Dateline: Moscow, Day 6

Moscow, Russian Federation
8 June 2009

Having gone to the Central Armed Forces Museum yesterday, my plan for today was to go the Cosmonaut Museum.

I headed out on the metro with Eric and Casper. We made our way to the Cosmonaut Museum, taking pictures along the way.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

We got to the entrance and…

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


…it was closed. On Tuesdays (which I knew) and Mondays (which I did not know). I was definitely disappointed, and it showed.

We decided to make lemonade out of our lemons. There was a giant ferris wheel a bit north that we went to investigate. It turned out to be the All-Russian Exhibition Centre. We walked around for a while before heading back.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

When I got back, I asked Daniel, the guy who runs the hostel to write me a note so I could get my train ticket for St. Petersburg. I went down to the train station with Jared (who was trying to get a ticket for Evan and himself) and, boy, let me tell you something about getting train tickets in Russia.

If you don’t know any Russian, it may take you forever.

We went to three different train stations, stood in several lines, and I finally managed to get my tickets after over three hours of figuring the system out.

The first station we went to was for what I (believe) to be a regional train; the next city and such, perhaps less than an hour away. We stood in line and the lady pointed us in another direction. So we went outside and looked for another building that looked like a train station.

We went inside that one, and, after spending 20 minutes finding the ticket office, stood in line for another 45 minutes (at least) only to be told that, “No, this wasn’t the place to buy tickets for St. Petersburg, it’s аовлу овлфдщу лодфш Leningradsky vokzal аодушгв оудлфы”1. She did write the words, ” Leningradsky vokzal” on a piece of paper (Which I still have, just in case). I assume that this is the station we needed to go to.

So, we walked back across the street. Asking people if they knew where “Leningradsky vokzal” was. And they’d point us in a direction and we’d walk in that direction until we were confused. We finally found someone who spoke a bit of English and were able to get sufficient directions to get to the right station.

Now we just needed to figure out which tickets to get. Jared thought that we should go to the Information Booth to figure all of this out, which I thought was a good idea. So we found that and after much (and I do mean much) back and forth, Jared figured out a couple of trains he could take (he and Evan wanted to leave in a couple of hours).

I looked at the timetable to so I at least had an idea of what trains I might take. I just wanted the cheapest one that left in the evening.

So we go get back in line. And these lines move sloooooow. Slower than molasses slow. Seriously. I have no idea why it takes to freaking long to book a ticket (be it train or museum). So I wait and wait and wait.

Jared ends up heading back to the hostel because it turns out that you need a passport to book a train ticket…no idea why, you just do.

I’m about two spots from the front when this little old lady with purple dyed hair (not a really strong dye job, more of a tinting) comes over from another line and cuts right in front of me! I’m like, “Niet! Niet!” Thinking, WTF is this lady doing?! She points to the lady in front of her and says something that I can only surmise is, “I’m with her.” Which is complete BS, for the record.

I’ve been standing in lines for 3 hours and really don’t want to get kicked out of train station for arguing with a little old lady, so I’m like, “Whatever”…which translates to rolling eyes with a disappointed face.

Our line isn’t moving fast anymore, and about 5 minutes later the little lady with the purple hair goes back to her original line. Problem solved.

I get to the ticket counter and slide my note and passport through the tray2 to the ticket lady. She takes a couple of seconds to read my note, then types some stuff on the computer. She turns the screen around to show me the departure, arrival, and price. It’s about 300 more rubles than I want to pay, but I’m honestly too tired to argue…not that it would do any good at this point. So I nod, “Da,” and get my ticket.

She prints it out. I look it over to make sure it looks okay and then head back on the metro.

I’m feeling a bit rushed at this point because Eric and Casper are leaving and I want to say goodbye before they take off. Fortunately, they’re running a bit late and I catch them in my terminus station buying tickets

We exchange contact information, say our goodbyes, and go on our way. Eric and Casper off on the Trans-Siberian; me to my bed.


  1. I’m actually not sure if that’s what she said, it was all in Russian. And that last little bit is the critical parts of the instructions that tells us where to go, but that we didn’t get that part 

  2. Side note on the the tray: Every business has a tray. You never really hand or get money directly from the person. It always goes to the tray first. I have no idea why…and I often forget to do it 

Dateline: Moscow, Day 2

Moscow, Russian Federation
4 June 2009

I woke up around 6am for two reasons. First, it was really light outside (Moscow gets about 19 hours of daylight this time of year). Second, Eric had just stumbled. I inquired as to last nights fun and he said he had no idea. I believed him.

I tried to go back to bed, but couldn’t really fall back asleep. I think this was mostly due to the residual jet lag. I ended up laying in bed and resting for another two hours, listening to my iPod while also playing solitaire on it.

I eventually got out of bed at 8 and headed out to the common area. There was quite a commotion going on. I slowly started to piece the story together. We all (Eric, Casper, Kate, Lizzy, Tom, Gary, Ryan, and me) all went out last night. After we had issues finding a pub, some of us (Lizzy, Tom, and me) decided to come back.

Apparently the rest who stayed out (Eric, Casper, Kate, Gary, and Ryan) found some combinations of nightclubs and strip clubs to enjoy themselves in. And sometime between 4 and 6am, they all stumbled back home in a series of taxis. All except for Ryan.

By 6am, Ryan had not yet show up to the hostel, and Kate was growing more concerned by the minute. By 8am, she was trying to track down the last nightclub they were all at. This was more easily said than done for two reasons; first, they were taken there by taxi and had little idea as to where it was in relation to anything else. Second, they were all piss drunk and hungover.

By 10am, I had left with Kate to go and try to find Ryan; no one else seemed particularly keen on going, and the excursion would help me get a better idea of Moscow’s geography. And it makes for a hell of a good story.

So off we go. First to the night club, which takes forever to find. The owner pretty much laughs at us. We continued searching, but by noontime had mostly given up. Kate hadn’t sleep all night and the realization of the impossibility of searching all of Moscow was starting to sink in.

Kate went back to the hostel and I continued on.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


I decided that my first stop should be Red Square. Getting there didn’t take to long on foot.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

As it turns out, Moscow’s Red Square isn’t all that red, although the State Historical Museum is a wonderful burgundy color:

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


Lenin’s Mausoleum was closed for the day, so I would have to stop back tomorrow.

And of course, there’s St. Basil’s Cathedral, which is actually a collection of several chapels (each onion dome is a separate chapel) all joined together.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

My earliest memories, and probably the moment that I knew I wanted to visit Russia, was when Mr. Rogers visited some 22 years ago. I have this distinct image of Mr. Rogers with St. Basil’s in the background.

Fred traveled to Russia to tape special segments for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. © 1987 Family Communications, Inc.
Fred traveled to Russia to tape special segments for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. © 1987 Family Communications, Inc.

After St. Basil’s, I quite tired (Having only actually slept four hours). I came back to the hostel and took a nap.

A couple hours later, Kate came in to tell me that Ryan had just walked in the door. While I was comprehending the words she was saying, I was too tired to do anything. I mumbled something about, “oh, great!” and then fell back asleep.

So what did happen to Ryan? Not a lot really. He stumbled around for a bit. He tried to use his phone (from the UK) but it hasn’t been working…no signal. He tried to find an Internet cafe, but there seems to be a dearth of them in Moscow (I myself haven’t even seen one, although I haven’t been looking hard either). Eventually, he headed to Red Square and wondered around for a bit. He was finally able to figure out where the hostel was and how to get there. Then he wondered in around 6pm or so.

In short, Ryan got lost in Moscow and lived to tell about it.

After dinner, Gary, Ryan, Lizzy, Kate, and I wandered down near Lomonosov Moscow State University.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

We caught the last glimpses of the sunset and watched a group of fire dancers before catching one of the last trains back.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia


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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

Dateline: Moscow, Day 1

Moscow, Russian Federation
3 June 2009

When I last left off, I had finally arrived at the hostel. I got a bunk, then went out to find some food and get some more money from the ATM, although not necessarily in that order.

I walked back down to the Metro station and then wondered about. I eventually came across a Банкомат1 provided by CitiBank. I figured that would probably be a safe bet.

Money in hand, I set out to find food. Not feeling the best, I decided that the local KFC would fit the bill. Of course, the next tricky part was figuring out how to order. Looking at the menu, I had no idea what was what. So I was more or less relegated to ordering whatever they happened to be advertising on menu board (with pictures). So my plan was thus: figure out what I wanted to eat, then go stand in the line beneath the image. As it turned out, what I wanted to order was also on paper tray insert. So when I got to the front, I just pointed to the chicken wrap thingy (there’s no American equivalent as far as I know) and the Coke. It worked.

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Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

I went back to the hostel, which is where I met my first set of hostel friends: Eric and Casper. Eric is from the UK and Casper is from Germany. They both study at university in the UK. They both came into Moscow today and are leaving on the Trans-Siberian railway on Monday.

Shortly thereafter, I met Kate, Lizzy, Tom, Gary, and Ryan. All five of them attend university at Edinburgh. They (minus Ryan) had just come from St. Petersburgs and Tallinn, Estonia, the exact reverse of what I’m doing! They’re traveling to Mongolia via the Trans-Siberian, leaving on Saturday.

According to Eric, the one must get pissed2 on the first night anytime one is in a new city. Furthermore, since there were several different nationalities represented, International Drinking Rules applied. I had no idea such rules existed, but they do:

  • The word ‘Drink’, or any word with ‘Drink’ inside it, must not be spoken during the game.
  • There is to be no use of players real names during the game. Uncommon nicknames and “Oy, you!” may be used. Kate was know as “red shirt.”
  • There is to be no pointing during the game. Elbows are acceptable.
    Ungentlemanly conduct is prohibited (i.e. No swearing, openly belching, etc).
  • Alcoholic beverages must be kept at least one thumbs-length away from the edge of the table. This is known as the safety area.
    Beverages must only be consumed with one’s left hand, if you are right handed, and vice-versa.

These were the rules listed at http://www.everything2.org/title/International%2520Drinking%2520Rules, which is basically what we were playing.

So, after several drinking games involving cards, dice, beer, and Russian Смирнов3, the group decides that we should go find a bar. And 2am would be a good time to do this.4

So we head out, in search for a bar that’s open. After wondering about for 10 minutes, and being accosted by lots of taxi’s again, about half the group decided we wanted to go back. So we did.

What I didn’t know until the next morning is that while 8 people went out, only 7 people returned.


  1. ATM 

  2. drunk 

  3. Smirnoff 

  4. In retrospect, this was a stupid idea.