Arriving at Leningradski station bang on the schedule time is a pleasant surprise – getting a taxi is not! So, being from London I head straight for the Tube. Ah, first issue with maps and guides printed in the west – they’re all in English and don’t have a Russian Cyrillic translation. So it’s a quick game of Russian roulette with which tube and direction I head in!
Following what looks like most people, through the underpass full of tiny shops offering knickers, wigs, jewelry and pies (didn’t buy any pies) i pop up in what looks like a ticket hall but who knows. While sweating with my camera gear round my neck I use the good old 5 fingers in the air- apparently that’s the metro card minimum. And hey presto, a piece of cardboard is thrust my way with a host of verbal instruction(could have been abuse but the Russian facial expressionis are hard to decipher)
Now metro lines are coloured but unfortunately the red line has faded a little and looks a lot like the orange – and a key part of the journey is to change from the orange line to the red line. Down the escalators, which remind me of st johns wood tube station, and onto the platform and a decision to take the train on the left or right! 50/50 odds – unfortunately it’s the wrong choice! A quick change and off in the right direction. A positive so far is that the platforms and trains are excellent in comparison to the ticket halls. A quick change and catch the train the right way and I’m at the kremlin – now where’s the hotel!
On arrival at the hotel, I head out in search of food and possibly a drink. The restaurants in and around the tourist centres are mostly western except for a few where the popular dish is pelemki – which is served with almost anything including bear meat.Bars are either in the hotels (nice shiny and expensive) or down in cellar bars – hardly inviting but a necessity due to the generally bad winters. The beer is awfull – most bars offer all the usual European largers including newcastle brown ale.
The women all tend to be very very girly – high heels, short skirts and lots of make up. Not exactly sophisticated but it works in mockba. The younger generation appear to be anorexic compared to uk standards- not a bad thing if you’re in advertising (or a Russian speaking single bloke)
Toilets are odd too – while walking around you’ll spot 3 or 4 portaloos randomly placed. Yet some enterprising babushka will have set up home in one of the end ones and charges 20 r for the pleasure of using one. Not sure if she cleans them or not but going by the smell probably not.
One of the worst tourist things I have ever done is to search out the first McDonalds to open in Moscow! I suppose it has a little bit of capitalist history attached to it, but the food is still awful.
Time to leave Mockba, so it’s a quick car to Yaroslasky station – and I mean quick. The driver thinks he’s protecting some UK government official (me!) so it’s extreeme acceleration, breaking, cornering and use of the horn! A quick tumble roll out of the car and he’s off again.
Now it’s Friday night at a station in a capital city! How bad could the station be? Believe me, bad. I’m standing surrounded by people having fun(drunk and in need of a shower) staring at a bank of train departures all in cyrilic – and none of the departure times match mine! 30 mins later I work out where the “harry potter” platform is next to 1a and 3 but unlabelled – times match though. Time to blend in – need to get a can of beer and some random snack…