After the amazing experiences I had in St. Petersburg, my time in Moscow really pales. I will hold onto the great memories I have from my first trip to Moscow 3 years ago, with one of my best friends.
The train ride was uneventful & easy, then I arrived at the first hostel I’ve ever been to with a giant list of rules that you have to read, agree to, and sign your agreement in their log book (not that any of the rules were outlandish, but it was a weird way to start your stay). The employees seemed like you were bothering them any time you asked a question, and it definitely seemed like a lot of people were living there, not traveling guests, so the vibe was really weird. It was especially weird after how easily everyone had gotten along and become friends in St. Petersburg.
However, I was mostly in Moscow as a jumping-off point for the Trans-Mongolian train, and I was only staying for 2 nights. I did some obligatory walking around to Red Square the first night, instantly remembered my way around the city from my previous visit, and visited the Loving Hut near my hostel. Their menu was only in Russian, but as soon as one of the employees got to “schnitzel” on the list of what they had, my mind was made up. It wasn’t as good as I had in Austria, but I was still happy.
At the hostel, I kept headphones in most of the time, which is rather anti-social, but it was drowning out the loud Russian soap operas on TV, and I planned out the next day: picking up my train tickets, getting food/water/baby wipes/hand sanitizer/toilet paper for the train, and seeing anything I wanted to visit during my short stay.
Morning of day 2, I got ready and went to pick up my train tickets. I’ve worked with Real Russia for trips to Russia & Belarus in the past, and they were awesome all over again. They had everything spelled out clearly on an agenda sheet with helpful information, a 24/7 help phone number, some important Russian phrases, plus the tickets. Really awesome customer service. I know I’m paying for their services, but not being able to book the tickets yourself, in-person, in Russian requires using a service, and they definitely go beyond the minimum.
I dropped off my tickets and passport back at the hostel, so I wasn’t carrying them around all day, then went back to Loving Hut for lunch. I had looked at their menu online this time and knew what they had. I asked for the Hawaiian pizza, but they were out, so I got the margherita pizza. I also asked the English-speaking girl for tips about vegan food to take on the train that would be cheap, available at any supermarket, and wouldn’t go bad. She suggested getting soups that just need to add water, since there’s hot water available for coffee/tea in the train cars, so that sounded like a good plan, plus some fruits. She showed me a kind of soup that was vegan and available anywhere, so I definitely appreciated the help. Girl whose name I don’t know: thanks!
After going to the supermarket for my soups (it’s pretty much like ramen noodles in a pack), TP, water, and some apples, I also heard of a vegan mini-mart, and I thought I’d check them out for any extras I’d like to splurge on for the train. They had some cool stuff, the guys were really friendly (and excited that a foreigner was in their shop), and I was going to buy this cool local brand of soda with Soviet images on it, but I was low on cash, and my debit card wouldn’t work with their system. Sorry, guys! It’s called the Happy Vegan Shop, and they definitely seemed happy, other than this glitch.
I decided to walk back to the hostel, even though it was kind of far, because it would take me along the Moskva River, past Gorky Park, past the Kremlin, and through Red Square. Of course, I whistled “Wind of Change” while following the Moskva down to Gorky Park. It’s obligatory.
In Red Square, construction crews were disassembling the parade items they’d put up (bleachers, displays, etc.) for Victory Day celebrations, and there was still a bunch of stuff covering Lenin’s mausoleum, so you couldn’t see it or go in. I’d been in before, but it was still strange to see it all covered up and hidden away behind banners.
I tried to find a place to get a haircut during my free time, but the going rate was more than $25 US, so I skipped it. What a ridiculous price!
After prepping my stuff for the next day, I decided that the people at Loving Hut might think I was weird to go there again, so I checked out Jagganath, which was also close to my hostel. It was one of those food bars where you point to what you want, and the signs for what was vegan didn’t make any sense to me, so I just asked. I got some “undercooked, stored cold, microwaved when you ask for it” Indian curry with rice, plus a salad. It was rather lackluster and cost the same amount as the delicious schnitzel at Loving Hut, so I was regretting the decision.
I went to bed early, because I got up during the night to watch a game from the team I follow in Brazil (Atletico Mineiro!) for Copa Libertadores. Ah, time zones. It was a horrible game, horrible referee, and then I went back to sleep for another 3 hours, after we lost 1-0.
Shower, double-check my packing list for the train, then check out & head to the train station. The hostel employee wrote out “I am leaving and would like the refund for my metro card” in Russian for me, since you get the 50 Rubles back when you turn it in. It’s less than a dollar, but that stuff adds up. At the train station, while waiting for the train to start boarding, I had the worst French fries anyone has ever served me. I even took a picture of the ridiculous nubs they had the audacity to call fries.
My time in Moscow was short, but I didn’t feel too bad. I had seen everything before, still did some sightseeing, and accomplished what I came for: I was heading out to accomplish my dream of taking the Trans-Mongolian train.
Next up: train leg 1 to Irkutsk, in Siberia.
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