Enjoying the last warm days in Moscow

Taking the fast train felt a bit of a cheat but I just wanted to get to Moscow without having to get up at an ungodly hour.

It was around 6pm when the Sapsan pulled into Leningradsky station, the Sun had already started to set and the platforms were bustling with people trying to catch the evening train home. Whilst walking towards the exit, I noticed a couple of people falling into each other’s arms. “They must have not seen each other for a long time” I thought which made me think about how my own reunion with my mother would be like when I finish my journey in Thailand.

I haven’t seen her for over five years. The last time was at Zurich airport when my sister and me dropped her off there to catch a flight back to Thailand. I never thought that it would take this long to see her again, but that is was of the reasons why I decided to head back to Thailand on this trip.

I turned left but couldn’t find any signs for the metro so I stopped in the middle of the hallway in order to get my bearings. I noticed that the majority of people were going the other way, so I followed them. What I have learned from traveling to so many cities is that it’s best to follow the crowds in case you’re unsure where to go.

My plan paid off as the flow of people brought me straight to the main road and along it I could see the entrance to the metro, clearly marked by a glowing red ‘M’. Before I went down the stairs I took a quick photo of the first view I had of Moscow: Kazansky station on the opposite side of the road with two of the seven sisters in one scene.

In case you were wondering, the seven sisters are seven huge apartment blocks built as a symbol to soviet might.

Once in the metro station it was time to buy the ticket for the metro. Having had practice with the metro in St. Petersburg it was a breeze getting a 11 ride metro ticket. Unlike the St. Petes metro which uses tokens or “Zhetons” as tickets, the Moscow Metro made use of a rather modern RFID style card which has a number of rides saved on them.

I had been warned that the Metro in Moscow only had station names in Cyrillic, which makes it slightly harder to find your way around the system. Thankfully I picked up the alphabet and after staring at the sign for a long time I did make out where to go. Once you can decipher the Cyrillic alphabet it becomes pretty easy to navigate the metro, which in my opinion is far easier to master than let’s say the Paris metro or even London Underground.

It was only a short ride to Kitay Gorod station. There I got off and headed for the exit by the description provided by the hostel to the letter. It was all well till I ended up in the courtyard, where the hostel should have been. “So I went through the archway and there should be a red door” I thought to myself, but there was only a brown door, without any sign or clue that there is a hostel in the building.

I started walking around, circling the building in order to find an entrance that looked a bit more official, as the last thing I wanted to do is ringing someone else doorbell and having to explain to them that I got the address wrong. After my third round, I was felt more and more desperate. “It must be here somewhere” I cursed silently. I walked passed two Russian ladies who seemed to notice my desperation. They asked if I needed help in Russia (at least I think that was what they said) and I showed them the address and name of the hostel. Looking determined they took me by the hand and walked me to the entrance of a hostel. I said thanks in Russian and headed inside. It was a hostel alright but after about 5min talking to the receptionist it turned out to be the wrong one.

So I headed back to the first door I suspected and got over my hesitation and rang the biggest doorbell I could find. A grumpy voice answered in Russian, I replied: “Apple Hostel?” after a silence that felt like an eternity I got a simple “Da”, which is Russian for ‘yes’. The door clicked open and I stepped inside the hallway.

I could see the guard who answered the door and approached him. “Gde Apple Hostel?” I asked in Russian “Che Tee Re” he answered and showed me four fingers. I understood right away what he meant and climbed the four flights of stairs until a reached the fourth floor. Here it was, the hostel I had been trying to find. (Alina and Gina if you are reading this please put up a sign to make it easier to find)

I stepped inside and was greeted by Gina who made me forget about all the troubles of finding this place. She first showed me around the hostel, which felt more like a home and began jotting down all the things I had to see on a map of Moscow. After dropping off my luggage I headed to the kitchen where I met Alex (It turns out that nearly everyone I met in Russia was called Alex) and another woman whose name I don’t remember. “Please have some of the Borsch I made” she said and quickly prepared a bowl for me. It was delicious, “the perfect meal after that ordeal” I thought to myself and dug into another portion.

That was the start of a great four days in Moscow, which turned out to be a much nicer place than I had ever imagined. Besides making good friends with my roommates Rodrigo and Diego I found that Russians were one of the most friendly and open people I had met on my travels. I had been approached by strangers trying to help me find my way, being very understanding when I couldn’t speak any Russian and trying their best to make me feel comfortable. Whilst in Saint Petersburg I was trying to hide my camera and was very vary of my belongings I never felt unsafe or threatened even when walking through a dark park in order to get to the Metro station.

One of the most memorable encounter was with a grandma and her nephew who asked upon seeing me with my camera if I were taking photos of the light projection mapping light-show and if I knew when it would start. The problem was that she couldn’t speak any English but her 10 year old nephew turned out to be quite the interpreter. When they walked away I could see how proud she was of him.

There were so many things that I could talk and write about my time in Moscow but I rather let the photos talk. One thing I know for sure, I won’t hesitate to come back here again, especially as I know how to find Apple Hostel the next time round.