Wow, Moscow. I have mixed feeling about you, and let me tell you why.
After a mostly uneventful flight with S7 (unlike our first one) we arrived in Moscow from Sochi. The plan was to catch the train to our hotel, which was a bit outside of Moscow central, but right next to the Metro. It’s the best way to save a bit of money on a big trip. I was fretting a little because I had a 27kg bag to lug around everywhere, and the handle broke. Don’t even ask why I have such a large bag, I’m an overpacker. I brought 6 pairs of shoes. Stop looking at me like that. I’m working on it.
I need not have worried about the logistics because Russian men are so freaking chivalrous. Random men practically pushed me away from my bag, ignored my protests and carried it up and down stairs for me. They walked Matt and I between stations to make sure we got on the right train. And little old ladies who didn’t speak a word of English talked Russian to us, convinced they could help. FYI: they did. Matt and I were blown away. We watched the Brazil vs Serbia game later that night at Spartek Stadium, and had absolutely no issues at all.
Because we were only there for 2 more days, I booked a walking tour through Viator. It had a schedule pre-planned to see all the sites, and they would pick you up from your hotel. This meant I didn’t have research what to see, google what each monument meant and check out maps on directions to get there. It cost over $300 for us both, but sometimes it’s just nice to be shown around.
The guide, Luba, showed up at 10 am and told us we’d be catching the metro into the city. Makes sense. She helped us buy a metro card, let us know we only actually needed one for both of us, and then proceeded to use it for me, Matt and herself. Wait what? We’re paying for her too? Oh well, it was only a couple of bucks. No biggie. Once we arrive at Revolution Square station she begins her tour, making sure we take plenty of photos of every single statue. We exit the metro after a long lecture on how to get home. We tried to tell her that we’re good on the metro, but she didn’t really get it.
Once outside in the fresh air, we drink in the sites. Luba points out some of the old red square wall, and then asks what we want to see. Wait what? I don’t know! You’re the guide… guide us? She looked confused and a bit flustered when we say “whatever you recommend”. She asked “Red Square or Bolshoi Theatre?” We said “Red Square”. We head to the Bolshoi Theatre and begin there.
We slowly make our way to Red Square only to find it closed until 1pm. Special event. No worries, we’ll head to Alexandrovsky Gardens to buy our Kremlin tickets. No wait, Kremlin is closed Thursdays. We walk all the way through the gardens, (which is gorgeous by the way) out to the other side, to see the Monument to Prince Vladimir. Its absolutely grand. The detail and texture of it is just incredible.
Luba asks us if we want to see the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, or head to lunch. We indicate that we’re easy either way, so just do whatever fits in with her walking route better. We head to lunch with the promise that we’ll see the Cathedral after lunch. We never see the Cathedral.
Lunch was a Ukrainian restaurant, Taras Bulba, which I considered strange. I just thought we’d head to a Russian restaurant. Nevermind, it’s highly rated on tripadvisor, and an awesome feed. I paid extra to have lunch included, but Luba lets us know that there are some awesome things on the menu that we should try, but they would cost extra. We agree, why not? She orders lard, borscht, and dumplings for dessert, plus a weird berry juice. For three. The only thing included was a main of our choice (which would’ve been plenty of food). At the end of the meal, we’re charged for all the extras, including Luba’s food. We just pay it, but we start feeling a bit… upset I guess is the right word.
We walk back to Red Square through the gardens. Luba begins repeating herself a bit, showing us the same sites. We catch the changing of the guards, which is a stroke of luck and a bit of fun.
Once inside Red Square we begin the slow walk towards Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Luba gets a bit annoyed at me falling behind, trying to get some nice photos. Matt tells me to ignore her. It’s about 3pm now and we’re getting a bit over it. We ask what time the tour usually ends. She says it’s an 8 hour walking tour. WTF? 8 HOURS?! Ok. 3 hours to go.
We reach Saint Basil’s and the line is huge. We tell her that we probably don’t need to line up to get in, because we’ll head back tomorrow to get into the Kremlin, and we’ll do it early to miss the crowds, so we’ll do it then. She insists. We line up. 15 mins later, we tell her again not to worry about it. We stay. She asks the person behind us if we can just go for a walk and get back in line once its closer. They say no. I agree. If you want to be in line, you have to be in the line. We tell her not to worry about it. We leave the line. Luba tells us information about Saint Basil’s standing in Red Square. At this point I’m starting to burn. We ask what else there is to see. She says we can probably just get back into the line where we left, as it’s almost at the front. We outright refuse. She walks off anyways. This is getting ridiculous. The longest story short – our tour descends into showing us cafes with chicken wraps and the like. We cut the tour short and write it off as a bad experience.
The next day we did our own exploring of Moscow, including the Kremlin and inside Saint Basil’s Cathedral and had a far more successful day, putting Moscow back into our good books.
Have you ever experienced a truly terrible tour whilst travelling? Share it with me so I can avoid!! Haha.