Hello Moscow!

The overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow was my best railway experience so far (apart from cruising through Italy with my mum drinking wine, very civilised). The sleeping compartment had proper mattresses and fluffy pillows with thick, warm duvets smelling of fresh laundry. A lovely gentlemen came along and took my breakfast order, a small snack bag awaited me when I arrived. Let us gloss over the silly bint in the compartment who threw mine away believing it was full of rubbish.
I arrived in Moscow refreshed, ready to take on a city of 20 million people, armed only with a crappy phrase book, and a knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet. Just as well, because the capital of Russia is massive and confusing. For example there are three major train stations in Moscow, that all are centred around one metro station, of which it is nigh on impossible to find the entrance. I circled the building with the big red M outside at least three times. Actually a very nice lady on the overnight train gave me her number just in case I should need any help, but somehow I didn’t think me being too much of a plonker to figure out how to get into the metro warranted a phone call.
I had a mere 36 hours in Moscow, and I managed to use up 2 of those just figuring out how to travel 4 stops in the correct direction on the subway. Being smug about your ability to read the Cyrillic alphabet is all fine and dandy but it’s worth diddly squat if you don’t know what the words mean. Admittedly I did spend 20 minutes just watching the hordes of people surging through the turnstiles, thinking to myself, this must be rush hour, there can’t be this many people here all the time. But actually, no it seems that it really can be that crowded all the time. Something to note about Russian queues: they get up close and personal, you’ll have someone right up at your shoulder at a ticket counter, so close they could pluck your nose hair out with their teeth, and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone… apart from me. However, one cannot spend all of one’s day wide eyed and overwhelmed, hence, eventually I found myself at the correct station and walking down the road in the correct direction, with the help of a nice lady from Bulgaria whose son is studying in London. Get me, making new friends all over the place! Or at least, eliciting the pity of strangers.
Moscow, or what little I saw of it, is a wonderful example of grand scale architecture. I had been told by people living in St Petersburg that by comparison Moscow had a more Russian feel to it, whereas St Petersburg has a West European vibe (St Petersburg is known as the Venice of the North due to its large number of bridges and canals, but it feels more like Amsterdam, and apparently Tsar Peter was a huge fan of the Netherlands and Amsterdam in particular). I had also been told that Moscow was far less pretty… having seen both places I suspect there was a bit of city rivalry going on there. Moscow is beautiful and huuuuuge. Huge in the way New York skyscrapers are huge. Huge in the way the M25 is a huge roundabout. The buildings are less ornamental than those in St Petersburg, but they have an efficient elegance all of their own. The streets, unlike the metro, are uncrowded and pleasant to walk along.
With so little time at my disposal, I headed to the place you absolutely cannot miss: Red Square. The beauty of Red Square is that it has so many major sites in one place: the historical state museum; St Basil’s Cathedral (yep the one that looks like it is made from sweets); the backside of the Kremlin; Lenin’s tomb; a tiny cathedral of which I cannot remember the name; and the GUM, the state run department store, which is really a mall, and super swanky!
In my imitable style, I got chased out of St Basil’s Cathedral for not realising I had to buy a ticket; I missed the opening hours of Lenin’s tomb; and arrived at the museum slightly too late. Ho hum.
I spent a strange night in a hostel sharing a room with two girls who seemed to be long term residents there, and I couldn’t say for sure what line of work they were in, but it didn’t start until 11pm and involved a lot of make-up and far too little clothing for the Moscow night temperatures. On to Siberia!


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