Rainy days in Moscow
Any elation at having successfully bonded with our Russian comrades quickly waned when we reached the Fabrika Gallery (definitely not a gallery) and Hostel. We were unceremoniously shown to our bedroom – a gnome’s cell with a wooden box masquerading as a bed, walls made out of paper and a window painted shut, save for a teeny tiny crack…just enough to allow the fumes from the outdoor smoking area to drift into our coffin.
Despite our reservations, we’d come off significantly better than the Chinese couple in bunk beds next door, who gingerly poked their heads round the paper to gaze at our window in awe – regretting the decision not to dish out an extra 100 Rubles for a room with a view. To be fair, the location was great and despite being unable to both stand on the floor and fit our luggage in, we decided to dump the bags and head to Red Square, just in time to catch the last rays of the setting sun bounce off the multi-coloured domes of St Basil’s.
After a quick dinner in a nearby Georgian restaurant, we headed for home and having been told hostels were the best place to meet fellow travellers, Elliot decided we should hang for a bit in the communal area. He ordered two “beers” from the receptionist – who obliged, hosing a warm, brown, clearly homemade concoction from a metal barrel between her legs into Elliot’s plastic cups. He drank it. All of it. It was disgusting. Then he drank mine.
Our room was like an oven, forcing us to choose between sweating to death or crawling out from the safety of our silk sleeping bag liners and actually lie on the sheets beneath. At 4am – stuck to each other (not in a good way) and with no sleep having been had, we went online and checked into to the 3-star Ibis Hotel round the corner. Well, we need to ease ourselves in gently.
After a glorious shower and quick snooze we managed to shake off the unpleasantness of the night before and headed to St Basil’s Cathedral to explore the interior. We spent the afternoon taking in the sights around Red Square including the massive statue of Marshal Georgy Zhukov – the most decorated general in the history of Russia – the amazing glass-roofed GUM department store and the famous Bolshoi Theatre.
Our trusty Trans-Siberian Handbook describes Moscow as “vast”, “overwhelming”, “exhausting” and “uncompromisingly Russian” and our new-found train buddies suggested it was just like London. In fact, we found it to be none of these things. It was clean, relaxed and easy to navigate – all that reminded us of London was the rain. Dinner was spent at the trendy Khachapuri restaurant, where we ordered a big meat platter, cheese and potato dumplings and yummy courgette fritters with sour cream…and more vodka.
Our train to Kazan left at 19:20, so the next day we woke early and headed to the Kremlin, a fortified citadel running alongside Red Square housing some pretty dull looking offices of the Russian government and some nice cathedrals. Much more interesting was the amazing array of record-breaking objects on display within the grounds, including the world’s biggest cannon AND the world’s heaviest bell?!
The rain persisted so we arrived at Moscow Station two hours early (still no taxis!) in preparation for our first overnight train. Our guide book suggested we would be expected to share food with our fellow passengers so, after much debate as to what our soon-to-be new train friends would prefer, we settled on a tube of Pringles, some vanilla wafers, chocolates and a large bottle of vodka. And, with our excitement only slightly dampened by the addition bulk of food and booze we now had to carry, we boarded the sleeper to Kazan.
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