By some quirk of planning, we ended up with just one night in Moscow. We caught an overnight train from Perm, and arrived in Moscow in the afternoon. We were pretty over the trains by this stage, and just lay around and read books and ate food. I don’t even have many photos of this trip. This was officially the end of our Trans Siberian journey, although we did have one more train ride to come.
On arrival in Moscow we were picked up by a driver and taken to our hotel. We stayed at the Mercure, which was just off Arbat Street. The hotel was nice, but it was also the only hotel in Russia where we didn’t have breakfast included. We immediately went for a walk along Arbat and ended up eating dinner at a USSR themed diner. It was perfect.
There was really only one thing we wanted to do in Moscow. See the Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral. For most people Moscow is their introduction to Russia, but we’d already been in the country for two weeks. We knew Russia. We kind of understood how the country operated. We were familiar with the architecture and the food. We’d learned the history. We’ve visited towns that none of our friends had ever heard of. Now we wanted to see the one symbol of Russia that everyone actually knows.
We got up very early and had breakfast in a cafe on Arbat Street. Very quickly I’d noticed a few things about Moscow. People were better dressed, they spoke more English, and things were way more expensive than they had been in our previous regional cities.
It was a grey and rainy day, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We’d plotted our route, and it was a very easy walk from the hotel. Within about fifteen minutes we spotted the edge of the Kremlin’s walls. Another fifteen minutes were spent making our way around the gardens, where we pushed in front of some other tourists to see the changing of the guard at the eternal flame.
Finally we walked around a corner and found ourselves in the Red Square, with St Basil’s Cathedral looming in front of us. And best of all, it was practically empty.
We’d already made the decision that we wouldn’t go into any of the buildings. Unfortunately, our train was in the early afternoon and we just didn’t have time. Instead we went into GUM – yet another mall! We’d really seen the best and worst of Russian shopping centres, but this was on another level. It is the most beautiful mall I’ve ever seen. The building was constructed in the 19th century, and it has always been a place to shop. During Soviet times it was a department store, but now it is home to all the world’s biggest designer brands.
Something you have to do in Moscow is catch the metro – so we caught it back to our hotel. Everyone has great things to say about the metro stations, and although we only managed to see a few of them they were pretty spectacular.
And sadly that was it for our Moscow adventure. We had booked tickets on the fast train to St Petersburg, and the same driver who had initially picked us up from the station took us back there for the next leg of our journey. Four hours later we had arrived in St Petersburg!