Your Architecture is Beautiful!
I survived Moscow despite all of the American stereotypes, warnings and negative perception that I received from many people before I came. I don’t know how many people said, Why do you want to go there? You know they hate Americans, right? After applying for the visa for Russia, I was asking myself the same thing. That process was such a pain and so much money.
Luckily, like most places in the world that I have visited that was not the case. I am happy to show the world or all 5 people that read my blog, that it is a place that is safe to travel and has beautiful areas to show off.
Tuesday, June 20: After a 10.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, a 2 hour layover, and a 2 hour flight to Moscow, I made it! I arrived at 5:45pm, took 5000 Roubles out of the ATM at the airport (less than $100USD, my bank was out of RR before I left), hopped on the Aeroexpress train for 500 Rubles and off I went to central Moscow. I never could figure out the wifi in because you had to have a local number or something to get it. As always, I researched how to get from point A to point B, so I just followed the map and my screenshot directions. My first impressions were based on what people had put into my head about Russia, so I was extra cautious all of the time. Head on a swivel (James)! Everything is written in Russian using the Cyrillic alphabet, therefore I had no point of reference for reading signs. It really would have been helpful if I would have learned the alphabet before I came here. After getting off the train, I had to take the metro one stop. Everywhere I went I asked people for help me to double check my directions, though apprehensive to speak English, everyone that I asked was helpful. I walked about ten minutes following my maps.me directions precisely with all of my luggage which to most people is a little for such a long trip, but felt like a ton after schlepping it off a plane, on a train, metro and then walking down the street. Finally at 7:30pm, I arrived at my hotel, Hotel Troyka. Walking to my hotel, passing a familiar logo, Starbucks (I always try and pin a familiar place on my route to make sure I am on track), I could see Red Square with Saint Basils Cathedral as the main focal point across the bridge. It was just stunning!!! So tired once I arrived, I thought I would just go to bed soon and wait until tomorrow to see what was ahead of me. I laid down for a few minutes and decided I just couldn’t wait so I walked out just to see. I only went out for about 30 minutes, but it was worth it to get a bearing for the lay of the land.
Wednesday: The first morning, I was up at dawn. Well that is hard to say in Moscow in June because the sun only sets for a few hours. Anyway, I was up super early awaiting my breakfast included in the hotel that opened at 7:30am. The spread was pretty amazing with all of the Russian dishes that they offered. There were so many choices. Of course, I took a bunch of extras and shoved them into my Ziplock bags for later. I saved a lot of money on food in Moscow because of this. I tried more variety from my hotel than I would anywhere for one main reason, it is hard to order food in Moscow if you don’t know Russian. They had espressos and cappuccinos and coffee in the room but it was just not satisfying to me, so I started drinking green tea everyday.
The reputation of people in Russia not being friendly is not true, however it is just different than what we are used to in the western world. From the outside, I saw lack of eye contact and no smiles. For me, that was hard. I was laughing at myself because I smile so much and I didn’t see many people smiling. Everyone seemed on a mission to get somewhere and were not concerned with anyone else. My goal on my first morning was to walk down the street and see if I could get anyone to smile. It was hard, but cracked a couple people. A smile is what I thought was the universal language from traveling all over the world until now. Later my tour guide told us that it was a cultural difference and everyone really is nice.
Later in the morning, I walked to Starbucks because it was the only place open and got some strong coffee. Challenging to order, I was able to order an Americano. It was freezing outside, this is not what I was expecting summer in Moscow to feel like. I was bundled up and out to explore. Getting to the beautiful sights early is the key for getting pictures with not a lot of other people in it, so I went over to Red Square. This is where you can see the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the GUM Shopping Mall. I went on a free walking tour that was about a twenty minute walk away. It took me an extra thirty minutes to get to the meeting point due to all of the road construction, I had to walk around the entire block. I joined the walking tour and was absolutely freezing.There was a fellow traveler that was on a big tour also from Chile that I had a nice chat with during the tour. I had five miles in before noon so I was feeling pretty good about that. But after an hour or so I left the tour and went back to the hotel to warm up. Everything is enormous so even though it is close by each other, there is still a lot of walking. I ended up taking a nap and not waking up until late at night. Oops. Well then I thought, I am on my own time, and I can sleep whenever I am tired.
Thursday: The next morning, I was ready again way before the breakfast hour because of my crazy sleep schedule. I headed out with my GoPro to try and capture some pictures that I wanted, this time bundled up in two layers of pants, two jackets and two socks. I survived two down pours and 10 miles of walking. I was in my own little world since the city is fairly quiet and started using Instagram Story to document my day. After the day of sightseeing, and seeing many sights, I felt satisfied with everything I saw and checked off all the sights I wanted to see in Moscow. On my final full day in Moscow, I also went to GUM shopping mall and walked around. It was huge and was very well manicured with beautiful flowers and fountains. The stores were high end and very expensive.
Friday: The last day here, I ate breakfast and then headed to the metro station to catch the train to Saint Petersburg. I left extra early since I had lost my GPS tracker on my phone and had to rely on my old school map skills (still not sure why this happened, but it was coincidental that I occurred the same day as I shut off my phone service, but it came back on in Saint Petersburg). I prepared for all of the stops from here to my hotel in Saint Petersburg. This was a challenge but I did it. I changed metros, found the train station, and took a bus to my next destination with out my technology. Although I don’t want to do this like that, I was reminded that I am fully capable of figuring it out. Even though my sleep was so messed up, I was happy with what I experienced in Moscow. My hotel was nice, clean, and in a great location so that also helped with enhancing my experience.
Moscow is beautiful! I loved the sights and clean streets. People are nice everywhere if you get to know them. Moscow wasn’t the easiest place to travel to due to the language barrier but it wasn’t impossible and the sights I saw definitely outweighed the challenges.
Money I Spent:
Accommodations: $70/night for 3 nights $210
Coffee: Free (Starbucks App, gift cards from kids at work)
Food: $5 (hijacked all of the food from the hotel, yes this is crazy now that I think about it, I spent almost no money on food, $5 on random snacks from the grocery store)
Sightseeing: $10 (Walking tour)
Water: $1.50 (I refilled it at the hotel drinking water station and used my fridge to keep it cold.)
Transportation: $82 (Aeroexpress from Airport $10, Metro Tickets $2,Train to St.Petersburg $70)
Total Spent for 3 Days: $ 308 including transportation to St. Petersburg