Monday, March 21, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Red Square has nothing to do with the commies. "Red" in Russian means "beautiful", and the square was called that for hundreds of years before the commies showed up in the last century.
However, when the commies arrived they blew up about half the churches, so Moscow does not have nearly as many as you see in other European countries. The ones that remain are extremely ornate, though.
The Kremlin is actually the original walled city from when Moscow was founded about 850 years ago. It is huge and looks much like other old walled cities in Europe, except better maintained.
The KGB building sits outside the walled city of the Kremlin, and it is not beautiful.
Russia has fully embraced capitalism, and in many ways is more capitalistic than the US. You can buy anything from anywhere in the world in Moscow. Also, a local colleague of mine bought his apartment with cash, and the biggest issue was the bulk and weight of transferring that many bills.
The personal income tax rate is 13%, and there is no state or local income tax. However, the VAT (sales) tax is 18%. The GDP is growing at 6%, but inflation is 10% and loans cost 20% in rubles and 10% in dollars.
While vodka is very popular, there is zero tolerance for drinking and driving, even one beverage. The breathalyzers used by the police are cheap and inaccurate, so locals carry better models in their cars for when they are stopped and the police breathalyzer thinks they have been drinking, they can prove otherwise.
Other than drinking, if you are stopped for a traffic offense you can still settled the matter for cash immediately with the police. We also managed to park in an elite government lot right next to Red Square by offering the same cash incentive to the attendant.
Moscow has been named the most expensive city on the planet. I found this to be true as a club sandwich, beer, and dessert at my hotel cost over $110.
I did not see any bears, but I did see lots of fur - in coats on the women and hats on the men. Of course, the high temperature last week was zero degrees F, so it makes sense.