After spending nearly 25 hours on a train from Berlin to France we stopped at 00:58 in Belorusskiy station, Moscow. It was about -10c and after Ramadan (the Russian we were sharing the 3-berth with) told us yesterday that it was -18c in Moscow we made sure to wrap up before getting off the train – 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of socks, hat, fleece, coat, rain coat and a scarf fashioned out of my cotton sleeping bag liner.
We were armed with Google Maps directions, however after walking around for a while we weren’t able to figure out where it was trying to take us and struggled to get our bearings due to no street name signs. After asking a few people (none of which spoke any English) and being directed a different way every time it was already 2am.
Whilst wondering around we were approached by multiple taxis trying to get our business as well as some dodgy unmarked cars with fully blacked out windows randomly stopping & following us. Our big backpacks were attracting more attention than we would have liked at that time in the morning.
Yet another car pulled up beside us (blacked out windows, unmarked, seems pretty normal for Russia!). At this point it was snowing heavily, almost blizzard-like and we were starting to get cold. He stopped us several times in his car even after we said we were fine & would walk. He eventually pointed to our map & wanted to see it, so we went over to give him a look, he nodded and it seemed like he knew the way and pointed for us to get in. After telling him we had no money using the universal ‘finger rub’ sign he shook his head, smiled and opened the boot. We took a huge risk at this point, and got in (with our bags on our laps of course). There are two of us, so we hoped for the best! Mark told me he had both hands around his bag & his hand on the door handle ready to jump out should anything happen!
After driving around Moscow for 10 minutes or so I started to recognise some of the streets from when I looked up the hostel on Google Street View, what a relief! The hostel is down a smaller side street (Chocolate Hostel) so he struggled to find it at first. He was kind enough to call the hostel and got directions from them.
He then got out and showed us to the door and didn’t even hint at wanting any money – a genuinely nice guy that just wanted to help out. I’m sure you can imagine how anxious we were, but the risk paid off in the end! We were greeted by lady that runs the hostel (what a relief to hear someone speaking English!), who showed us to our room.
The following morning the same lady gave us a map of Moscow & the Metro and told us what our itinerary would be for the couple of days that we were there – we didn’t argue with a Russian lady! We couldn’t have seen all we wanted to without her help – The Red Square, Kremlin, changing of the guards (Red Square), various Stalin buildings, shopping/souvenir areas & the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, all in the day and a half we had. The metro was extremely useful at only 28py6 for a “1-pass” which means you can take one trip on the metro regardless of the distance & line. That’s about 60p!
One last note on Russia: the men are men and the women are women. No gelled, quiffed metrosexual hairstyles, no tight jeans or fancy clothes for the men and the women are just plain stunning.