Why you must go to Moscow

Trip Start Jul 02, 2010
Trip End Aug 02, 2010

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Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 1

After a sweltering day in Saint Petersburg yesterday, we waited around our hotel reception until it was time to walk to the train station (about 10 mins away). We were hoping the hotel may have had a shower we could use before our overnight journey but we weren't so lucky. After watching the Russian "Everybody loves Raymond", we packed up and moved on.

The station wasn't hard to find and fortunately, neither was the platform. We waited on the platform until the train pulled in, and was then ready to board. One interesting thing we noticed – they play really dramatic symphony music over the PA when a train departs – is that to add to the drama when people run along the platforms??

Our carriage attendant Anna checked our tickets and passports and we boarded. We should have just stayed on the platform until it was time to leave – the train was SWELTERING! Try and imagine a car parked in the sun for an hour, with the windows up. Even when the train started it didn’t cool down. Using hand signals, we asked Anna if the carriage would ever cool down. She pointed to the roof our cabin and indicated we should close our door. We finally realized that cool air was slowly coming in, although it took a good hour. Truthfully if we had to travel in the stifling heat on this Trans Siberian journey, we would have flown home from Moscow!

We went straight to sleep since the journey was only 7 hours long, but had the disadvantage of a crying baby in the next cabin (another reminder why I don’t children). Also the beds are only about 6’ long and, being 5’10, could touch the wall by pointing my feet. We still got a few hours of rest, although we didn’t look that youthful when we arrived in Moscow. The four of us then disembarked and found our transfer drivers and headed to our hotel.

One thing about Moscow, it is definitely not as striking as St. Petersburg, and it definitely has a much more Soviet feel to it. Even though it was before 6am, the hotel gave us the best news, that we could access our rooms before noon. Unfortunately we got a smokers room (ugh) but we were so desperate for a shower and sleep we didn’t care.

We met up with Carla and John for breakfast (the breakfast room doubles as a karaoke disco) where the buffet was situated in a really hot room. It was good advice to avoid the yoghurts and cold meat platter; although I can now say I’ve tried warm orange juice. Our guide Leana arrived at 10am to take us on our walking tour of Moscow. She was definitely different to Maria – a 40 something lady with excellent English and an amazing wealth of knowledge. At first she seemed very stern but we did get her laughing several times. She also said the same thing as Maria – that this heat is very extreme and not typical for Moscow. Ted and I usually have amazing luck with holiday weather but with this heat and the rain of Ireland, we seem to have missed the mark!

The metros here are works of art – they are really deep into the ground, making them quite cool. The interiors resemble a gallery, with mosaics on the ceiling and chandeliers hanging from the walls. The trains are also super-fast and very frequent. Leana was an amazing guide, taking us around the neighbourhoods of Moscow and explaining about the different architectural styles of churches and houses, about the different political styles that have governed Russia, and the influences that different writers and artists have had on the country. She also mentioned how older Russians believe life was a lot better during the Soviet era, as times were simpler, education and health care were free and there was less corruption. There also seemed to be less assistance programs for the handicapped and elderly in modern times. On the plus side though there has been a lot more restoration and care of landmarks in recent times. Previously for example, the Church of the Saviour on Spilt Blood in St. P was used as a potato storage.

We ended our tour near Red Square where we made the long trek to photograph the city’s most famous landmark St. Basil’s Cathedral. Unless of course you preferred to be photographed with the Stalin and Lenin lookalikes outside the gates instead. It is a pretty amazing sight, although the view from the outside far exceeds the inside. You could almost imagine the New Year proceedings that occur here in winter. We also visited the GUM department store (very similar to the QVB in Sydney) for an overpriced lunch, and walked to the nearby Kremlin. You had to feel sorry for the guards standing in the hot sun – our guide had mentioned that several of them had fainted during their duty this week. A lot of Muscovites were using the local fountains to cool off and no-one seemed to mind. Ted doesn’t seem to agree with me, but I would love to come back here in either autumn or winter to see this place in an entirely different perspective. We took some more pictures before the heat really got to us and we returned to the hotel.

For dinner, we headed to everyone’s favourite potato restaurant, Kroshka-Kartoshka as it’s cheap and reasonable. Or so we were told! Even though the server knew I couldn’t speak a stitch of Russian, she kept throwing more and more questions at me until I just shrugged and smiled. We ended up getting two potatoes with drinks but since it wasn’t enough we went elsewhere rather than face the total confusion again. I finally tried Borsht and it was actually not too bad, but Ted opted for a crepe instead.

It was great to see so much of Moscow today but we are exhausted now. But how are you supposed to go to bed early when the sun hasn’t even set yet?

Day 2

Today was a kickback day – our feet are sore, the weather is sweltering again and we have seen most of the sights were wanted to yesterday. But we also weren’t going to sit inside and do nothing. We ended up going back into Red Square – definitely our favourite place in Moscow. It is the centre of activity in the city.

Getting into Red Square was enough of a challenge – I forgot how fast you must move when boarding the metro carriages as the doors will slam shut without warning. I was a bit slow once and my butt actually got caught in the door. Quite a feat when you consider how small my rear end is.

Red Square was a lot more touristy today, being the weekend. Ted and I wanted to buy a T-Shirt each as this is our preferred method of buying a souvenir and memories at the same time. Ted bought a T-Shirt of the national soccer team. I wanted to buy one that said "McLenin’s" with the Golden Arches showing but Ted thought it seemed somewhat tacky so I opted for a simple red “CCCP” T-Shirt instead.

For lunch we enjoyed sushi in a restaurant in front of the Kremlin. Japanese is really popular here although we’ve noticed there are no Thai or Vietnamese restaurants. It was just enjoyable being able to sit on the lawns in front of the Kremlin along with everyone else trying to get shade from the heat afterwards. There were signs which we’re pretty sure said “Keep off the grass” but in the current climate, no-one seemed to be enforcing it.

We ended up going back in the evening, to see St. Basil’s Cathedral at dusk. It’s a shame to leave Moscow, we have really liked it. We found an underground shopping centre where we bought supplies for our 3.5 days on the train tomorrow. Considering the train only has a hot water boiler and no cool storage, we are limited to bread, Nutella, instant Cappuccino sachets, fruit, pot noodles and cup a soups.

Even though it was hot again, there did seem to be a slight drop in temperature. The odd thing is that since leaving St. P, they had a cool change and temperatures dropped by about 10 degrees Celsius. :-)
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Rachael C on

Can't wait to hear how the 3.5 day train ride goes! It's been great hearing about your adventures.

Gary on

Oh don't listen to Ted - he doesn't have a sense of 'umour. The McLenin's T-Shirt sounds great! I want one :)

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