I had quite mixed feelings about leaving St Petersburg having found that nearly everything about the city exceeded my expectations and also found an atmosphere and scene in the city that I would really love to immerse myself in. But at the same time the anticipation of delving even further into this fascinating country was pulling me eastwards, not least because tonight was to be the first proper train ride after two weeks of not quites. After last night’s practise run seeing off Mike and Jeff we headed out one last time around our local favourites of the laundromat bar, Zoom cafe for one last delicious meal, followed by Fidels and Achtung Baby to fill the time until our 1:20am departure for Moscow.
It was a good time to leave Cuba however with most of our friends also having moved on and the new influx of people not coming close to replacing them in our hearts in that odd way that always happens in hostels. The place was also totally packed now and our previously discussed fears had come true. Most exasperating were the Italian students who took all the spare beds in our dorm who not only went to bed extremely early forcing us to tiptoe around but then proved to be extreme rustlers the next morning. After a solid night drinking the last thing you want at 8am is for the person in the next bunk to proceed to repeatedly go through every single item item in their suitcase which they had wrapped in plastic bags, looking through all of them, rewrapping and then repeating the exercise five minutes later. Multiply by five over a period of a couple of hours and the needle is definitely in the red on the annoyance meter. The truly ridiculous thing in all of this is that it would be understandable and maybe excusable if they had had somewhere to be early but when we left the rearranging of suitcases was still going on.
Having arrived from Finland into Finland Station it only makes sense with our destination we would be leaving from Moscow Station. A nice long walk of fond memories down Nevsky pr. and we end up in a super impressive waiting hall buzzing with people despite the late hour. After the events of the first morning in the city Arnika and Richard thought I was crazy to risk taking photos inside but the temptation was too great. Just have to be sneakier about these things which only adds to the fun.
Inside Moscow Station and going through the outskirts of the city.
My first overnight train ride and I am bubbling with excitement as we climb aboard, find our berth in the open platskart carriage, stow luggage, get given sheets etc. in a sealed bag that has kept in the freshly laundered smell, make bed, snuggle in and get rocked to sleep by the gentle motion of the train as we trundle through the night. Waking up the view outside is an endless parade of depressing looking apartment blocks that takes me back to leaving Riga. Then it is all hustle and bustle as everyone tries to exit onto the platform at once and then follow through into the metro that again is seriously impressive.
It was all supposed to be so easy. Having actually pre booked accommodation and with some quite specific directions to get there we turned left past the supermarket, found the phone booth and then…nothing. No signs on the door that slightly matched the description, only service entrances down the alleyways either side of the building and the only extra piece of information we had was a nine digit building entrance code that Arnika had fortunately thought to scribble down. Getting into the building was barely an improvement with the vestibule in such a state of disrepair that I wished I’d thought of packing a hard hat and still no indication that there was life in the place let alone the top rated place on hostelworld. Sent to investigate my hope of an easy arrival slowly died as I climbed the floors past visible signs of squatting, incomplete construction, dead rats, and live cats until finally reaching the fourteenth floor one of the doors had a tiny sticker next to the handle bearing the name of The Sweet Hostel. It was going to be alright after all.
Or so we thought. We were greeted by a large, grumpy, non English speaking babushka who was visibly upset at being roused from her spot on the couch. Her panic turned out to be mainly because the place was full, even though we’d booked and paid a deposit days before, and she was there for cleaning purposes only. A phone call to the owner saw little improvement as his solution was to give us a space in his other premises out in the wops when one of the main reasons we’d chosen this one in the first place was its location. So we were out on the street with nowhere to stay and the supposed day of relaxation was fast disappearing.
Hostels must be illegal in this country or something as they really do not like advising of their location with relatively normal things like signs. Again following reasonably specific directions we were sure we were in the right courtyard but none of the half dozen doors looked at all promising until throwing my head back in exasperation I spied an A4 sheet of paper taped to a third floor window acknowledging the existence of the place. Again with a perilous staircase but this time a really warm welcome from the owner Dennis, who couldn’t be more helpful with settling us into the city.
Obviously a hostel would be at the top of these.
Tags: bar, drinking, hostel life, Moscow, Russia, St Petersburg, train, Travel