A week in Moscow

Trip Start Jun 30, 2010
Trip End Jun 01, 2011

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
Where I stayed
Home from Home Hostel, Arbat, Moscow

Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Monday, July 5, 2010

What a great start to our travels. Zdrastvuitye from Moscow! 

Apparently Moscow occupies No. 1 spot as the most expensive and most unfriendly city in the world. Maybe these are old polls, the city has and continues to change at a pace, and that was certainly not our experience during our week there. Just as the guidebook said, it was 'a treat and a challenge' exploring Moscow. 

The treats: our city centre hostel located in Arbat - equivalent of 40 pounds a night for a private room and probably the largest bed we've ever slept in. The hostel was a little rough round the edges, but the staff, the location and price made up for all its failings, and then some. 

Packed with historically significant and architecturally magnificent sights, the city constantly impressed us, from the grey cobbled expanse of Red Square with its kaleidoscopic icon of Russia, St Basil's Cathedral, the imposing and awe-inspiring Kremlin, the Byzantine cathedrals scattered throughout the city, gold domes shining like beacons, Stalin's gigantic neoclassical skyscrapers - the Seven Sisters, the mighty metro - incredible in terms of design and punctuality, and for Phil the sheer number of killer heels, tiny dresses and some of the longest legs ever seen! In Moscow wealth and beauty account for everything and size definitely matters. Spotlessly clean, vibrant, confident, diverse and grand; we loved it.

In terms of challenges: It was seriously hot, 30'C plus, which took some acclimatising to and wow, what a tongue twister of a language! We mastered a few words that sometimes raised a smile, sometimes not. Most locals expected us to speak Russian with an attitude of 'you are in my country, you use my language'. You can't say fairer than that! We became adept at reading the place names in Cyrillic in the metro and sign language seemed to get us quite a long way. We had a lot of fun, generally people were pretty patient, but I'd definitely recommend a short course in Russian before a visit. And after our escapade with a Russian fur hat we seriously wished we'd taken our own advice! 

I'd promised my father a hat, so we spent an entertaining day shopping, with Phil being my hat model (a pretty big ask in 30'C+ heat!) Hat purchased, we returned to the hostel to enquire about post. The kind hostel staff wrote us a note in Russian outlining our wish to have the hat delivered to the UK. We tried two post offices, each time we queued for 40 minutes, reached the desk, produced the note, only to be pointed out of the building and away. The cashiers at the second post office were so embarrassed when we appeared a second time and gesticulated at them to draw the directions. Instead they got security to lead us around the corner, down a dingy alley, past a police check-point to a tiny back office. If the security guard hadn't been so friendly we'd have been worried! In the office sat a rotund lady all in green who reminded me of a brussel-sprout, a fierce one. I hoped we'd be OK with the note and a smile. Definitely not. She started to chatter away, probably saying something like 'if you can't speak Russian, you buffoons, then how can we possibly sort this out?!' but I thought perhaps she was asking the question 'air-mail, overland or sea?' I decided to do an impression of an aeroplane around the office. For a few seconds there was silence, her frown getting deeper and deeper until she burst forth with furious, fast Russian, stabbing at the desk with her fingers. We retreated, quickly. Undeterred I managed to convince the main man at the hostel to help us deal with this crazy sprout. He was great and earned himself a bottle of whisky, although I'm pretty sure we will be the first and last tourists he helps to send packages home. He described the process as 'really painful' and the green lady as 'all of Russian bureaucracy rolled into one person'. But thanks to him the hat was donning my father's head less than a week later, and very dapper he looked too. 

So, after an amazing week in Moscow, with a few ups and a few downs (the tap water definitely didn't agree with us!) we're now looking ahead to our Trans-Siberian-Mongolian railway journey. Our train leaves at 9:00 tomorrow night and we can't wait to see Siberia (51% of Russia is virgin land, can you believe it!), Mongolia and China. Despite having a specific guide book it is still an unknown quantity, leaving us with many questions, namely what sort of cabin has our ticket bought us and how much food do we need to take with us? All will become clear.

We'll next report in in Beijing as we're travelling low-tech (unlike many travellers here) and will be incommunicado en route.

Da svidaniya for now, Nickie & Phil XX
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


becks rice on

wow guys! awesome! got your e-mail tonight and have been having a read of all your previous posts (and this one of course!) - i had no idea. sounds like my time in sudan may pale in comparison to your trip! enjoy! xx

paul_karen on

Wow! We will be there in roughly 5 weeks time and like you will be jumping on the trans-mongolian! I am very excited now! Good luck!

Moon on

Great blog, made Moscow come alive and could imagine your experience.

Harriet on

Brilliant - I'm so glad you enjoyed it - now I need to book some flights and go back myself!

Kimmo on

Wow guys. So nice to hear about your exploits. Good luck in Beijing and can't wait for the next update. Have fun and keep safe. KSJxxx

linda blanchard on

Looks wonderful - glad you are enjoying the trip

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: