Privet MoskveApril 3 in Russia
Well I have had almost 48 hours in Moscow, let's get you caught up with what I've gotten up to.
I had an early start today as I had to find the Real Russian offices, located in the north of the city, to pick up my train tickets from Ulan-Ude (Russia) to Ulanbator (Mongolia). I initially thought I could walk there but after consulting my trusty Maps.Me app I realised the metro would be the more sensible option. This time my metro journey involved a change of line. I found the first line (purple) easily and travelled the two stops to change onto the orange line. The metro stopped and I got off and saw that the orange line was leaving on the opposite platform, result! I got on the train felt very happy with myself. That was until it pulled into the next station and I realised I was travelling in the wrong direction! I quickly got off and thought I could just cross the platform and travel back the other way on the same line, like on the tube in London. Well Moscow hasn't quite followed the same logic. To find the same line travelling the other way you have to go upstairs, over the platform you were on and down to the other side. It makes much more sense... So after working out that little quirk I found the right train going in the right direction and was on my way again. After exiting the subway I followed the directions I'd been given and found the Real Russia offices, on the third floor of a nondescript building, in a random residential looking suburb, and picked up my tickets. Now I could actually start some sightseeing.
I got the metro back to the centre of the city to Kitay-Gorod square where I had been informed that the Moscow Free Walking Tour would meet. On my return journey I noticed another quirk of the metro here. Unlike in London there are no station names on the walls when the train comes to each stop. The only way you know which station you are at is from the overhead announcement which is in Russian and English (though only from last year). So if you didn't understand Russian or English, you may well get lost down there... I later learned on the tour that the station names are on the floor... of course!
The Moscow Free Walking Tour was fantastic, an absolute must if you come to the city. Most capital cities have these tours and they are a brilliant way of getting your bearings in the city from a local. Our guide, Elena, was so enthusiastic and rally engaged us for the whole 2.5 hour tour. We learnt a brief history of the city and Russia in general, saw the main sites - St Basil's cathedral (which is actually called "The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat"... I can't imagine why they would shorten that...), the Kremlin and Red Square. On the tour I met a lovely Mexican girl and chatted with her most of the way between each stop. This is one of the best things about these tours. There are always fellow solo travellers to meet and become friends with.
After the tour I had a quick lunch and then went to see the Kremlin. The only way I can describe it would be to imagine if a smaller version of Buckingham Palace plus 10 downing street plus a few churches and other admin buildings were clumped together and then surrounded by a wall. It is basically a self contained hamlet within a city, with streets and official cars driving around. I walked around for about 20 minutes, took some pictures and then left, as there wasn't really a huge amount to see.
The final stop of the day was the Museum of Societ Arcade Games (as seen on Travel Man with Richard Ayoade and Greg Davies). You pay about £6 to go inside and get given some old Russian coins to use on the machines and a map of each game and how to play. Most of the games were very confusing or didn't appear to work properly. But there were a couple that I managed to work out. As far as random kitsch museums go this one was quite good and I would recommend it, especially as its nice and warm inside!
My second day in the city started with a visit to Lenin's Mausoleum, which for the small cost of queueing outside in the cold for 20 minutes (longer if you don't get there 20 minutes before it opens I the morning) you can see the perfectly preserved ACTUAL BODY OF LENIN! Seriously. Think a creepier version of Madame Tussauds with the irrational fear that he's going to suddenly open his eyes and go "boo!" (or the Russian equivalent. Let's just say I'm glad you are only allowed about a minute inside, walking around him in single file.
After that jaunty start to the day I then made my way across the river to Gorky Park (Moscow's version of Hyde Park) where there is an open air statue museum just before it, with statues of Gandhi and Einstein among others. It was refreshing walking around the quiet park away from the hustle of the city centre.
There are only so many pictures you can take of random statues though, so after a while I headed back to the centre for some lunch and managed to stumble across a vegetarian café and filled up with a soy meat wrap and a quinoa salad and had some much needed wifi time to get my bearings. By chance I had stopped nearby a shopping mall that had a viewing deck on the roof and so headed there to see Moscow from above. By this point I am starting to get quite tired (20,000 steps a day after a home average of 1,500 will do that to you!) and so decided to call it a day and head back to the hostel to recoup before my first overnight train to Kazan. And that is where I am writing this from.
So there you have it folks. Moscow in a 48 hour nutshell.
Apologies for the long post... I seem to have word vomit.
Until next time.