Our first day on the streets of Moscow and we hit them hard. We hit a slight detour in the morning due to the May Day holiday parades (and protests, the Communist remnant is still strong and bitter). Most of the morning was spent in the city center and near Pushkin Square. This city is definitely in love with Pushkin, it's favorite poet. We saw several statues, a square and café named for him, and the church where he was married. We also walked past the first McDonald's in the USSR. No, I didn't eat there (I don't eat it in the States, the same rules apply abroad) but other children of the late 80's/early 90's should remember seeing people lined for hours to get a tasted of the food that would go on to make so many Americans so fat. We ended the morning on Arbot street at the Hard Rock Café. Not exactly my choice of cuisine, but when you are traveling with a group you need to go where the numbers can be accommodated. After lunch, the manager of the restaurant spoke about running the business of an American restaurant in Russia. I couldn't hear much over the ambient restaurant noise, but what I did take away was that he became the manager because he was a good bartender and spoke good English - maybe a graduate degree isn't all it's cracked up to be :)
In the afternoon we toured the Kremlin and Red Square. Both were amazing, but it was somewhat depressing to hear how much history was destroyed by the Communists - namely churches, monasteries, and other buildings. In some respects it makes sense because of the Soviets' ban on religion, but you can't help but think that it had an adverse effect on country pride due to the long-standing role of the Orthodox church. However, the Orthodox church seems to have been resilient and has made a strong comeback in post-Soviet Russia.
As I mentioned yesterday, you can tell that the seeds of Capitalism were planted long before the fall of Communism. Running the length of Red Square, there is a beautiful old building that was intended be a marketplace. The building, built in the 19th century, is pretty much a blueprint for modern malls (which is what it is today; and a high-end one at that).
Even though we were exhausted after the walk, we enjoyed happy-hour at the hotel and did some more exploring for a local restaurant for dinner. A good meal was easy enough to find, but a decent pub was nearly impossible. It's ironic that in a country with excessive alcoholism, a bar is so difficult to find. Then again, there are street vendors selling beer on every corner, and as far as I can tell there are no restrictions on when an where you can drink. After two hours of searching yielded only a small karaoke bar, I called a night and headed back to the hotel.