The craziness of Moscow began on the train, with countless faux pas, cramped top bunks, boiling heat, and being separated (Karen and Michael in one cart and me in another). The ride got better as the train descended closer and closer upon the capital city of Russia. We were greeted by an extraordinarily intoxicated young lad, who took an interest in our group as we huddled off to the side looking at a map; in an effort to evade him, we went back into the train station and up to the platform. Seemingly in the safe, the man appeared on the platform, although not to bother us directly. This time around, he had taken a liking to throwing glass bottles of beer against the concrete floor - sending innocent bystanders running away and security guards running towards him. We decided it was best to leave the train station area and hail a cab, so we headed out to the closest main street where seven seperate middle aged men took it upon themselves to offer us a ride as a taxi - we declined.
The taxi that we did manage to grab took us to our hostel, Godzilla Hostel, the largest in Moscow. With three floors, loads of kitchens and bathrooms, a lounge area, and a comfortable interior design, Godzilla is definitely worth the ~ $30 a night - not to mention that the same people from our last hostel are here and there are several other great folks. We met two interesting Australians who brought us to their favorite street vendor for beer, which we drank as we watched American Beauty in the hostel lounge.
Our first full day was a whirlwind. My eyes soaked up Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral, GUM, the Cathedral of Our Savior, and countless carefully crafted breathtaking buildings. My mouth basked in the glory of caviar flavored potato chips, kvhas (a delicious drink that tastes like a mix between beer and apple cider), and dumplings dipped in sour cream. One particularly enjoyable experience that aroused all of my senses was the process of enjoying ice cream in the shade of the Kremlin and Red Square. After a very full day, we headed back to our hostel; while doing so, we walked about a mile or so too far. Perhaps it was the intrigue of Moscow that distracted us from making the correct turn? When we finally got back, we watched the Hangover with the Canadians and Brits (whom I have affectionately nicknamed the Commonwealthers). What a great day indeed!
The second day in Moscow started early and brought us back to Red Square with the Commonwealthers. While we stood in line at Lenin's Mausoleum, a handful of our group went to McDonald's to grab breakfast and bring it back to eat in line (I withstood as I'm still maintaining a moratorium on McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King). As I stood there watching them eat from the pinnacle of capitalism, I couldn't help by laugh at he irony: here they were, in Red Square, eating McDonald's and waiting in line to see the embalmed body of the first Chairman of the Soviet Union: Vladimir Lenin. Once we got past the metal detectors, we walked along the Kremlin's outer wall and saw the plaques that informed us of the important Russians who were buried there (Joseph Stalin, Yuri Gagarin, etc). Inside the Mausoleum, it was dead quiet as we gawked at the perfectly preserved body of a madman (I think we weren't allowed to talk out of fear of waking him). When we were finished there, one of the Canadians, Amy Leah, wanted to go to Starbucks to buy a mug (she's been collecting Starbucks mugs from around the world as she raps up her lifelong dream of seeing 100 of the 1000 places to see before you die) - again I laughed at the irony (yay capitalism!) We all grabbed a bite to eat and some drinks before we bid them goodbye. Hopefully we'll reconnect in either Irkutsk or Ulan Bator, but I'm not sure. It was sad to see them go, but so is the life of a traveler. The post-Commonwealthers era of our trip started with a return to Red Square and the drinking of some more delicious kvhas. It seemed to be the most beautiful day we could have asked for until it began thunderstorming. Luckily we had just gotten into the ticket office and bought our tickets to the armory (or so we thought), and then we jumped into a store to pass the time. The rain subsided quickly and we set out to St. Basil's again because the lighting was beautiful. We then headed to the line for the Kremlin and enjoyed the beautiful smell of fresh rain, flowers, and Moscow in the spring (this beautiful smell was marred only be the wretched smell of the underground bathrooms that literally had us on the verge of vomiting... word to the wise: if you're at the Red Square and have to use the restroom... hold it in). Once we got into the Kremlin walls, we stood in line to the armory, only to realize that we hadn't been given tickets to the armory and were instead given tickets to the Kremlin Cathedrals. This turned out to be a great thing, as I didn't care to see the armory and the cathedrals were stunning, as all Russian churches are. After this, we headed to a market, which was overpriced. These people could spot tourists from a mile away, and Karen's great Russian didn't fool them (perhaps me and Michael stood out like a sore thumb). I bought some gifts, we had some delicious dinner, and then headed home for a nice relaxing evening of pizza and movies.
We are getting ready to leave for the Trans Siberian Railway now, so y'all won't here from me again for a few days. See you all in Irkutsk! Poka! (Pictures of Moscow to come when I arrive in Irkutsk.)