Moscow is Russia's economic and political centre and with around 11 million inhabitants mainland Europe's' biggest city. While the losers of the reforms are easily spotted elsewhere in the country, in Moscow, everyone seems to be a winner - or at least a wannabe winner. Moscow is the melting pot of a collapsed empire, both European and Asiatic. Skyscrapers shoot up like mushrooms, the city centre is being mercilessly renovated and new temples to consumerism open their portals daily.
The first settlers inhabited the area around the Kremlin in the 11th century. Yuri Dolgoruki, the Prince of Susdal, is said to have founded Moscow in 1147. Ninety years later, the Tartar hordes burnt the wooden fortress on the Moskva to the ground for the first time. The inhabitants rebuilt the city but were forced to pay tolls to the Tartars, until Grand Duke Ivan III came to power and drove out the invaders from the east. Ivan III succeeded in uniting the Russian principalities in the mid-15th century, making the Muscovite Empire the strongest power in Eastern Europe.
As often as Moscow has been threatened, besieged and destroyed, its inhabitants have rebuilt their city. In the 20th century Moscow, which lies on the Moskva River, finally blossomed into the undisputed centre of Russia and one of the world's largest cities.
There is a vibrant night life in Moscow. The major and one of the most popular nightlife areas is around Tverskaya Street. The southern part of Tverskaya Street near the Manege Square and the Red Square area is known as an area with many expensive, luxurious bars and restaurants, and is considered to be a playground for New Russians and celebrities.
Tverskaya Street is also one of the busiest shopping streets in Moscow. The adjoining Tretyakovsky Proyezd, also south of Tverskaya Street, in Kitai-gorod, is host to upscale boutique stores such as Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., Armani, Prada and Bentley. Nightlife in Moscow has moved on since Soviet times and today has many of the world's largest nightclubs.
Average temperatures: -9 °C in January, +23.2 °C in July. In winter the temperature may fall below -20 °C. From May onwards temperatures above +20 °C are common. The following table shows average temperatures in °C:
Moscow serves as the reference point for the timezone used in most of Central Russia (GMT + 3). Russian Summer time starts and finishes at the same time as in most European countries.
Roubles, Euros , USD and Credit cards
The course fee covers already many expenses (with the exception of cultural activities). It is not necessary therefore to bring large sums of money. On average our students require between € 100-300 pocket-money weekly for their individual expenses.
US dollars and Euros can be exchanged everywhere. This is not necessarily the case for other currencies for which rates may be lower. US Dollar bills should be as new as possible (1990 onwards) and in good condition, as notes that are worn, torn or have been written on or are otherwise marked are not accepted. There is no need to bring notes in small denomination. Students should be aware that they will not be able to change any money without a passport (or a passport copy stamped in the Department of Visas and Registrations)!
Students are advised to bring their credit cards rather than traveller's cheques. There are lots of cash machines scattered around the centre of the city, while traveller's cheques can be changed into cash in a very limited number of places. Hotels, restaurants, lots of supermarkets and some other shops accept plastic cards. The most accepted credit card is Visa, but also MasterCard/Eurocard and American Express are getting more and more popular. Please note that despite inflationary tendencies the only accepted form of payment in shops and restaurants is the Rouble.
- Local transport includes the Moscow Metro, a metro system famous for its art, murals, mosaics, and ornate chandeliers. When it first opened in 1935, the system had just two lines. Today, the Moscow Metro contains twelve lines, mostly underground with a total of 182 stations.
- Monthly travel cards (bus, tram, trolleybus) can be bought at any metro station and cost around € 10 per month.
- As Metro stations outside the city center are far apart in comparison to other cities, up to 4 kilometres (2.5 mi), an extensive bus network radiates from each station to the surrounding residential zones.
- Taxis: Relatively cheap but tricky: Only those students who address the driver in good Russian obtain reasonable prices, as meters are rarely used. Taxis waiting in front of restaurants and hotels are usually double the price.
- River: Moscow also has two passenger terminals, (South River Terminal and North River Terminal or Rechnoy vokzal), on the river and regular ship routes and cruises along Moskva and Oka rivers, which are used mostly for entertainment. The North River Terminal, built in 1937, is also the main hub for long-range river routes. There are also three freight ports serving Moscow.
- Moscow employs nine train stations to serve the city. They are located close to the city center, but each handles trains from different parts of Europe and Asia. There are also many smaller railway stations in Moscow. As train tickets are relatively cheap, they are the mode of preference for travelling Russians, especially when departing to Saint Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city. Moscow is also the western terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway, which traverses nearly 9,300 kilometres (5,800 mi) of Russian territory to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.
- There are five primary commercial airports serving Moscow: Sheremetyevo International Airport, Domodedovo International Airport, Bykovo Airport, Ostafyevo International Airport and Vnukovo International Airport. Sheremetyevo International Airport is the most common entry point for foreign passengers.
- Domestic plane travel: Pulkovo and Aeroflot Domestic have both a good safety record and are pretty reliable carriers. Tickets from Pulkovo can be booked at the school's travel desk.
Students should keep in mind in particular the following:
- Pickpockets and bag-snatchers: One should be particularly careful in crowded places and in the Metro. Students should never carry large sums of money. Our experience shows that many assaults involve street children in the above-mentioned places.
- Alcohol and drugs: Students should avoid walking the streets alone at night after having consumed a fair amount of vodka. However, if a student still wants to undertake a long trip home in the middle of the night being not exactly sober, he should call a taxi by phone. It is forbidden to use the Metro while intoxicated. Drug users face zero tolerance from the police. Foreigners too, face stiff jail or labour camp sentences for the use of soft or hard drugs.
- Metro: Safe to use during daytime. Late at night students should check twice with whom they are entering a carriage. It is better to stay with the crowd and avoid empty carriages. Still, it is extremely unlikely that a foreigner gets into trouble in the Metro. However, if there is an act of assault, a student should ask any Metro official (there are plenty of them) for help who will immediately alarm the Metro police posted at every station.