Last known location: London, England

Москва, Россия

Still struggling to get to grips with the Cyrillic alphabet, the above is “Moscow, Russia” for those who don’t know it (including us!). So far we’ve mastered Кафе (cafe), Бар (bar) and Ресторан (restaurant), but not much else!

Despite that, we managed to make it from Moscow to St Petersburg on the train, on The Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow). It was far more luxurious than our previous overnight train. We had a cabin with two other people, a comfortable bed that I could almost fit in and announcements in English from someone who’d clearly taken English lessons at Buckingham Palace. The other two people in our compartment were English, the first we’d met in Russia; a Bristolian couple called Dan & Sarah doing a similar trip to us which was nice. Managed to get some sleep and were in a half decent state when we arrived in Moscow at 8am.

Got the hang of the metro far better than in St Petersburg, although it’s more like a network of underground stately homes; all chandeliers and mosaics (some communist art among them). Made it to our hostel and then headed straight down to Red Square for some breakfast. Had an impromptu stop at the GUM department store for some replacement warm trousers (Gem!) and then queued up for Lenin’s Mausoleum. A slightly weird experience; very dark inside with soldiers on every corner, and after a few flights down you get to see a slightly waxy looking pale corpse.  I was told off for having my hands in my pockets and we were hurried along very swiftly by the (armed!) soldiers if we tried to get a good look.

Went to explore the Kremlin after that, lots of spectacular cathedrals and gardens etc.  There’s one square with 4 cathedrals, all very similar looking with gold domes and white walls.  We also looked at St Basil’s cathedral, which had a cartoon, Aladdin like look to it – it was still so colourful.  Not really as big as we imagined but quite a special building.  This was by far the most queuing we’d had to do so far – long queues for both Lenin and the Kremlin, which was a bit frustrating.

After the Kremlin we wanted to visit the Church of Christ the Saviour which is one of Moscow’s biggest and most spectacular churches.  It was originally built in the 1880’s but then destroyed in Stalin’s era.  In the 90’s an order to rebuild it was issued, and whilst it is beautiful it’s hard to see the point of re-building something so extravagant when there’s so much poverty in Russia.  There were a lot of visitors, and more queues; this time to kiss relics and worship statues of saints within the church.

By the time we’d finished at the last Church we’d had about enough, and walked back to Red Square to get the Metro home.  There were lots of “just marrieds’”; brides and grooms having their photo’s taken in the square with guests.  We stopped off at a bar for a couple of well deserved drinks (Dan’s already got a blister!) and then headed back to the hostel for a quiet night.

We stopped off at a supermarket on the way home, which sounds like an easy task but is really difficult when you don’t know the word for supermarket or how to ask anyone!  They’re not big buildings like in the UK – quite often they’re basement level with little signage!  Eventually we found one (about 200m from our hostel) and grabbed some stuff for dinner – frozen dumplings and some sort of pasta thing!

After a fairly good sleep in our 10 bed dorm we did some more exploring on Monday.  Lots of places are closed so we did a lot of walking and statue spotting. Paid a visit to the Garden of Fallen Monuments, where a lot of the leader’s statues were taken after the fall of communism. Strange mixture of Lenins, Stalins (mostly with the noses broken off) and a Pinocchio among other things!

Had had more than enough of sight seeing by then so wandered down a couple of touristy streets; Stary Arbat which starts with one of Stalin’s skyscrapers, and Tverskaya Street which was apparently home to Yeliseyevsky Gastronom –  the Moscow equivalent of Harrods foodhall selling all kinds of international delicacies. However it was closed, so my hopes of buying some Marmite for the Trans-Siberian were dashed! Tverskaya Street also had the honour of having Russia’s first McDonalds, which had queues of 5km when it first opened – although we only stopped in for the toilets!

Thought we deserved a pint after covering quite a few miles during the day so headed to The Elephant bar just by the hostel for several Czech beers and some Russian dinner. Looking forward to the Trans-Siberian tomorrow, seems like plenty of others from our hostel will be joining us! Next stop Beijing!

  1. Dad. 11 Oct, 2010

    Fantastic blogging you two, are you after jobs in travel!
    Looks and sounds like a great time, keep it up, it’s like we’re along for the ride. take care,love Dad

  2. Rose 12 Oct, 2010

    Wow, how amazing is the Moscow metro! Really feel as if I’ve visited Moscow and St Petersburg now. Glad you’re keeping warm. Good luck with the long train journey. At least there’ll be some other Enlish speakers. Maybe you’ll find someone to play scrabble!

    Lots of love,
    Mum x x x

  3. John 13 Oct, 2010

    Sounds like you are getting the hang of the language after all! The pictures are great too.Take lots on your fantastic train ride! It sounds like it might be quite a party. From the pictures I see Dan managed to buy gloves when the trousers were being purchased.
    love John

  4. Al 13 Oct, 2010

    Good luck with the Trans-Siberian – I hope the beds are more like those on The Krasnaya Strela than the ones on your previous train!

    How are you getting on with the dumplings and the rest of the Russian food?

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