Here are some casual observations about the mismatch of expectations and realities of visiting Moscow.
Having just returned from a September 2013 visit to Moscow, I was struck by the mismatch of what I had expected and what I actually observed.
Moscow turns out to be a wonderful place for the casual traveler to visit. While Moscow might not match some other cities in cuisine, shopping, or magnificent sight-seeing, it does offer plenty of beautiful parks, history, culture, architecture, world-class art and museums, cathedrals, and enough sights to keep a traveler easily occupied for many days.
I expected a bit more of a “police state” atmosphere, and at least expected some gnarly looking scar-faced, bandoleer draped, machine gun toting, pressed uniform wearing guards prominently stationed at the airport and on every street corner. But, no luck and no photo ops (presuming that I would not be sent to the gulag for attempting to use my trusty Leica to expose the goings-on behind the Iron Curtain). Well…maybe too many old cold-war movies stored in my DVD collection, and too many John le Carre books gathering dust on the shelves.
The reality is that there is definitely a lot more overt police presence in any large American city than in Moscow. Actually saw or heard very few police sirens. But, since there are not any donut shops, I guess there is not any reason to turn on the blue lights and go fast.