The Hilton is an excellent choice for an overnight stay in Moscow, especially if one is planning to depart on the Rossiya the following morning. Three of the city’s nine rail terminals lie within earshot of the hotel, including Yaroslavskiy Vokzal, the starting point for the worlds longest train journey.
Not only is it’s location on Komsomolskaya Square a convenient one, but the Leningradskaya Hotel (it’s original name) is a landmark building, one of Moscow’s “Seven Sisters”, a set of Russian Baroque skyscrapers, commissioned during the Stalinist era. The structure itself is grand and imposing; it’s lobby nothing short of opulent, and the rooms, stately. It is in one of them that SK and I meet, traveling companions on what is bound to be a journey of epic proportions.
My last (and rather brief) visit to Moscow was in January 2012, a city covered in snow, struggling through yet another harsh winter. Today though, its been declared a heat wave (for this time of year), and with the temperature hovering around the 27C mark, plenty of sunshine, and long daylight hours, Moscow couldn’t look any more different! Above all else though, the one thing that remained hidden from view, behind thick scarves and long furry jackets, were Moscow’s women! The only way of describing what we see before us today is a constantly moving catwalk of absolutely gorgeous women! Head turners, all of them! And most, if not all, blissfully unaware of their attractiveness.
But beauty isn’t limited to the streets of Moscow. Deep below the surface, Moscow’s stunning women meet their ultimate match – the city’s Metro! From the chandelier-studded Komsomolskaya to the pressed steel arches of Mayakovskaya, Moscow’s metro stations are cavernous gallery-like spaces, serving up everything from frescoes to bronze statues; mosaics to bas-reliefs. Not only is it a thing of beauty, but the city’s Metro system is a wonderfully managed enterprise too. We get to experience this first hand by making our way through Moscow’s rush hour. The fourth busiest metro system in the world, Moscow’s underground trains carry ~7 million people each day, and the incredibly efficient management of passenger flow in and out of its 194 stations goes a long way in ensuring that things run smoothly.
During rush hour, getting out of a Metro station can often take longer than your journey did! It certainly does for us at Kiyevskiy Vokzal. Rail terminals in Moscow are named for the cities they serve, in this instance, Kiev! And although Vokzal means terminal, it’s not a word native to Russian, instead borrowed from Vauxhall station in London!
A short walk from that station lies a pier, with frequent ferry departures along the Moscow River. When the winter gloom lifts, and the ice melts away, the waterway becomes a frenzy of activity, with boats of all shapes and sizes ferrying visitors along the meandering course of the river. A 90-minute ride from end to end will set you back about RUB500 (~$14) and is worth every bit, as it offers a distinctly different point of view of this most impressive city.
A 7:20 pm departure from Kievskaya meant that we would get off close to the Kremlin an hour before sunset, and with the day’s best light still ahead. Between spotting the remainder of the “Seven Sisters”, waving obnoxiously to sunbathers at Gorky Park, and gawking at the intimidating statue of Peter the Great, we soon find ourselves in Red Square. To our right, St.Basil’s Cathedral, brilliantly lit by the fading sun; the imposing walls of the Kremlin to our left, and in the distance, the graceful lines of Iberian Gate silhouetted against magic hour. A sight to behold. Moscow, in all its summer time glory!
Coming up next in the Rossiya Diaries: Vladimir and the Volga