Greetings from Sunny Moscow
7-11 August, 2017
Uncharted territory takes a completely different turn here. Our fancy speed train reached speeds of over 220 km/h and took us from St. Petersburg to Moscow in no time. We were supposed to arrive at the south station of Mosow, from which it would have been a 5-minute subway ride to the hotel (spoiler: it wasn’t).
While being thrown into crowded Russian mayhem at the station, we found out that the train actually arrived at the North station, over 40-minutes away (it’s in the details I suppose). As we were a bit overwhelmed in the crowdedness it took a moment before we kicked into action-mode. Our worries took a turn for the better when we tried to get the tickets for the metro from a machine (to give you an idea, look below).
Luckily Russians are known for their hospitality and big smiles so of course no-one felt like helping us out. After wandering around clueless for a while at the station, we found a register with a Information clerk, who we explained in our best Russian where we wanted to go (Of course we were ripped off, we found out later, but we had gotten what we needed). Thankful and in best spirits we arrived at our hostel, which made our cute crackhouse from St. Petersburg look like the Plaza in New York. Let’s just say that adventurous has reached a completely new level in the bathroom. Nonetheless we were happy we arrived and were excited to find out what Russia’s capital had to offer.
The next morning we took it slow and had a lovely brunch in a coffee-house near the hostel. Afterwards we decided it would be best to arrange the necessities, so we stocked up water and supplies and picked up our train tickets from our ticket agency Real Russia. In the late afternoon we explored the area around the hostel. We found out it’s approx 100m to the Kremlin and about a 10-minute walk to Red Square. We visited the Church of Christ the Savior only a short walk away, which has beautiful golden peaks and looks over the river.
Afterwards we had dinner and a couple of beers across from Red Square followed by our first of many visits to the square and the colorful St. Basil’s Cathedral. Due to celebrations in a couple of weeks a podium and tribunes were being built on the square but this did not undermine its hugeness. It is enormous. We took the scenic route back to our hostel and passed the waterways in the Alexander Garden before calling it a night.
On our second day in Moscow we wanted to join the free tour from Moscowfreetours to get to know the city a bit better. We got up early and prepped breakfast, lunch and water before getting on the way. In our attempt to reach the meeting point, we found out that the city is undergoing serious renovations for next years World Cup. We only arrived in the nick of time. Our guide was Marina, a local, who took us on a two and a half hour journey through the heart of Moscow. We have seldomly had such a charasmatic and enthusiastic guide. She combined fun with facts and made it interesting for everyone. We passed the oldest church of Moscow, the Romanov Mansion, the GUM mall, St. Basil’s and Red square before concluding the tour in Alexander Garden. Interestingly we found out that St. Basil’s Cathedral is actually 10 churches in one and that it is actually named after a homeless man who lived in medieval Moscow. Pretty cool stuff!
The tour was so nice that we decided to take the Kremlin Tour the same day with Marina as well. We first had a small break with some cold beverages before starting the tour. The Kremlin is famous around the world and we had our own reservations about it. During another interesting two-hour tour we got to know the history and ins and outs of the Kremlin. At the armory there is an impressive collection of over 800 canons from the wartime with Napoleon. It was also interesting to hear about the Kremlin Regiment, the only people actually living inside the Kremlin They are a lot like the Swiss Guard. The Cathedral Square was breathtaking, with a Cathedral in every corner. They also have the largest canon and bell in the world, which are simply insane! After the tour we went for ice cream and had a local dinner that was a bit of a let-down and far from what we had hoped for.
The following morning we prepared a little breakfast and headed towards Lenin’s Mausoleum on Red Square. Let’s say we were not the only ones who wanted to see it, so we queued up behind another 500 people. While waiting more and more people skipped the line and went in in front of us. After waiting 30 minutes the guard stopped the line approx. 2 meters in front of us, informing us that we would have to come back tomorrow due to the closing time of the mausoleum. Highly annoyed with the line skippers we decided to sneakily walk around the line completely and simply squeeze through in the front. This very successful method we have since nicknamed “pulling a Russian”. It was interesting to see the mausoleum, especially how well it is guarded. After our short visit we walked over the square and sat in Alexander Garden, one of our new found favorite places in Moscow. We sat around for a couple of hours, had lunch and relaxed. We followed the change of the guards at the eternal flame at the Unknown Soldier Monument several times. In the evening we decided for a western dinner and therefore went with pizza. We ate at Pinzeria, supposedly having the best pizza in town (and yes it was very tasty) before calling it a night.
Today our last day in Moscow started out with some hassle. Naivly thinking we had arranged a late checkout with the hostel manager the night before, we stayed in our room late, packing our bags. However the language barrier caught up with us and we were kicked out the hostel around 14:00. Luckily we had our stuff packed and were ready to go.
Tonight we are taking the mother of all trainrides and will travel from Moscow to Irkutsk. Our first part consists of thousands of miles of railtrack that should take us in 74 hours to the other side of Russia. We are curious how we are going to enjoy the time aboard the train. Adventure awaits!