Moscow, how you've changed!
My first visit to Moscow was in 1989 on my honeymoon. My usually clever husband to be thought it would be difficult to get into the Soviet Union thereby delaying the impending nuptials. Imagine his surprise when the travel agent said "No problem, when do you want to go?" So we signed up for a General Tour package, staying at the not so centrally located Cosmos Hotel, and toured with a group of senior citizens, many of which wanted to nap in the afternoon. Being young and fearless, we exchanged money on the black market, traded old concert tshirts for Communist flags (still with fresh bird poop!) and nested dolls, wandered the streets and didn't hesitate to use the public transportation.
My second visit was in late August/early September 2003. Once again we signed up for a tour, this time with Gate 1, more due to lack of time to plan on my part than not thinking we could successfully travel on our own. And once again we are stayed at the not so centrally located Cosmos Hotel although we stayed at the Arbat Hotel for three days before the tour officially started. After a frustrating first couple of days with the group, we started wandering off more and more frequently on our own, the tour members were frequently late and one even got lost in Red Square for an hour, seriously delaying our trip.
All I can say is WOW, what a difference. My memories from our first trip include
Eating ice cream from a street vendor because we missed dinner at the hotel. Now there are good restaurants everywhere with English menus
Trading old concert tshirts for souvenirs. Now there are entire souvenir markets
Watching women fighting over plain white cotton blouses at GUM. Now GUM is home to many designer stores
Trading money on the black market, now ATM machines dispense both rubles and US currency