When we were children, my brother had a View Master – older readers will remember – and one of the films he had was about Moscow.
The onion domes have fascinated me ever since and I vowed as a youngster that one day I would see them in reality. A dream 60 years in the making was fulfilled in April this year as I undertook a seven-day trip to St Petersburg and Moscow.
The two guides we had were so proud to show us their cities and to reveal a fascinating history.
Both cities are still emerging from the Communist regime of yesteryear with grey concrete being replaced by buildings painted in complementary pastel shades of blue, green, yellow and pink.
Streets, pavements and shop fronts are washed down each morning and pedestrian areas are hand-swept daily.
No-one drops litter, there are no signs of graffiti, everyone obeys traffic lights, no-one jay-walks or jumps the lights – perhaps one of the more obvious throw-backs to Communist days of control.
St Petersburg has a very European feel to it and it is totally safe to wander the streets alone.
There is so much to see.
There are still a few beggars outside the more important churches, but people do fill their begging cups.
We took the bullet train –washed down before it left the station – to Moscow which has a more “serious” atmosphere as it is the home of government now and in the past. Red Square – literal translation Beautiful Square – is smaller than you would think, but very impressive, housing the wonderful St Basil’s and Lenin’s tomb among other delights.
There is a more obvious police and military presence, but this does not detract from the beauty of the city.
Again streets are washed and swept daily, again no litter or graffiti – a real credit to the local population displaying very public respect for their surroundings.
A trip on the Metro is a must as all stations are so beautifully decorated – with mosaics, stained glass, sculpture – and free of litter or graffiti, so their beauty and elegance is easy to appreciate.
The people will admit to being “unsmiling” – which they are – but they are approachable and responsive to visitors.
They also have a great sense of fashion. Food is good and extremely affordable – £3 to £5 bought a more than filling evening meal, and many restaurants have musicians and singers entertaining diners.
Vodka is the drink of national preference, but there are so many variations on a theme, one flavoured with honey and pepper proved particularly popular with my fellow travellers.
The onion domes are indeed spectacular and just as colourful as they appear on postcards or film – and were well worth my wait. I had a wonderful time and saw some wonderful sights/ I can’t wait to go back to see all of the things we missed. As a good holiday should do, it left me wanting more.
Jane E Burke
Abbott Road, Mansfield