We had heard and read plenty about Russia, and were expecting it to be challenging, but it still took us by surprise.
Moscow was our first stop, and perhaps because of the fact our time there was short and disjointed, we never really clicked with the city, though we certainly didn’t hate it.
We arrived at Moscow Belorussky station after our overnight train from Warsaw and were immediately greeted by the most foreign environment we’d seen, even more so than Asia. The train station was fine, but as soon as we got onto the Metro we realised how difficult this was going to be. We had attempted to learn the cyrillic alphabet but only really knew a few letters, and there are NO latin translations on the Moscow metro with the exception of a small map inside the carriages…which made it a rather difficult journey.
Thankfully we did manage to make it to our hostel eventually. It was the first of many Russian style hostels – which are usually just apartments with some rooms converted to dorms. It takes a bit of getting used to and isn’t my ideal hostel layout if I’m honest
We had no time to relax unfortunately as the first thing we needed to do was brave the Metro again and head across the city to pick up our Trans Siberian tickets from the lovely people at Real Russia. This went remarkably successfully, considering we had to go to a different part of the city, then find an office building and specific office. With this done we were all set for our Trans Siberian adventure.
The next day was dedicated to sightseeing. We got up early and headed to Red Square, which is the first stop for any visitor to Moscow. It was walkable (or more accurately skate-able considering the amount of ice around) from our hostel which was a nice bonus. We saw the beautiful, iconic St Basil’s cathedral, visited the GUM (old state department store) and then queued for the Kremlin.
While going through airport style security to get in, as was standard everywhere in Russia, I thought I was going to spend the rest of my trip in jail as I was pulled aside for having a penknife in my bag! Luckily though I was just told to put my bag in the cloakroom.
The Kremlin was interesting, but it didn’t blow us away. The cathedrals were beautiful but we didn’t feel like there was much more to look at, unless we missed a lot of it. The armoury would have been interesting but we couldn’t justify spending £12 each for a ticket.
After the Kremlin we looked around Old Arbat Street for a while, got some food and that was our one full day in Moscow over!
We did come back to Moscow after St Petersburg, but we only had half a day which we spent stocking up on supplies for the Trans Siberian, eating, and relaxing, although we did visit Red Square again in the evening.
All in all I don’t have a huge amount to say about Moscow. It was difficult to get around, and order food, but that was true for everywhere in Russia. I just think we didn’t have enough time to scratch the surface of the place, nor did we go at a particularly good time of year. I imagine I would enjoy it far more in the summer when spending time outside would be a pleasure. Maybe one day we will return.
Where We Stayed
We spent 3 nights, over 2 different visits, at iVAN Hostel in a great location near Chekhovskaya metro station and within walking distance of Red Square. Aside from my grumbles with the common Russian hostel layout, this was a decent place to stay. The staff were very friendly and the place was spotless. The dorms were incredibly hot though and had no curtains so didn’t get an amazing sleep. They also have a slightly bizarre no alcohol rule, which we did respect, but it would have been nice to have the odd beer!