By LOUISE VINCIGUERRA
Moscow, Russia, is one of the world’s most intriguing destinations. You may have an image of Moscow from literature, movies and history, but there are likely many things you don’t know about this metropolis. The following are some fun facts to absorb when you visit the Russian capital.
When you stay at one of the Moscow hotels found on Venere.com, you may want to celebrate your arrival with a stiff drink. If you choose vodka, you’ll be in good company. Russia is the world’s top consumer of vodka per person. To toast your Russian friends, don’t say “cheers,” try saying the Russian “za vas” (to you).
A Long Way From Home
After you’ve settled in, take a moment to consider where you are located in the world. When standing in Moscow, you’ll be about eight hours away from St. Petersburg by car, about four hours away from London on a plane, nearly 5,000 miles away from Washington, D.C. and about 5,500 miles away from Beijing, China.
A Population Complete With Many Billionaires
Within the city itself, you’ll be surrounded by about 10 million people who live in an area of about 470 square miles. That’s a lot of elbow room, but you may find yourself rubbing shoulders with a billionaire or two: Moscow has the world’s second-largest population of billionaires, according to Forbes. What may not be surprising, after learning about the city’ über-rich and finding out that it’s not only the largest city in Europe but one of its largest economies, is that the city has a high cost of living. Moscow is consistently rated as one of the most expensive cities in the world — it was No. 4 in 2012, according to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey.
The Heart of Russia Is in Red Square
Billionaires or not, Muscovites (that’s what Moscow residents are called) live spread over 10 administrative regions, all of which radiate out from Red Square and the city center. Red Square was originally viewed as a main marketplace between the Kremlin and a merchants’ quarter. All roads emanated from this spot, not only leading to the rest of Moscow, but to the rest of the empire. Standing in Red Square, you’re literally in the heart of the Russian Empire. The Kremlin itself, a giant complex fortified against attack, includes five palaces in its thick walls. Luxury and religion were both important to the running of the empire, so there are also four cathedrals located inside. Though it used to be the home of aristocracy, the Kremlin is now the official home of the Russian president.
A History of the Kremlin
The spot where the Kremlin stands today is a fortified place from which the city has been ruled for thousands of years. It was first inhabited around 200 B.C. Once fortifications were built, it weathered many attacks by enemy forces. In the 1200s, the Mongols completely destroyed the Kremlin and surrounding structures. The city was rebuilt but was soon sacked again in the 1300s by the Tatars. These skirmishes went on for centuries — in the 1500s, Crimean Tatars ravaged all of Moscow except the Kremlin. In the next century, the city withstood attacks by the Polish. Famously, when attacked by the French in the 1800s, it was the Muscovites themselves who burned the city, preferring to destroy their property rather than have the French use it against them.
A Legacy of Sports
Nowadays, war and sacking has been replaced by modern sports in the Russian capital. Moscow has 63 sports stadiums; the most popular games are ice hockey, tennis and rugby. In 1980, Moscow hosted the Olympics, and some of the Olympian venues are still used today.
Though Moscow hosted the Summer Olympics, the continental climate in Moscow lends itself well to winter sports. From October to March, Moscow residents can expect temperatures at or below freezing, and snow between November and April. May is reportedly the most comfortable month.
Louise Vinciguerra is a fantastic joke teller, has a million and one hobbies, and enjoys matching her fonts with her moods. This Brooklyn native dirties her hands in content on weekdays and as a devout nature lover, dirties them in soil on the weekends. When she’s not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she’s traveling in search of fun food, dabbling in urban farming or planning nature trips from her resident city of Rome. When she’s not doing any of the above, she sleeps.
Image: Geraint Rowland