Cruise News UK goes on tour with Orthodox Cruises as the ms Anton Chekhov sails from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. This is the final instalment in a series of articles aimed at describing, firsthand, a cruise on one of the most rapidly developing niches within the industry and how best to tailor this product to potential clients. Here we will explain why many of the industry’s leading figures are becoming increasingly excited by the prospect – and commercial viability – of river cruising.
After eight days sailing through the heart of Russia we have arrived at our final destination – Moscow. Rightly or wrongly, this is the destination that springs to mind when talking about Russia as a potential tourist hot spot. Therefore it is imperative that your knowledge of the city is completely up to date. The differences between it, Saint Petersburg and the other destinations on our route are crucial for gaining an insight into the complexities of such a vast nation.
Sitting on the banks of the Moskva River, Moscow has been recognised as a city since 1147 and fought over viciously ever since. In 1712 the city’s capital status was taken away after a series of battles had wrought havoc onto the region. It was given to the newly founded Saint Petersburg – sitting west, on the Baltic Sea and a strategic vantage point which brought huge wealth to the country through gained trade, after the war with Sweden. In 1812, and in the face of Napoleon’s advancing army, Muscovites burnt their city to the ground to stop France having an easy victory. Then, in 1918 the city was reinstalled as the capital by Lenin after the Russian Revolution, the beginning of another violent time in the country’s history. If Saint Petersburg is the city that shows the golden period of Russia’s past, Moscow shows everything – warts and all. The city has bore the brunt of the country’s past turmoil and has a far more rugged demeanour in comparison to the elegance of its cultural cousin.
We arrive in Moscow shortly after lunch and immediately depart for a city tour. The vast, sprawling megapolis is laid out before us – the biggest city in Europe. With a population of well over eleven million people Moscow is the fifth largest city – by population – in the world, behind only Mumbai, Karachi, Istanbul and Shanghai. And it seems that every last one of that population owns a car. The city is renowned for its traffic jams and its not unheard of for a journey by car to take hours longer than it would by other methods – all the more strange given that Moscow has one of the most spectacular metro systems in the world.
We are taken on a guided tour of the city which includes the Novodevichy Convent and the Novodevichy Cemetery. The latter of which is akin to Paris’s famous Père Lachaise, a huge site upon which the great and good of history have been laid to rest. Novodevichy has an impressive array of monuments to those who have played a hand in shaping the country’s current climate. Notable graves include former President Boris Yeltsin, the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev and the man whom our ship is named, Anton Chekhov. It’s a great tour and a fascinating insight into the dedication and high regard to which Russia pays its heroes.
In the evening we are taken to see the city by night, including a tour of one of the most spectacular sights of all – the Moscow Metro. Built in 1935, the underground network is a testament to Russian engineering and is one of the grandest examples of Soviet architecture in existence. To even compare it to the London Underground is to do it a disservice. It’s astonishing. Lined with marble, lit by chandeliers and decorated with mosaics and statues. It’s more like walking through a museum than a public transport system. It is a feat of idealism that matches the grand expectations of the Soviet Union. The tour is one of the best that we’ve been on for the entire trip and while there is no doubt in my mind that I prefer Saint Petersburg to Moscow (from a personal point of view) the Moscow Metro has brought the city on leaps and bounds in my mind. I strongly encourage anyone who is thinking of visiting Moscow to take a trip into any underground station. You certainly won’t regret it.
Tomorrow is final full day. You can read day nine’s entry here.