Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Episode 18 (Part One): Moscow, hostels, builders and Basil's

"ты хочешь знать, что видел я на воле?"
Mikhail Lermontov, "Mtsyri" 

Oh would that I had a smart phone so that I could have better kept my word and filled you in from the road dear reader! Or rather not, because I was having far too much fun to write blog-posts! So stop complaining! Jeez!

Bags all packed!
Of course we arrived a little heady and tired-eyed into Leningrad Station (also known by its old name Oktyabersky Vokzal as our confusing train tickets taught us) and dropped our bags underneath the giant Lenin head in the entrance hall. The train journey was pretty good. Alex took a fantastic photo of me cramming a bun into my mouth but unfortunately his camera went missing later in the trip...(that’s another story.) Spending the night in the platzkart (cheapest) carriage was pretty much ok. We were not robbed or murdered. We did not encounter “bizarre people” as one of our university teachers guaranteed. Our conductor was pleasant and once the large lady sat opposite us stopped snoring we were able to shut our eyes and drift away into sleep as the Karelian forests dwindled outside the window...

We knew we were in expensive, metropolitan Moscow because all of a sudden all the toilets cost 20 roubles a go and in every direction we were confronted by H&M and Zara advertising. The pavements were clean and unbroken. People from various ethnic groups cropped up all over the place. The tang of a nearby Mcdonalds drifted over the streets. Yes still Russia, but sadly a lot more like anywhere else in the world.
A gorgeous fountain in the 'Alexandrovsky Sad'

The Moscow metro was our first port of call and we easily navigated our way to “Okhotni Ryad” which was the station nearest our hostel. Our eyes opened wide as we emerged onto street level and came face to face with not only the newly-opened Bolshoi Theatre but also with the State Duma (parliament) and the red walls of the Kremlin. Who knew the main attractions were so close together! The sun was shining, we were in high spirits and I didn’t even need my mittens! Moscow grasped us immediately and the brief illusion that we were in any-old, global city was shattered by the red Russification of those searing onion domes.

"rising majestically" (ignore the manhole)
We found the hostel no problem, tucked in an alley near the Armenian Embassy annex. The friendly reception staff adored our fragrantly accented Russian and showed us the windy, confusing route to our room. Our four- bed dorm was nestled under several flights of stairs and the neighbouring rooms were being renovated by a gang of sketchy builders smoking, swearing and loitering in the hostel. Their sleazy sneers and loud protestations made our first trip to the showers a little tentative but hey we’re young and pretty aren’t we? Nothing to be ashamed of and no awkward towel slippages... So yes we felt a little uneasy at first but had a prime location near the communal kitchen and showers and our door had a decent double-lock so we soon settled in.

After taking a short break to wash ourselves up and wipe the sleepydust from our eyes we hit Red Square – a candidate for the country's greatest icon- and were greeted by the stunning St Basil’s Cathedral rising majestically on the skyline. It was our very own Virginia Woolf "moment of being" but we couldn't shake the gruesome story that Ivan the Terrible, according to legend, blinded the architect who built it so that he could never design anything more awe-inspiring. As always I find myself returning to my philiosophy that no matter how beautiful or crazy Russia seems it will never, ever be boring!

More really really soon. (no, really. I’m not having you on anymore)


  1. I would love to go to that place and stay at the nicest accommodation in town.

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  2. Moscow is amazing, but can be really expensive. Our hostel was good for the money! The staff were friendly and the room comfortable.

    I would also love to visit South America at some point in my life.

  3. This place is the best to stay while spending holiday seasons.

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