The Hunt for Red October
Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
77Trip End Ongoing
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Our arrival in Moscow was a stark contrast to St Petersburg, the company that we had used to book our visas and train tickets had arranged for a car to collect us and deliver us to our hostel, so we were whisked through the mad rush hour traffic of Moscow in a smart black Mercedes and were delivered to the door of our hostel, awesome
As we had 5 days in Moscow, we had time to slow down and relax a little which was a nice treat. Our hostel was amazing, we were more or less the only ones there for the first few days so we had the kitchen and bathroom to ourselves so would spend the morning drinking tea and planning our day in the comfort of what felt like our own flat. There was even a washing machine so for the first time in a month we get to properly wash our clothes, machine washed knickers – Bliss! The staff at the hostel were also amazing. Every day they would ask our plans and would reappear with metro maps, google maps and a list of what to see and what to do to get to where we were going, they definitely made our day trips far more interesting that they would have been if we had been left to our own devices.
We did the obligatory hop-on-hop –off bus tour, which has only started running in Moscow this year and I suspect that it might be its last year. Having done a few hop-on-hop-off bus tours lately I thought that it was safe to assume that we would be driven around the main attractions and could hop-on and hop-off at the stops that we liked the look of
As we had the luxury of our own kitchen we had a trip to the local supermarket for some provisions. Little did we know that a simple trip to the supermarket would be like a trip to a museum. Our local supermarket happened to be Moscow’s first ever supermarket and its grandeur was astounding. We are talking giant crystal chandeliers, guilt columns and cornicing, huge oil paintings and even the shelves were decorated with art deco iron work. Needless to say I did the shopping and Tim stood around gawping at the ceiling taking photos.
Having successfully mastered the St Petersburg metro we were ready for Moscow and armed with our map of what stations had the best features (thanks again to the staff at the hostel) and off we set. Immediately we were once again struck dumb and stood gormless looking at the signs in Cyrillic, there were no signs with a convenient colour or number of the metro just the end destination (we think) in Cyrillic, so after some trials and numerous errors we finally found our train and set off. Like St Petersburg the Metro stations are huge, very clean and have some of the most extravagant light fittings ever seen underground, but Moscow metro went one better than St Petersburg and has many more arty features, the main attraction is a station that has a series of mosaics in the ceiling, but our favourite station featured bronze statues
Our next trip was to Gorky Park, some of you may remember the 80’s film set here, we went just because it had a cool name and with our usual set of maps and directions from the hostel we set off. We walked what seemed like a hundred miles in the red hot sun as there is another park next door to Gorky Park that we were advised to visit, and we were so glad that we did. It is called the Park of the Forgotten Statues and quite simply any statues that are not being used in the city are just plonked in this park. There is every style, shape, design and size of sculpture, from a giant soviet hammer and sickle, to bronze figures, stone heads and even a wooden Pinocchio. Such a simple idea but a perfect place to wander through and enjoy the sun. Next was Gorky Park, all we knew about it is that it used to be an old soviet fairground but has recently been revamped
Our next random adventure was to find a Submarine; we located the metro station, which was one stop before the end of line 7 and set off. Again using a mixture of luck and judgement to navigate the metro we were on our way. Out of the city and a little out of our comfort zone we were looking a lot braver than we were feeling strolling as if we knew where we were going and hoping for the best. By some miracle we were going the right way and before we knew it we could see a submarine on the horizon. Given our luck with boat visits this trip I didn’t hold out much luck that we would make it onto the submarine but it seems our luck was changing (maybe it was the Metro dogs nose) we made it to the ticket office and 500 roubles later we were headed to the entrance
Our hostel advertised its own driving tour of Moscow by Night. So we thought it was only right to give it a go. Our Russian host Ilya, ushered us along with two other guests at the hostel into his car, Steve from Beijing and Emre from Turkey. Needless to say the language barriers in this car lead to it being the funniest part of our stay in Moscow. Steve had seemingly walked the entire city and at every location declared “I have been here” whilst Emre seemed intent on finding a party for the night and a boat trip to take so at every location asked if the boat left from there, even in locations where the Mockba River was nowhere to be seen. Next we are pulled over by the police as Ilya as missed a sign or a light and we are sat in the car whilst he is off handing over all his documents. The highlight of the tour was arriving at the Moscow University campus where there is a view of the whole city and seemingly on a warm Friday night the whole city congregates here, along with every bikers in Moscow, there were break-dancers, lovers, students and tourists all just watching the world go by
On our last day in Moscow we discovered that there were going to be some protests which started at the end of our street. The staff at the hostel didn’t seem to concerned, but my concern was a little raised when I read about the protests on Sky News. We headed to our Metro line and were greeted with lines of police and Russian trucks, we stood for a while behind the safety of the Metro wall watching the protesters congregate with flags, balloons, ribbons and flyers and sought a hasty retreat to the Metro before it all got too busy. All quite exciting to see and experience, but also quite nerve-racking when you are faced with hoards of armed police. We decided we needed to escape the madness and experience some Soviet history so where better than Bunker 42, the only declassified bunker in Moscow, 60 meters underground at the same level as the Metro system
Back at the hostel and we are packed and ready to head to the train station to get on the Transiberian Express. The whole purpose of the journey so far has been to get on this train so it was a mixture of relief, nerves and excitement that we finally made it here. The thought of 5 days on a train at this point was very welcome as all the walking around the various cities had tired us out and Tim’s peg legs were on the brink of collapse. So armed with a shopping bag of pot noodles, cupa soups, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and a very good selection of crisps, chocolate and even some lulu cakes, we were ready. There was not a chance that we would go hungry on this train
Our departure was 11:45pm, so at 10:45pm our platform was announced and we left the safety and comfort of the big city for the first leg of our journey. Moscow to Irkutsk (Siberia), 5185km going through 5 time zones.
Farewell Moscow, it has been brilliant, we hunted Red October, wore fur hats and even managed to machine wash our knickers, what more could we have wanted.
P.s Sorry the Photo's are out of order!