Moscow (Sat) 8 May 2010

I’m now in possibly the safest place in one of the safest times in Moscow!

My hostel is right opposite the Moscow police administrative headquarters and there are policemen patrolling round the blocks round the clock.

And because of all the state dignitaries arriving in town for the Victory Day parade tomorrow, the ENTIRE city is crawling with armed police.

I told Nasty that and he said, “Yeah, famous last words…” Hmpf.

Yesterday, St. Petersburg was miserable. It rained literally ALL day. English-style drizzle with gusts of rain. No kidding about the city trying to emulate Europe – it’s even managed to acquire the weather!

As a result, I spent most of the day hanging out with Jack and Vanessa (whom I met on the train from Berlin to St. Petes, and have worked out that we left London on the same day, and we were on the same train from Paris to Berlin as well, and will be on the exact same trains all the way to Beijing! What a coincidence eh?!).

We got soaked walking along the canals, came across an Irish pub (there HAS to be at least one in every city of the world) and dived in to dry off. The food and beer was surprisingly good and we spent a long time trying to wait out the rain.

It never stopped, so we got soaked again walking back to the hostel where we spent the rest of the afternoon playing cards, reading, and checking our emails.

It was actually quite a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. As we were saying, sometimes, you just need a break from tourist-sites-chasing and just hangout and chill. Esp. if you’re traveling long term, you can’t be out all day everyday.

That night, as you would’ve guess, without intending to, we’re all on the same train to Moscow. The No. 1 train, aka the Red Arrow.

It must be the flagship train of Russia. It was very impressive! As the train came up to the platform, we all piled out of the station to meet it.

It was all red with curtains and everything and out of each door stepped a female carriage attendant who stood ramrod straight waiting to welcome you!

It was very clean, very posh. Bottles of water were free on the table, along with free tea and breakfast.

Four berths to a cabin, but the berths are wide, the beds already made. Plush, posh and luxurious, though in a very Soviet way.

I shared by compartment with an old guy, himself as posh as the train. Turned out he’s 63 and a judge with the International Sports Dance Federation (or something like that)!

Through his very heavily accented broken English, I learned that he started off as a dancer, then became a dance teacher, and is now a world-class judge. His wife was his dance partner for 4 years before she became his wife.

He tells me his parents fought in WWII and that the Red Arrow is his favourite train.

I definitely agree with that. The toilet was clean and spacious, and the attendants were actually friendly and helpful!

It was what all my romanticized notions of rail travel should be and it was a childhood (and adulthood) dream come true.

If only it lasted longer….I definitely wouldn’t mind being on it for 2 or 3 nights!


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