.62308).

5. Food
Lunch:  Buffet Deli at Karavaev Brothers (Братья Караваевы). (GPS: 55.76115, 37.63243).


We were on a tour of Russia, our first time in the country and were most enchanted by it's beautiful and unique buildings, and its diverse culture. It's our seventh day and we had a free day, so while my travel buddies had their own plans, I took the opportunity to scratch my cycling itch. It's a chance that I cannot miss, as it will mean cycling in the largest country in the world and adding another feather to my cap for the number of countries I have cycled in. Russia will be #22!

Since it was already a planned free day, even before leaving for Russia, I scouted the net for guided cycling tours and chanced upon Moscow Bike Tours. They had several packages and I opted for their Grand Moscow Tour, one that will take four hours and cover about 20km.
But a couple of days before ride day, I got a message stating that the tour for that day will be cancelled as rainy weather was forecasted. The evening just before bike day, I checked the weather again.... AND.... a beautiful, sunny morning was lined up.... all my prayers at the many churches and monasteries must have been answered! 😄
I checked with the company again and the ride was on!
No, they won't be using the wooden bike shown above, they have proper bicycles 😂.

Cycling Distance: 17km.     |     Level: Easy
This is an off-the-beaten track route, going to the less touristy eastern suburbs of Moscow. It starts at the soutern banks of the Moskva River, continues along the riverside. And then crosses over to the Tagansky District, where former industrial areas have been turned into colourful artsy places and chic office blocks. It did also cover some of the touristy areas like the Bolshoi TheatreRed Square, etc.

When I arrived at their shop, on account for the earlier bad weather predictions, I found out that I was the only customer for the tour and I had Vado the guide all to my self... GREAT!
Straight off he asked, "Since it's only you; would you want to do the regular tour route or go for an off-the-beaten-track route?". As this was already our fourth day in Moscow, feeling adventurous, I opted for the later.
As we rode off, ahead views of two iconic buildings, St. Basil's Cathedral and the Spasskaya Tower (Spasskaya Bashnya) of the Kremlin, greeted us. The tower is also know as the Saviour Tower, how appropriate as today's beautiful skies seemed to have been saved for us - yes, it's gonna be a great day!

But instead of crossing the Moskva River to the busier opposite bank with its iconic buildings, we swung left and rode along the riverside. On one side was the dark waters of the river, while on the other side yellow flowers cheerfully brightened up the morning; we're just into spring and everywhere the flowers are blooming!
For most of the route we cycled on pedestrians walkways or the wide pavements of the main roads.

Vado was a very good guide; concientous, knowledgable and always eager to share details of his city...
Oops.... sorry Vado, got distracted by the Flying Bridge on the opposite bank.

The route will take us through several parks, where it's all very green and colourfully with flowers - spring has just come and all have started to bloom, spreading a rainbow of colours around.

It would take us along tram lines running into tunnels .....

..... and even into lanes and alleys running under buildings and leading into shared residential/commercial courtyards that would lead on further to an artsy district.

Here's some of the interesting destinations:
This lovely frontage - neat, nicely painted with potted plants at several levels belies what is behind. It camouflages the GES-1, a large electric power generating plant that supplies power to the Kremlin & Red Square ares. This is our first stop as the big words "Москва", Cyrillic for Moscow, forms a good backdrop to let friends know that we are in Moscow! It's also a good story to tell of how power-generation plants don't have to be ugly.

From a viewing platform on the Bolshoy Krasnokholmsky Bridge, the Moskva River with the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building in the background. This magnificent building is one of the Seven Sisters built in the Stalinist Empire StyleWhile it is not exceptionally tall or massive, the "upward surge" of five stepped-up layers, from a flat 9-storey side wing to the 32-storey spire, gives the impression of a larger structure. The top-most photo shows a better view of this building.

Another of the Seven Sisters, this one is the Red Gate Building. At 11-stories, it is the smallest of the sisters. Its name comes from the nearby Red Gate square.
Vado's photo angle makes me look taller.

At the Perlov Tea House, although it looke Chinese in design, it was neither built or frequented by Chinese. Back to the 1890s: With his initial profits, Perlov built a typical Russian-style house located on Myasnitskaya Street and opened a tea shop on the first floor. Hoping to land a lucrative tea contract from China through a visiting Chinese ambassador to Moscow, in 1895 Perlov transformed his house into a Chinese pagoda replete with dragons, hoping the dignitary would stay with his family. He did not. The Chinese pagoda caught the attention of Muscovites, who fell in love with Perlov’s out-of-place house and tea shop. Within 50 years, Moscow was filled with Perlov’s “tea taverns,” where customers could sip cup after cup of steaming tea.

This cheery looking candy coloured building does not cater to children. It's a important building for more serious matters as it was the headquarters building for the KGB (now replaced by the FSB).

Opposite it is the renown Lubyanka Square and on the other side is a building really for children - the Tsentral'nyy Detskiy Magazin, the largest children store in Russia. Two contrasting building, on of serious soberness and the other juvenile fun, sitting just next to each other - it just shows how much Russia have changed since the Cold War, and is now a more open society.
This building though is also frequented by adults; from its public roof observation deck are some of the best views of the Moscow.

In front of the Bolshoi Theatre, which host the Bolshoi Ballet and the Bolshoi Opera which is amongst the oldest and most renowned ballet and opera companies in the world. It is by far the world's biggest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers.
Hah! Should have posed here as a ballet dance here. Yah? Serious, I can be dainty if  it need be.

The State Historical Museum ( Государственный исторический музей, Gosudarstvenny istoricheskiy muzyey), behind it is the Red Square and at the other end is the St. Basil's Cathedral. Just for note, the "Red" does not have any connection to communism or to the buildings nearby being red in colour. The word just means beautiful, the place and the surrounding buildings and gardens are in fact very beautiful. Moscow is in fact one of the greenest cities in the world with 40% of its territory covered by greenery.
We did not go into the Red Square, instead we by passed it to head for the Monument_to_Vladimir_the_Great.

Nearby is the world clock fountain. It a large quarter sphere structure surrounded by fountains. It has a mechanism that rotates the whole top. At the perimeter ring are numbers which represents time. On the quarter sphere are major capitals, accurately and geographically located such that one can tell the time there at the present moment. Was proud to notice that my home capital, Kuala Lumpur, was indicated.

Along the way, Vado frequently stopped at several large mansions/manors. These were the estates of rich Russian whose abodes were confiscated after the Russian Revolution. These days many houses communal flats and the nicer ones have been converted to galleries or museums.

We cross back the Moskva Riverr via the Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge. From it's midspan the Kremlin can be seen, with the nearest guard tower, the Borovitskaya Tower, standing tall at the corner of the Kremlin walls.

One last destination just before we finish our loop - the Bolotnaya Square and at on end of it is the "Children are the Victims of Adult Vices" sculpture.
It's a sculpture of two young children surrounded by hideous looking "monsters" that represents various vices of mankind such as addiction, war, child labour, etc. The Children in this context doesn't literally reperesent our children but rather our future, i.e. the child of the Earth.

A tour of Moscow is imcomplete without viewing some  it's 600 churches, monasteries and temples. Below are some of which we passed by:
Church of St. Nicholas in Zayaitskom. On this side of the city, most of the churches don't have the onion-head domes.

Church of St. Nicholas on Bolvanovka.

Temple of St. Martin the Confessor.

Church of St. Alexis Moscow.

St. Andronicus Monastery.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

At the Design Center ARTPLAY and the 2Gis, a former industrial factory area now converted into an area of artsy displays, and chic offices:
3-D modern art.

Colourful wall murals.

Psychedelic murals.

Round glass factories are now chic office blocks

An old factory, cleaned and spruced up. Although the chimney is still intact; it has now been repainted to signiy a change to up-market chic office blocks.

Come lunch time and we passed some interesting shops at the park and I hinted to Vado about having eats there with the nice idea of eating among the greenery swirling in my head. "Nope, I will show you a better place.", was his reply.
At the chic office area, we passed by some cool looking joints. "No, not yet."
Finally we passed by a KFC outlet, and he said "We eat here!"
..... "Just joking...", and the disappointment lifted from my face.
We passed a McD shop.. "We eat here.... just joking again!"
We finally stopped at a place called Karavaev Brothers; it's a fairly large deli-style restaurant with a wide rannge of choices. Food is charged by it's weight.

Russian pirozhki stuffed puff/buns.

Part of my meal: smoked salmon and meat pie.

My guide and me.
Many thanks Vado for keeping me safe and showing me your city while having lots of fun.

Click here for a Relive of our Moscow Cycling Route
For more photos of the ride, Click Here.

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