Break 1 – Moscow

Day 4:
20.10.2009 (Tuesday)

We finally made it to Moscow at around 1030. Weather was sunny and not too cold. First thing we needed to do was to get local currency. We didn’t have any Russian Ruble. We spent quite a considerable amount of time walking in, out and around the train station. This is the beginning of the constant challenge we face with Russian language. We found an ATM machine but my card didn’t work. So we still have to look for a currency exchange. We finally found one after almost 15 minutes.

Our next challenge was to find the nearest Metro station and head to the Godzillas Hostel. It was not difficult to find one as all major train station in Moscow always has a Metro station nearby. The first impression of the Metro station was ‘WOW!’. The station is huge and nicely decorated. The train carriage has huge space as well. As we dont know the Russian Cyrillic alphabets very well, we have to match the characters with our reference to find the right platform for the train. Every time we took the Metro, we will play the ‘Match the name’ game. 🙂

We were quite happy with the hostel we have chosen. Its location is quite central (5 mins to Metro station, 20 mins to Red Square). It has free wifi (essential). The room and shared bathroom is clean. In addition, they also provide registration service which costs RB 600 each. All tourist visiting Russia is required to register with the appropriate government department within 3 business days from arrival. We can get fined when we leave the country if we were found not have register ourselves. Also if we’re stopped by police, we might have to bribe to get ourselves out of trouble. We figured that’s not something we want to risk. It’s not that expensive to get the registration done anyway.

So after sorting out the admin matters, we got a map and started walking around Moscow. We mainly walked around Red Square, around the Kremlin and along the Moscow River. After that while having a pint, we decided to check out some of the Metro stations, recommended by our Moscow Tourist Map to be the most beautiful. The stations we visited are Kropotkinskaya Metro Station, Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro Station, Komsomolskaya Metro Station, Novoslobodskaya Metro Station and Novokuznetskaya Metro Station. We only made it to 5 of the 6 Metro Stations as we were already very tired and battered from squashing with the peak hours crowd. We were truly impressed with the Metro Stations.

The day ended with doing laundry and checking email.

Day 5:
21.10.2009 (Wednesday)

We were due back on to the train at night around 2125. So we have the whole day to walk around town. We decided to take it slow and visit some markets instead. It was quite a disappointing visits.

First market we visited was meant to be a fresh food market. It was the nearest from the hostel. But it turns out to be some sort of flea market selling household items. From here, we were relatively close to the Moscow pedestrian street, The Arbat, so we decided to walk there. On the way, we passed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of many Stalin Skyscraper in Moscow.

After lunch, we headed to the second market. This time, the guide book describe this market as a souvenir market. The market is relatively small and is located in a dodgy area. It was full of tourists and it looks as if they were selling the souvenirs in bulk. We didn’t buy anything as we won’t be able to carry it with us throughout the journey.

We headed back to the hostel after the market visit to collect our backpacks and prepare to go to the train station. We were also advised by our dorm mates to get some snacks to bring on board the train so that we can offer it to people sharing our berth. So we went to the nearest grocery store to buy some snacks. Also we figured we wont be able to stand the restaurant food for 5 days.

Looking for the correct train station turns out to be quite difficult. The problem was there is 2 major train stations just opposite each other, then we cant speak the language nor read the Cyrillic alphabets. We spent about 20 minutes walking around the same place and back and forth the 2 stations, trying to make sure that we were in the correct station. Luckily we managed to find it. Then the next set of challenge was to make sure we board the correct trains. They were no announcement or whatsoever, but we followed the crowd and thus managed to get ourselves onto the correct train. I guess we will know we’re on the wrong train when the carriage attendant do not allow us to board the train. They actually checked the train tickets to make sure that the name listed in the train ticket is the same as your passport and that it’s the correct date, time and destination.

We were quite shock to find that our train is very modern. It has a LCD tv in each berth plus a plug point. Each bed is given a blanket, pillow, bed sheet, pillow case and even hotel slippers. Then we meet our companion for the next 5 days, Judith an Aussie lady, who’s been traveling for the past 3 months, through the Silk Road and Max, a Russian border control officer who can speak Russian (of course), English AND Mandarin!

The night was spent chit chatting, getting to know everyone better. We had Russian dinner provided by the train, accompanied with Russian beer courtesy of Max.

So we have been really lucky to have English speaking companion and a Russian translator. Being on the train for the next 5 days doesn’t seem such a bad idea after all.

Click to read on: Train journey 2 – Moscow to Irkutsk


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