After 4 days in Moscow, it’s time to bid it adieu as I make my way through to Vladmir tomorrow. But before I hit the road, here’s an update on one seriously interesting city!
First off, I had this idea in my mind that Russia would have a mild to warm climate with it being summer. Was I wrong! It’s as hot as hell – I’ve sweated so much this past 4 days I think I’ve lost 20 kgs. They should call this weather the ‘Moscow Diet’ or something. 33 degrees plus the last few days!
You don’t need all that much time in the city to be able to see all the main sites which are mostly concentrated around the Kremlin. That being said, you are going to walk a lot. I think I walked 30 kms on Saturday, according to my phone. Judging by the way my feet felt, I think this figure was understated by a factor of a 100. I’m totally ready to run a long distance marathon now!
The sites are really the cream of the crop, bucket list stuff. I’ll talk more about them later though.
For now, here’s my backpacker’s guide to navigating this city and not creating financial ruin for yourself.
I arrived by train from Saint Petersburg. My language barrier somehow saw me getting into the business class section of the train, despite me certainly not paying a business class rate. I’m not complaining – I owned that seat!
Arriving in Moscow means you have to navigate the Moscow metro. What an absolute bloody nightmare! Prior to Moscow, I thought the Paris metro was as complicated as it gets… no. Moscow makes Paris look like a crèche. Moscow’s metro is like trying to study advanced thermodynamics, whilst having your arm chopped off.
Tip 1: Download a Moscow metro map which has both the Latin and Cyrillic (Russian alphabet) names of the stations written on it. For some bizarre reason, in the stations, all the names of the stops are in Cyrillic so you don’t have a sodding clue where you’re going, but once you’re on the train, the maps in the actual carriage (i.e. once you’ve gone on a wing and prayer and boarded the bastard train) have the Latin alphabet. Doesn’t make any sense. I got on 2 trains going the wrong way. Needed beer to calm down. I can’t emphasise this enough: download a dual lingual map. Otherwise, frankly, you’re fucked.
Tip 2: Pictionary – I mentioned it in my Saint Petersburg post (here), try and remember what the Cyrillic words look like, and navigate your way like that. Don’t pronounce them, I find Russians don’t have much patience for Westerners that sound like they have a speech impediment.
Rant over, I must say that the Moscow metro is by far and away the most beautiful metro I’ve ever been on. The stations are decked out in marble, sculptures and chandeliers. It’s almost like being in a crazy museum.
Where to stay:
I found a really cool hostel called Jazz House Hostel. It’s about an 8 minute walk to the nearest metro station, which isn’t bad, even when the outside temperature is worse than the pits of Mordor.
The hosts are great, Chris is a champion. The people I’ve met here are really interesting and are doing some seriously interesting things like riding motorbikes from Germany through some of the old USSR countries. The accommodation is clean, sociable and comfortable – definitely stay here. Easy on the budget too!
Eating and drinking:
I was mostly lucky on the food front – grocery store just down the road and a decent kitchen in the hostel, so the food spend was minimal. I did discover an awesome bar on Arbat Avenue (the main tourist drag) called Eric the Red. Great craft beer which was an essential item to cope with Moscow being the surface temperature of the sun.
What to see:
Kremlin: the number one crowd puller. Costs 500 Rubles to get into the complex and that ticket gives you access to most of the sites within the Kremlin walls, including the Annunciation Cathedral, Archangel Cathedral and Dormition Cathedral of Moscow. Make an effort to go into these buildings – the murals and paintings on the inside of the onion domes are quite something.
When you go to the Kremlin – walk through the Alexander Gardens – beautiful gardens to chill in.
Red Square: another bucket list item. It’s located just outside the Kremlin, so when you’re done exploring it, walk out the exit and bang, you’re on Red Square. First off, the square isn’t red (the red is a reference to the Soviet Union). Secondly, it’s massive, with Saint Basil’s Cathedral on the one side and the State Historical Museum on the other, with the GUM shopping centre along the furthest side of the square.
Saint Basil’s: We’ve all seen pictures of it. Now go see it in real life and take that selfie. Costs 350 Rubles to get in. The Cathedral is a bit of a maze which makes exploring it fun.
GUM: Effectively the Russian equivalent of London’s Harrods. Go for a walk through it just to see the incredible architecture.
Church of Christ the Saviour: massive church but if you want to go in, dress appropriately. Shorts are apparently not appropriate but I wasn’t going to wear long pants for all the tea in China. Pretty sure long pants on a 3000 degree day would have an impact on my reproductive abilities.
Pushkin Café: Pushkin Café is super fancy and over the top. Totally out of the budget, but Pushkin has a smaller, tea shop linked next door which serves cakes and the like. Not too expensive, give it a go just so you can say you’ve done it! Thanks to D for the treat 🙂
Budget: here’s my budget for the last 4 days:
Accommodation: 1900 Rubles
Food and drinks: 3285 Rubles
Sites: 850 Rubles
Metro: 550 Rubles
Laundry: 350 Rubles
Total budget for 4 days: 6935 Rubles ($106 or $26,50 a day)
Cheers for now folks!