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Mean: -8°c Max: -6°c Min: -9°c

4 days in Moscow

Moscow, Russia
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We arrived in Moscow bang on time.

Out of the places we have visited so far Moscow was the city we were most concerned about because of our complete inability to communicate properly! The first challenge was to find a cash machine so we could catch the metro. Ross went off to explore and was offered a Samsung mobile, hats, gloves and even a terrapin but could he find a cashpoint? No! Finally after a good 20 minutes of hunting in the last place he looked he managed to find one! Phew.

The second challenge was to get the Metro just 2 stops to our hostel. Sounds nice and easy doesn't it? Well it wasn't! You could spend a whole day looking at the Cyrillic alphabet and still come away scratching your head. Back to front R's and the number 3 as a letter who thought of that? We finally managed to match up some strange looking symbols to find the right line but the next problem was getting the right direction. So with our heavy bags, tired feet and Sonya suffering from the Vodka's the night before we thought a 50/50 chance was worth taking and just jumped on the first train we saw. Luckily we chose the right direction and after a few wrong turns the manager of the hostel happened to be walking past us and showed us to the entrance. Phew!

Day 2

Walking Tour

On our first day we planned to do another free walking tour. We arrived a few minutes early so we went to the local café to grab a cup of tea. Now you have to remember we hadn't had time to get out heads around the currency and how much stuff costs. So we rocked up and ordered a pot of tea for 2. Expecting to pay a couple of quid we were shocked when we got the bill and it cost around £10! Ross nearly choked on the remaining tea! Lesson learnt always check prices.

For the walking tour you have to register which Ross did the night before. At the start point there were another 6 people waiting and so we waited and waited and waited but still no one came. Eventually a couple texted the company and the reply was simply "there has been a technical error and there will be no free tour today but they would offer us a discount on other tours" D'oh we have just stood around in the blinking cold for nothing. When we got back to the hostel we booked 4 tours including the free tour for the next day fully expecting them to only give us a discount on one tour but to our surprise they only charged us 3000RUB (approx. £65) for all the tours for both of us! Cha-Ching!

Communist Tour

Our first tour was at 18:00 and we arrived at the meeting point early. Great minds think alike though because the couple we met at the walking tour (that never was) arrived just after us. We were all chatting away and before we knew it, it was 18:00... then it was 18:10... then it was 18:15... we all looked at each other with the same sense of deja-vu! But just when we were starting to get itchy feet our guide turned up full of apologies. Dmitriy was full of stories of the KGB and the secret police he talked about people being arrested and the KGB fabricating stories as they believed they hadn't conformed to the Communist way. Most of them were shot or sent to Siberia into forced labour camps where quite often they were never to be seen again. We find it ironic that we sent our prisoners to Australia as 'punishment' when the KGB sent their 'prisoners' to Siberia.

Day 3

Walking Tour

We turned up in the ridiculously cold weather but this time we came prepared and apart from a few occasions when the wind blew it was okay. We coped much better than the Spanish guy who ended up running around the group to keep warm! The tour was good and covered the main sights including the Red Square, changing of the guard and the outside of the Kremlin. Not the best free tour we have been on but worth it nevertheless.

Kremlin Tour

The second tour of the day was still with our guide Dmitriy so we are beginning to feel like we have known him for ages. We took a guided tour of the Kremlin which is a very impressive place and is described as the largest 'serving fortress' in the world. There can't be that many fortresses left in the world which undermines the title and does not do it justice. The place is absolutely massive! Within the walls is a magnitude of buildings but you are only allowed access to the three central cathedrals which were very impressive. The view of the city towards the end is amazing if only the river wasn't frozen over! We look forward to seeing running water again, the canals of Amsterdam seem a long time ago!

Metro Tour

And then their where 2, the third tour of the day and it was just the two of us. We can't complain though having our own personal guide :-) First impressions... this is a slightly off the wall tour. But as soon as you see the grandeur of the stations you can soon see why they are described as 'palaces for the people' The tour lasted just over an hour and although you could visit the stations by yourself easily enough having a guide was fantastic as he explained so much about the stations history during the war etc that would pass you by. The tube will never look the same again!

Hard Rock 45!

3 Hard Rock's in 3 different cities within 10 days. Unfortunately this was the worst HRC experience ever. For everyone that thinks HRC is an overrated café with tack on the walls this café lived up to your expectations. The service was poor with only one server for the entire floor, there was only a splattering of memorabilia on the walls and to top it off we asked for the desert menu at 22:30 to be told the kitchen shut at 23:00. We should have left it there, but confused as there was still ½ hour until the kitchen closed we asked again to be told 'it closes earlier today as we have an insect problem' Errr... maybe it was poor English but not something you should tell us after we have just eaten our main course!

Day 3

Going deeper into the Vodka belt

Tonight is the 'big one' we board the train at 21:35 and arrive in Mongolia on Sunday. After this a few hours on the train will feel like a doddle. We seem to be covering a massive distance very quickly, its only day 15 and we are leaving Moscow. In just over a week we will be in Beijing and have travelled through 1/3 of the countries already.

Hotel Review

Hotels in Moscow are ridiculously priced so we decided early on to stay in a hostel. After lots of research we settled on the Ivan Hostel which is another small hostel with 2 private rooms and 2 dorms. We chose a private room AKA the 'white room' a very large room and the best located in the hostel right next door to the bathroom and kitchen. The hostel is in a good location within walking distance of a lot of the main sights. If it's cold you can take the metro but if often quicker to walk when but the time you have deciphered the metro map. The hostel is hard to find at first as it is on the second floor in a block of flats and you need to buzz reception to let you in. Finding the 'secret' door would have been a right pain but as we stood around looking lost the manager happened to be walking past and helped us. In fairness the directions the hotel provides were very accurate but following them is easier said than done. The hostel was very nice with a lovely kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities. But there is only 1 shower and 1 toilet for the whole of the hostel! Totally ridiculous in our opinion especially when the bathroom was large enough to convert into several shower rooms. The heating is amazing, actually way too good and after coming in from the cold it was like walking into a sauna. -15 outside but our window was often open! A nice, hostel in a good location.


Late addition! We just nipped out to get some supplies for Trans-Siberian and spotted a gun hole in the next apartment's front door. Maybe the area is/was not as nice as we thought!

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