Last year I presented at SD Best Practice Moscow.
It was a fantastic experience and I very much enjoyed Moscow.
I deliberately stayed near the centre away from the conference hotel so that I could experience a bit more of the real Moscow.
A weekly Metro ticket was very cheap, and I was very please with myself for learning and reciting enough Russian to buy my pass.
The art and decor of the Metro is amazing, as are the escalators, which go up and up and up and ... amazing feats of engineering, far longer than anything in the London underground.
Not many people in the street spoke English, so its worth having a phrase book and learning to pronounce the place you are looking for. Its also polite.
I found people perfectly friendly and willing to help the stupid foreigner find where he was looking for.
Wandering about, sometimes even late at night seemed safe. I didn't see anything untoward. But I may just have been lucky.
I can recommend a visit to the VVTs - see your guide book. Its easily accessible from the Metro and its nice to wander about.
At the far end of the park from the Metro is a Vostok rocket. Just sitting there, unguarded largely ignored by all all except me who - as a lover of all things spacey was mightily impressed. It was smaller than I expected and top marks for courage to Uri Gagarin for sitting on top of what is basically a prototype ICBM.
The contrast was even more start for me as the week after I was in Florida and visited the Kennedy Space Center. The understated and free nature of the Vostok rocket was really refreshing. The informality and complete lack of commerciality was great. It was a real reminder of the achievements of this remarkable nation.
It reminded me of the tale about the urban legend of the Americans spending a million dollars developing a pen that would write in zero gravity. The Russians just used a pencil !
The impression I was left with of Russia was one of a people with brains and pragmatism.
A nation with very much to be proud of.