Moscow over ground

After so much military stuff and underground sights I’ll write about some of the overground sights in this last article about Moscow. I’ve heard there are some nice ones 😉

The Red Square (Красная площадь)

The square itself is just an… empty square, if there doesn’t happen to be a military parade going on 😉 That’s why it’s usually all about the buildings surrounding it.

“Red Square” (Красная площадь, “Krasnaya ploshtshad“) is actually a mistranslation. Krasny used to mean both red and beautiful in Russian, so it initially was the Beautiful Square. The association to beautiful was lost later on, and the Soviets didn’t really object to the new meaning, which was already being used more and more by the Russian people themselves.

Here a remnant of the Victory Day celebrations is being removed…

You probably already know Saint Basil’s Cathedral from countless pictures. But I guess that Ivan the Terrible built it to thank the Mother of God for a victory against one of the descendants of Gengis Khan is less well-known fact, and one that might not sound very Christian… 😉

An important ritual for tourists: place yourself on the “Kilometer Zero” mark (we already know that one from Yekaterinburg) in front of the Iberian Gate and Chapel and throw a coin over your shoulder. This ritual is very important for the old lady who collects and keeps the falling coins, too 😉

Close to the Red Square is the Parliament Building. This is the place from which Putin’s party (which he isn’t even a member of!) reigns the nation with an absolute majority. The turnout for the 2016 elections was just 30 percent in Moscow, and 20 percent of those asked stated they would agree to selling their votes 😯

I didn’t visit the Kremlin. On one hand I wasn’t really interested, and on the other it was closed down two out of three days because of Victory Day.

The “Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy” (ВДНХ)

This former trade show and amusement park area was created in 1939 as some kind of “USSR Expo”. Every member country had a big pavillon and exhibited its products and culture there. Today the pavillons are either empty or house museums or entertainment venues. A futuristic monorail system connects several Metro stations to the entrance.

I would suggest you start here in the morning and then stay in the area for the whole day, since the Cosmonaut Museum and the Moskvarium are close-by.

I can imagine the conversation leading to the building of this rocket…

“Comrade Secretary, we put this guy in space, this… Gagarin. That was quite a feat, wasn’t it? I want a rocket in my park to commemorate this, complete with a launching pad.

“But comrade Director, the Vostok is 50 meters long and weighs 150 tons, how are we supposed to…”

“Comrade Secretary, this is the Soviet Union! We are capable of everything!”

And in the end they actually put a copy of the rocket right into the middle of the park 😀

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (Рабочий и колхозница), an impressive monument not far from the entrance to the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. The building below it houses a museum.

The Moskvarium

This brand-new building on the area of the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy houses a nice aquarium in the basement and an orca show on the upper floors.

Fish? Eel? “Monofish”? Definitely in a bad mood, though…

A Seadragon. Looks like a camouflaged Seahorse, but it’s a different type of fish.

This seal looks like it has a severe case of wanderlust…

The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

I was deeply impressed by this museum. I’ve been to many technology museums before, and even to Space Center Houston, but this museum plays in a different league. It doesn’t just show the history of space travel from the Russian perspective, but many of the exhibits are priceless originals! And the building itself is a beauty. If you’re looking around, asking yourself where the Museum of Cosmonautics might be, you immediately know it when you see it.

Good to know that they use the same Makita power tools in space as I do on earth 😉

A copy of the Mir, just hanging right there… 😯

These FELIKS mechanical calculators were everywhere in the 1940s, but not many have survived. This one was used to calculate ballistic curves for space flights.

The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines

Yes, the Soviets had arcade machines too, and this museum has some of the few remaining ones. If you can’t make it to the location in Moscow, there’s a second one in St. Petersburg.

I thought this museum was “quite nice”. It’s not the fault of the institution, the operators put in a lot of work, the entrance fee is 450 rubles (about 6,50 €) and you get a bag of 15 Kopek coins for the machines just like 40 years ago. The main issue was that the arcade machines built in the Soviet Union were just not good. The 1980s were characterized by shortages, the priorities were elsewhere, and the computing technology available to the engineers in the Eastern Bloc wasn’t competitive.

There was no real gaming industry, for example it is said that companies which formerly built sensors for nuclear installations switched over to arcade games. Tetris, the most well-known computer game every created in Russia, was created by chance by Alexey Pajitnov as a test program for new computer hardware. Many actual arcade machines just relied on mechanics instead, like these ones:

This is one of the more complex machines, but it still runs very simple code. There are 16 segments (horizontal/vertical/diagonal). The machine shows a pattern in which some segments are not activated. The player has a couple of seconds to choose a second pattern using the keys so that both patterns combined activate all segments. A white lamp lights up to the left of the row containing the right pattern, making things a little bit easier.

Autorally-M, a soviet racing game. The simple electronics didn’t support moving backgrounds or large sprites, so the screen doesn’t move and you look at the small cars from the top. This machine was built in the 1980s, for comparison I’ve added a video of the western car racing game Pole Position from 1982…

This Flipper was actually quite nice. Simple mechanics and electric circuits were no problem for the soviet engineers.

Victory Park (Парк Победы)

This park is basically brand-new. The architecture has a stalinistic look, but in reallity everything was built in 1995.

Don’t let yourself be fooled: this building is curved, but due to the panorama shot it looks straight. The curvature is only visible in the second picture 😉

An eternal flame burns guarded by soldiers. Heaps of flowers were deposited here on Victory Day, otherwise this place is empty during the year.

Do Svidanja, Moscow!

I’ll say goodbye with some more, unsorted pictures from this beautiful city. Next time I’ll continue in St. Petersburg 🙂

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