The Red Arrow carried us smoothly from St. Petersburg to Moscow. We stayed in Russia’s capital for one night and got to take part in some special celebration there.
Onboard the Red Arrow
On our way from St. Petersburg to Moscow we had most probably our most luxurious transport experience of this journey. The Red Arrow, or “Krasnaya Strela”, is a historical train running between St. Petersburg and Moscow. It had its first voyage in 1931, and the service has only been interrupted once during the Second World War. Seri had developed some kind of fixation about traveling with such old train once in his life. He had gotten some extra travel money as a present from his relatives (thanks again 🙂 and that he wants to use to do things that we otherwise wouldn’t do because they are too expensive. Therefore we decided to buy the first class tickets for this gorgeous old train. The tickets costed about 80 euros each, which is still not much for an 8-hour ride in a private sleeper cabin with snacks and breakfast included, but much more than the cheapest tickets for the same way would have been. We really enjoyed our journey and haven’t probably slept that well in a train ever before. Anyhow, as we had to stare at the stars at night and wake up already before seven for the breakfast service, we only got some 5 hours of sleep and felt quite fucked up as the train arrived to Moscow around 8 am.
First Morning in Moscow
As we started navigating the streets and metro map of Moscow, we were both in a very grumpy mood. It didn’t help that Seri was accidentally hitting Johanna’s face with his skateboard (or Johanna hit Seri’s skateboard with her face?). We also had had some changes to our hostel booking a couple of days earlier as booking.com told us they had overbooked and we had to choose a new accomodation. As we arrived to this place, we were informed (in Russian/sign language) that we could only check in at 2 o’clock – in 5 hours. As they also didn’t have a shower or even a toilet we could have used, we had quite smelly look and feel, which lowered our mood even more. But better to get used to that feeling anyway now that we are backpacking.
After having a very important argument about whether we should skate or walk somewhere, we ended up walking to a park nearby. We sat there for a while angsting and making some kind of a plan for the next hours. Slowly our moods got better and as we walked towards the Red Square we could already happily admire everything around us.
It was a Sunday morning and the whole city seemed to be sleeping, even it was the election day in Moscow. Later we might have found a reason for the people’s sleepiness, as it turned out that the city was celebrating its 872nd birthday this weekend. At least the tourists were awake, as we learned when entering the Red Square. We joined them to take some selfies with the gorgeous buildings there and moved then to a huge park next to the square. The park was a bit crowded too but we really liked the interface of it. There were nice pathways and for example an amphitheather and a nice viewpoint called the Floating Bridge.
We found again a really nice place to eat. It is called Chiho and it has a really cool asian street style interior. The menu contains also meat dishes but a lot of veggie options too. We ordered Mapo Tofu, Fried eggplant (topped with awesome “chili chips”) and summer rolls. Seems that eating costs a bit more than in St. Petersburg, but around 12 euros for a lunch for two is still very ok considering that Moscow is supposed to be an expensive city.
As we were tired as hell (also didn’t sleep very well in St. Pete because of our loud neighbours and yes, it seems that we have gotten a bit old), and it was finally almost 2, we got back to our hostel. The room turned out to be really nice and napping a few hours was the right decision.
Moscow’s 872nd birthday party
In the early evening, as we woke up, we had some new energy to go and explore the 872 years old city. The people had gotten out of their caves and it was really lively all around. There were some smaller parties and colourfully decorated streets on the way, but we were headed to Tverskaya, a street closed only for pedestrians for this happening and the main venue of the celebrations.
As we hadn’t planned basically anything to do for our day in Moscow, we got really lucky that the party happened this weekend. Besides thousands of people, there were loads of interesting things to see, that all apparently were in one way or another linked to Moscow’s history. Girls and boys in traditional clothing dancing, dozens of musicians, acrobats in astronaut costumes, a caravan of wooden camels… It seemed to be a really nice party and even though it was crowded, it wasn’t too chaotic and literally no-one seemed to be drunk.
We had a dinner at one of the restaurants of the veggie chain Jagannath and were satisfied, once again.
Fulfilling our goals
There were two goals that we had set for ourselves for Moscow. The goal number one was to see embalmed Lenin. This was another fixation of Seri and we missed it last time in Moscow because the mausoleum was closed. We also missed it this time, because this mausoleum seems to be closed whenever we are around. Johanna’s fixation, in turn, is to do things in places with the same name. Like to eat french fries in France or banana split in Split. So luckily we got to fulfill at least one of our goals for our stay: To drink a Moscow Mule in Moscow. We had the cocktails in UkuBar accompanied by lovely live music. The cocktail menu was really innovative, Seri had something with gin, smoked lemon, ginger and berries and the Moscow Mule was also prepared in a special way.
Our train to our next destination, Nizhny Novgorod, left the next day at 2. As our check-out was at 12, we didn’t do much more than walking and eating. Besides a nice breakfast at the hostel we also ate some blinis (russian crepes) at the train station. It’s a bit tricky to order stuff when you don’t have a common language, but with a few words you can come a long way. By saying “blini vegetarianska” to the lovely lady at the pay counter we managed to get some delicious crepes filled with cheese, mushroom, potato, onion and dill, and one with berries and cream for the desert. We have really started to love Russian food!!
All in all, we liked Moscow. Also much more than the last time we were there – but it was in the deepest winter anyhow. The city seemed posher than St. Petersburg but still, despite being 872 years old, young and very lively. And the dozens of churches with colorful and golden decorations don’t do harm either.