09.10.2011 - 12.10.2011
09.10.11 - Sunday morning, and not much going on as we arrived and made our way to our Hostel (Capital Hostel, Moscow). More of a little homestay with multiple rooms, the host was helpful and armed with a map we were on our way to the famous Red Square! St Basil’s Cathedral loomed in the distance long before we saw the Red Square and as with many of the other famous sights in the world, it’s not until you’re standing in front of it and seeing it for yourself that you really appreciate the magnificence that a picture just can’t really capture.
We took a look around inside and then went back out to wander the Red Square. We unexpectedly stumbled on the queue for the Lenin Mausoleum, so ended up going through and taking a look at Lenin (under very tight security!).
The rain started to come in, so we sheltered in the glitz of the GUM Centre, filled with designer wares and expensive clothes. The budget not quite stretching to Prada and Hermes, we settled on lunch in a cheap café before heading back to the hostel.
We met another couple in the kitchen, who had just done the Trans Mongolian the other way, starting in Beijing, so we swapped a few trip notes over dinner (which they shared with us, much appreciated!). Later that night, we went back into the Red Square and had a drink at the Ritz Carlton rooftop bar. The view was great, so were the prices! I think it cost me around £25 for a cocktail….hence why we only had 1 drink! But hey, what’s the point of travelling if you can’t splurge every now and then…..
10.10.11 - The next day, after a sleep in, we headed up to the Kremlin and bought tickets for the Armoury and Kremlin Cathedrals. None of the information is in English, but you can still get the general gist of things, and it’s still amazing to look at some of the displays. We managed to visit the Diamond Exhibit, one of the 3 best collections of jewels in the world (Crown Jewels and a private collection are the other two). Diamonds, gems, gold, platinum – a girl’s paradise!
11.10.11 - Last full day in Moscow, we headed out to the Space Museum. Russia really was at the front of space exploration and the museum did a great job of showcasing their journey. Filled with memorabilia and space machines – all originals. Once again no English displays, but we’re getting used to that!
Having now confirmed our dates for our next leg of the trip, and after a failed attempt to try buy tickets earlier, where we met simply with ‘No, No’ ‘No’ to all attempts at communication, we returned to the station armed with Cyrillic version of what we wanted (thanks partly to Google, partly to our hostel owner) and were determined not to take ‘No’ for an answer. Thankfully the girl took a look at our note and was like – ‘Ok’. Happy days! Next leg booked – and after almost a week in Russia, we can almost start to understand what it all means!
For dinner, we found a great eastern restaurant – with some broken English and an Iphone menu interpreter we ordered and ate. We’re getting used to pointing, guessing, and our Russian now extends to ‘Priviet, Spasibo, Nyet, Da, Dva’ (Hello, Thank You, No, Yes, Two) – we’re progressing!! It’s definitely one of the more difficult languages, simply because the letters all mean something different – B=V, S=C, N=K etc. All part of the fun I suppose….
12.10.11 - This morning we visited the Peter the Great monument and walked the riverside, before a final wander through the Red Square and past St Basil’s Cathedral. A slight panic when we arrived at the train station and didn’t see our train on the board. Reading the Lonely Planet, apparently trains leave from 9 different stations throughout the town – oh crap! Thankfully the girl at information pointed us across the road 100m where we managed to find Platform 5 and train 0016.
Now boarded, the Trans Mongolian adventure has begun. We’re armed with pot noodles, travel mugs, playing cards, books, all sorts of supplies (even some Tim Tams – thanks Sian!) This leg is 26 hours, which in the scheme of things isn’t bad at all. We’re off to Yekaterinburg where we’ll spend 2 nights before re-boarding another train to Irkutsk. At the moment, we’re sharing with two quiet Russian guys, hope they don’t snore! A woman has just come past the platform selling chandeliers. Chris asked me if I want one, I don’t think it’ll fit in the backpack. Shame, might’ve looked good in the lounge room!