Russia over Easter... the Moscow chapter
Moscow Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Deciding on Russia as a holiday destination and booking the flight is about the easiest part of organising a trip there. It begins with the contradictory information about what you need in order to get a Visa, and continues on with having to send your passport to the Russian consulate along with an invitation to the country in order to just be admitted... something that can be an issue for people who need their passports to hand all the time. However, I am happy to state that it is well and truly worth the hassle and actually the very fact that it is a bit of a pain means there are likely to be fewer tourists to this most excellent destination.
To get around the issue of tricky Russian Visas and the like, my friend and I decided to go through a guide company to arrange for transfers to and from the aiport and train, a personal guide in both Moscow and St Petersburg (complete with driver to take us around both cities), and accommodation.
In fact, the only thing that marred their service was the slightly narcoleptic cab driver who picked us up at the airport in Moscow when we arrived. Granted, it was 6am, but nearly running us off the road as he nodded off to sleep didn't make for the best introduction to Russia.
The rest of our time in Moscow was considerably less scary. It was amazing to see the Kremlyn and Red Square, as well as just how the city has moved forward since Soviet rule. We had a guide on the second day for a few hours, Liana, who we pumped for all sorts of information, which brought everything into context, and it was great to be driven around the city to get a feel for its vastness. I am pleased to report that the food was excellent there too. I was wary, being a vegetarian, about what options I might be presented with, but we were lucky to have arrived just at the end of lent, when Russian Orthodox followers refrain from eating meat and dairy, so I was well catered for.
Armed with our Frommer's guidebook to Moscow and St Petersburg (actually a very handy guide and one I can recommend), we traipsed as much of the city as we could given the snowy conditions and even braved the underground, which was stunningly decorated if at times very confusing. Because Moscow is something akin to London in size, it wasn't possible to walk everywhere, but the cold also made taking the tube more appealing anyway.
One thing I would caution when visiting... be very wary of where your hotel in Moscow is situated. Ours looked close to the city centre, but if you're used to small European cities, the proportions on the maps were much greater than we had expected.
Finally it was time to bid farewell to this vast, interesting city and head to our overnight sleeper train to St Petersburg. We didn't want to be landed with just anyone for the duration of the trip (2nd class carriages hold 4 people), so we booked a first class carriage at very little extra cost, and boy was it worth it! Comfortable pull down beds, a little television, music, climate control, snack boxes and a free bottle of booze each made the 8 hour trip positively delightful. Much better than having to share a carriage with two other randoms I think! A fab experience that definitely added to the overall holiday.
The St Petersburg chapter of this journey to follow..........