Moscow! The city where the Trans Siberian Railway departs, and so much more.
How to get to Moscow
My first arrival in Moscow was with the plane from Vilnius (Lithuania). I arrived with our cameraman at the Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) on our way to Saint Petersburg. Flying in with Aeroflot, a part of the Skyteam alliance, makes this an arrival in “their” airport. But still, we had to switch terminals in a pretty large airport.
The second time I arrived in Moscow was with the train from Saint Petersburg. The Sapsan trains go from the center of Saint Petersburg to the center of Moscow in a little over 4 hours. Entering the train stations in Russia means passing security when you enter the station. Moscow and Saint Petersburg are not different from that.
I was unfamiliar with the boarding process in Russia and was way too early in the station. The platform is only indicated in the last 30 minutes before the train leaves. So I spent some time people-watching in the large hall of the station.
The stations on both ends of this line are called after each other: the railway station in Saint Petersburg is called the Moskovsky railway station, and in Moscow, I arrived at the Leningradsky station. (Leningrad being the older name of Saint Petersburg)
How to get around?
When I arrived at the railway station, I tried getting myself an Uber. It took three attempts before I could find a driver who was able to find me (standing in front of the station, as indicated on the Uber map). This inventive driver gave me a memorable ride when he slipstreamed a police car to pass faster in traffic. I made it to my place in no time.
As soon as I got installed, I wanted to go and pick up my tickets for the Trans Siberian railway. I worked with an agency in London to buy my tickets. They have an office in Moscow, where I needed to pick up my tickets. Having heard many stories about the Moscow Metro, I was curious. And I wasn’t disappointed.
My place was very close to Tverskaya street, a lane directly towards the city center. These lanes have large sidewalks that are often in better shape than most other cities I visited. The walk from my space to the Red Square was about 15 minutes.
The traffic is pretty bad in the center of Moscow these days. What felt weird was that I tried to imagine these streets 25 years ago. The number of cars must have been so much less than it is today. One evening, when I left the Kremlin towards my place, I entered the boulevard at the same time as an ambulance with lights and siren on. By the time I was at my place 15 minutes later, the ambulance was still 500 meters behind me…
Massive apartment buildings
The Airbnb I had reserved was located in one of those typical soviet buildings. Besides the typical five stories (always five stories, no idea why), this one had lovely high ceilings. A perfect place to discover Moscow while waiting for the Trans Siberian part of my trip.
As much as I liked my stay in the small capsules in the Inbox hotel in Saint Petersburg, having a whole apartment to myself wasn’t bad. The space allowed me to repack my backpack in order to have things I might need on the train better accessible.
I found several supermarkets and small stores in my area. There seems to be a choice between stores that are a mess and stores that charge a fortune. Besides that, the area was pretty cool to be. I felt comfortable day and night walking around here.
In the days here, I took some time to visit the landmarks one must-see. The rain and fog in the city on the days of my visit made it a little less photogenic than I would have hoped for. But the Red Square, the Kremlin, the St. Basil’s Cathedral on the Red Square were all worth the time and looked way better in real life than on any postcard I had seen.
I grew up, of course, with an image of Moscow being a city with long lanes in front of stores, with no luxury. So walking in a city where the shops are at least as fancy as in Paris, London, or New York, and seeing a Mcdonald’s across the street from the Kremlin felt a bit out of context. But at the same time, it made me realize again how our world is indeed very flat and how we’re all not that different.
Koen Blanquart is a strategy consultant, journalist, and author.
Wanderlust is one of his driving factors, and he shares his travels here on Boarding Today. Koen is also the skipper of SV Bagabonda, a sailing vessel making a slow circumvention of the globe..
Koen recently published a book on how to manage a remote team: The Suitcase Office.