Beginning of the Russian Tourist Trip Experience
As I step off the plane into the somewhat chilly Russian spring weather, the only thing colder is the not-so-welcoming death stare of a Russian policeman in the entry tunnel.
Getting through customs was not a problem, even for someone who looks Southern European (I had been warned I may have some trouble due to my erm.. complexion).
Outside of the airport we are greeted by a sea of taxis shouting at us, offering us their services. Whether they were legitimate or not, we weren’t too sure, what we didn’t want to risk was getting scammed so far out of Moscow.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by our lack of options, a friend had an idea to try Über in Russia as our mode of transport from the Airport to our Hostel near Red Square.
We bought some data (£20 for 200mb), jumped on Über and requested a driver and all within the hour we were checked into our hostel… sweet!
Friday Hostel in itself is a pretty standard, inside it has large comfortable single beds, power boards for everyone and the night we stayed we even got free pizza because of the Spring and Labor public holiday. The benefits of this hostel is that it’s in quite a good location being close to the Kitay-Gorod metro station, surrounded by food and restaurants and a few nightclubs.
Upon arrival, one of the girls at the front reception area appeared a little cold but after speaking with her, she is very welcoming and keen for a chat.
The three staff members are very cool, they were always willing to provide input and help out with tasks and questions; one even went above and beyond speaking at length with shipping companies about transporting another hostel guests motorbike over the transiberian railway.
Our first night we decided to go out, there was a drunk Russian shadowboxing, claiming he in ‘Putins Army’ (I think he just spent a year in the army) whilst denouncing Obama, calling him a nigger. I don’t think he understood when I told him that we were Australian, not American.
This guy was a dickhead.
A few beers, an awesome chicken schwarma, a fight between two Russians, a reindeer on the street and a horse shitting everywhere and we decided to call it a night, walking back to our hostel.
Whilst in Russia, we thought it would be fitting to go check out a football match. This day, it was Zenit vs Moscow with Zenit coming first on the table and Moscow coming in 6th it was sure to be an interesting game.
After smashing down some Oats with water and terrible instant coffee for breakfast, we made our way towards Spartak stadium.
In the pregame rundown, as this was a Moscow home game, I had been advised not to wear the opposing team colours and hope that Moscow does not lose, this is of course if I wish to avoid a riot… I don’t know, I had been watching a lot about the recent Baltimore riots and at this point I was pretty pumped for a bit of looting and mayhem.
This game had it all; fights, flares, smoke bombs, fireworks. I haven’t watched many Live football matches but this one has set the bar for me.
I’m unsure what the flares are for, public nuisance? Considering whilst the smoke clears out, you have less than half the visibility from the grandstands. These fans sure love watching their games.
The gameplay was less than spectacular in itself, a goal midway through the match put Moscow in the lead for it to be equalized by a 90 minute Zenit equalizer making it a cheeky 1-1. The final whistle is blown and we start to make our way out of the stadium.
Facing us outside is around 1000+ military policemen, military soldiers and other law enforcement agencies.. the aforementioned riots? Not gonna happen here.
We were surrounded by police including mounted police the entire way back to the train station. Have you ever walked through a wall of military, police and mounted police? That’s intimidating. If only I could have gotten a photo..
After a day off from extremely heavy night of drinking, we are all refreshed on a Monday ready to check out one of Russia’s most celebrated days; it’s Victory Day. Tanks will be rolling in and Red Square is off limits for rehearsals.
We’re in a great position to see all the tanks rolling in, the air quality has gone right down whilst the air is filled with diesel and burning oil.
As a guy, this is pretty damn cool. The Russians like to go big.
Whilst just to the side of the crowds against the fence lining the road, a few of us are talking to each other in English, a few Russian middle aged men see us and, make a joke to each other and start laughing. I found that pretty odd.
The Metro & Gorky Park
The next day we decide to head towards Gorky Park via the Metro, check out some of the awesome underground metro stations I’ve heard so much about.
There are some paid tours of the metro system, but I figured I could do it myself…. so I did.
These metros are insane, the details, paintings, marble, sculptures, light fixings.. I hadn’t see anything like this anywhere else in the world. We accidentally ended up riding the tube during rush hour but it didn’t quite seem like it. Russia has a pretty damn good metro system.
Gorky park is a contrast between concrete and grass, and skirts the Moscow River.
I figured I hadn’t snapped an ankle yet, so what better way to see the Moscow River and flaunt my travel insurance then to try long boarding for the first time. Upon hire of the board, I was given a little taste of home, courtesy of Moscow long board hire.
Walking opposite away from Gorky Park for 10 minutes or so and you find yourself faced with a gigantic monument of a man in a sail ship which overlooks another park with sculptures.
I don’t have any pictures of the sail ship but here’s something I found cool.
Back To The Roots
Today was a decidedly a history day, first up was a potential communism tour but a friend at the hostel had advised against it. Apparently it is biased in favor of communism, and the tour guide fails to mention any of its downfalls. We gave this one a miss, thanks pal!
We bought a Kremlin and Armoury ticket and walked towards the back of Red Square to evolve into Tourist level 3.
The features of the Kremlin tour is a giant bell, a cannon with a lion that has an expression of ‘im about to be sodomized by this giant fucking cannon’ and about 6 Orthodox churches; seemingly all exactly the same, inside, outside, architecture.. this is truly a case of you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I was not particularly fond of this.
Next up was the Armoury museum, which had more of a diverse display of history than the Kremlin. (museums, how do they work)
There were some cool weapons, ancient carriages and wedding attire.
This was mildly disturbed by two guys who seemed to have bodyodour so bad it actually cut general visibilty down by 50%. This is the kind of stench you could cut apart with a hacksaw.
Cruise Cap Off
Our final day in Moscow was to be a cruise down the river as the sun was setting, nearly getting hit by multiple cars trying to cross a main road we managed to hop on a boot and sail down the river. This was an excellent way to see part of Red Square, The Kremlin and St Basil’s from another perspective.
Russia was very unique, I have never seen anything like this before. We were lucky that we had a friend who had been living and teaching within the country for 6 years and that spoke fluent Russian and was able to show us around.
Even so, you can easily do this trip by yourself without a guide.
The level of English spoken is very low, even in touristy areas it is barely spoken, and if it is, it is very broken. But all this is a part of the experience. When ordering in a restaurant, get your pointy fingers out, and be prepared to be served the wrong dish. It’s all part of the fun.
Russians say if you want the real experience, go to Moscow; St Petersberg is more European. I didn’t get a chance to visit both, but it is definitely in my future plans.
(Want to know what the entire trip cost me? : Click Here)