Hitler to Hong Kong 2005 - One Man.....No Plan travel blog

I've suceeded where Hitler and Napolean have failed - I've reached Moscow!!! Actually I've been here for five days and I'm leaving tonight, but since my hostel doesn't have the internet its taken me a while to write a journal entry. The lack of internet is the least of problems with the Moscow Travellers Guest House. It can be found ten floors up in Stalinist skyscraper (affording you fantastic views of railway tracks and chimney smoke). It is is situated in the lovely 'Brixton' district of Moscow - on the walk home yesterday I passed used syringes and someone rummaging through bins. Other features include a lift that barely makes it to the 10th floor, broken floorboards, a kitchen sink located in a nearby toilet and ,despite having a full time cleaner, is the dirtiest hostel I've stayed in yet.

Moscow is very different from St Petersburg....the people are the most miserable I have ever met (especially in the service industry), the place is grubby, no one speaks English, and to cross the road is to risk your life. Having said all that I think I prefer Moscow. It feels more like the real Russsia - exotic, odd, mysterious. Winston Churchill once said that Russia was, 'An enigma, wrapped in a wriddle, wrapped in a mystery.' I think I'm figuring that out in Moscow. Its much harder to do anything here - since my Russian has barely improved - and a few days ago I hit a low. My inability to order a Big Mac meal made me wonder how the hell I was going to get across Siberia.

At that moment I was feeling like Michael Jackson - no, not because I have an sexual attraction to McCauley Culkin, but because I'm a 'Stranger in Moscow' ( I hope a few of you will recall that much-maligned classic of Mr Jacksons). I didn't help that it rained its arse off for two days straight. For several decades the Russians have developed the art of firing a silver compound into the clouds in order to produce better weather (this is honestly true). The fact that blue skies appeared in Moscow and St Petersburg on Victory Day has convinced me that they used this procedure on the 9th. The down side is that the weather then goes high-wire afterwards...hence two days of CONTINUAL rain. But as the weather improved so did my mood.

During my five days I've visited the Kremlin, got told off by a guard for taking a photo of Vladimar Putin's residence, seen 'Swan Lake' at the Bolshoi Ballet with a lovely candian girl called Robin, visited numerous art galleries, museums, churches etc which I won't bore you by naming. The one shame is that I missed out on seeing Lenin. A bastard group of army cadets pushed into the queue and left me six people from the front by the time they closed...I was not happy. But no matter - I shall return to Russia one day and see him in the (waxy) flesh.

Moscow has also been the home of my most embarassing moment ever. Although I told Robin never to mention the incident to a living soul, I feel the point of this journal is to ammuse so here I confess....While on the Moscow Metro ( which is wonderfull by the way - chandaliers, marble pillars, statues), I managed to get my bag strap caught whilst getting off the down escalator. I spent the next five minutes furiously pulling at the offending strap, but succeeded only in managing to close the escalator and become a spectacle to hundreds of Moscovites. The metro staff were no help - they scowled and laughed in equal measure. I had given up hope off recovering my bag when a man appeared and pulled a huge knife out of his jacket. At first I thought he was going to stab me for causing him to be late but in fact he offered to cut the bag strap - leaving me free to flee the scene and never show my face in that metro again!

I sit here writing this in a shopping mall right next to the Kremlin...Lenin would be rolling in his mausoleum if he could see it. Its been gorgeous weather so I've spent all afternoon sitting in Red Square watching the sights...such as the Moscow Police arresting a man who was stealing Roubles from a wishing well. Only in Russia.

While in Moscow I succesfully booked some rail tickets from here to Siberia which was a weight off my mind. Now the real adventure can begin. Well, must get off - my night train to Nizhny Novrogod leaves in a few hours. Then Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk..... I'm not sure when I'll be able to add another journal entry so for now farewell. Feel free to leave me a message - its always nice to hear from a friendly face on a white-cliffed island. I hope everybody is in the best of health and the best of spirits.

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