Going to Moscow has never been so easy . . . well via Gatwick and using easyjet. The big orange will be running twice daily flights each way to Moscow. And Moscow has never been better to visit. Tourist attractions are many and varied and hotels are freely available.
The only thing you have to watch out for the Cyrillic alphabet. Named after St Cyril (yes, really) this 12th century monk was responsible for the Russian alphabet.
I think that it’s important to plan your visit with a paper and pen. I will explain later and it will become clear.
Let’s arrive at Moscow airport. There are three airports that serve the capital: Sheremetyveo (this handles all the Aeroflot flights), Vnukovo (not sure about this one, probably corporate and Oligarch traffic) and Domodedovo (this is where you will land with easyjet).
Getting into the city
You might be tempted to get into a taxi. Good idea for the first time in Moscow but expect to be ripped off. But there is another way. Trust me it works. Find the Hertz car hire, or another international car hire outfit. Ask if they speak English. Now say “please” and ask them the best way to get to Moscow. They will say train or bus, and perhaps offer a car hire. Say Taxi?, as a question (in the French way) and then ask then how much it SHOULD cost. They might say 2,000 Roubles, that’s about 50€.
Now here is where you need nerves of steel. Make your way to the taxi rank. You will be approached be several people asking if you want a taxi. When you get to the rank there will be a ‘Taxi Marshall’ who will ask where you are going. You tell him Central Moscow, and he will say 3,000. You say 2,000. He will say 2,900. You say 2,000 and so on until they capitulate (and they will). Then they will try and get the price up again before you get into the cab. Remember the man at the car hire told you a fair price so stick with his figure.
When I did it last I managed to get a 3,000 fare down to 1,700. I didn’t feel at all guilty as a metered fare the other way was 1.610, and I don’t like to be rolled.
The other good way is to take the Train, The Aeroexpress from the airport to Paveletskaya station. Here it will connect with the Metro. And the Moscow Metro is a sight to behold. Cost is about 350 Roubles.
Built when communism was at it height it is a celebration of the period. Iconic bronze statues dominate platforms graced with huge candelabra more suited to a Stalinesque palace.
But if you don’t read Russian you need to master the Cyrillic on the Metro. This is where you reach for a pen and paper. Before you travel; get an underground map. Understand that they are 11 lines and that they are all colour coded. So far so good. But all the signage is totally unintelligible. But fear not, a solution is at hand. Before you travel work out your route from Paveletskaya to the stop nearest your destination. And write down in Cyrillic which direction you want to travel in (by making a drawing of the Russian letters for the final stop on the line). Also write down where you change and count how many stops it is after you get on.
Unlike the London Underground each platform is posited next to each other and here’ s the good bit. Look at the middle photograph and I will explain.
On the opposite wall of the underground, on every platform, there is a diagram of where you are, and which station is at the other end. Along this line will be the stations that have interchanges and these will be listed in the corresponding colour to the line. You should find your station listed. If you have to change you will see the appropriate list of stations.
And don’t worry if you feel you have made a mistake get off, there will be a train along in two minutes and you can take photographs of the architecture, statues, lighting or the wife hamming it up!
There we are . . . “simples”
And now a word about restaurants. In Russia look for a sign that sort of spells like ‘pectraski’. There are lots around and lots of international cuisines. Go in and suss it out for atmosphere and menu. No one will mind. Some are almost converted offices with strip lighting and fell really odd. Some are over the top and themed. But you will have fun choosing.
I should say something about he weather. It is extreme. Winter is snow and gloomy for 5 months. Summers are hot. So choose your timing well.
The one must see of course is Red Square, it’s not a square, it’s a trapezoid and it’s not red. Amusing to realise that be Politbureau always saluted Gum shopping centre across from the Kremlin podium every May Day.
You can get into the Kremlin (or fortress) by going round to the west gate. Make sure that the various imperial attractions are open before you go though. FYI: The turrets at each corner are designed by a Scottish architect!
The real highlight if any trip to Moscow is the Russian Orthodox Church in Red Square. A tiny church and the smell of incense with the regular chanting adds atmosphere and is absolutely delightful, to say nothing of the mirrored ceiling and hundreds of gold icons.
There you are. An introduction to easyjet’s latest venture, and a reason to push the bounds of travel before your friends can bore you with their trip to Moscow and how they got rolled by a taxi driver !!!