Day 3 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow -> Kazan (11h 10min)

A quiet morning on Nikolskaya Street

A quiet morning on Nikolskaya Street

Last day in Moscow started bright and early for some of us, aka Andreas. He tried to sneak out of the room at the crack of dawn to document the beauty of Moscow without its crowds.  Now in his mind the whole operation was done very discreetly, in reality I got wide awake in a state of sleepy surprise.

Zaryadye Park resembling New York's High Line offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city

Zaryadye Park resembling New York’s High Line offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city

IMG_9531It seems that during our three days in Moscow, the roads kept leading us to Red Square. It was also hard to avoid it living kind of right next to it. It is hard to resist its glorious sight.

Red Square in all its glory

Red Square in all its glory

The square was full of joyful people and amongst hundreds of them we found these Chinese couples who were pushing the photography limits to whole new levels. It was mostly the ladies in front of the lens with and without head scarves, standing and sitting, smiling and serious. The husbands were mostly staying humbly behind and diligently carrying out the supporting roles.

The Chinese couples in the middle of a serious photoshoot

The Chinese couples in the middle of a serious photoshoot

From socialist side of Red Square you cross a few meters and voila you magically appear in the epitome of capitalistic world – GUM department store with all its shiny designer stores, glitz and glamour designed to make you spend your hard-earned €€€. We were there for one very special attraction.

The famous attraction of Gum is not all the fancy stores it is the yummy ice-cream!

The famous attraction of GUM is not all the fancy stores it is the yummy ice-cream!

The GUM ice-cream! Another childhood memory of Soviet and post-Soviet times. When asking Andreas to comment on his first Soviet ice-cream experience, his response was: “Det var surprisingly lækker.” (It was surprisingly yummy). I don’t know what else he expected.

Chocolate and cherry flavours

Chocolate and cherry flavours

From socialist-capitalist explorations, we moved out of the heart of Moscow and into Arbat, a central residential district, filled with hyggelig sidewalk winebars, coffee shops and restaurants.

Backyards of Arbat neighbourhood - loving the shade of blue

Backyards of Arbat neighbourhood – loving this shade of blue

 

Patriashki prudi

Patriarshi Rubniki

The last stop of the day before bidding farewell to Moscow is a special corner of my homeland in the center of Moscow – the Armenia store. We needed to stock up on some lavash, panir (bread and cheese) and other goodies for our long train travels.

My favourite store in all of Moscow - little Armenian corner stocking up on the Armenian food essentials

My favourite store in all of Moscow – little Armenian corner. Essential for stocking up on the Armenian food.

It is about 19:00 and time to head off to Kazan train station for catching our first ever Trans-Siberian ride from Moscow to Kazan!

Kazan Train Station in Moscow

Kazan Train Station in Moscow

Departure board - waiting for Kazan train to orient itself on the board

Departure board – waiting for Kazan train to orient itself on the board

Since it was the first train travel experience in Russia we decided to follow the official guidelines of arriving at least 45 minutes before departure time to be “ready for check-in”. Turned out that we were really in good time. The train was not there and the departure board did not get updated until about 30 minutes before departure and the doors of the train did not open until the clock hit 20:55.
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Our home for the next 11 hours - Moscow -> Kazan train, coupe 7

Our home for the next 11 hours – Moscow -> Kazan train, car 7

For the first leg of our journey we decided to go all in and splurge on a first class ticket. Very nice experience.

First class coupe Russia style with a fruit platter waiting for us - Danish DSB could learn a bit

First class coupe Russia style with a fruit platter waiting for us – Danish DSB could learn a bit

It was a really cosy and comfortable experience. With very delicious 3 course meal served on board, Wi-Fi, TV, music, A/C, nice clean sheets and towels. Everything you may need. There is even an app where you can make in-train orders, follow the journey, read books and watch movies. Such a fun experience! This was also the shortest leg in our planned journey. Hope the next 3 rides will be just as fun. Time will show.

Borsch for dinner - yum!

Borsch for dinner – yum!

After some borsch, beef stroganoff and hearty Russian black tea, it is time to bid good night, hit the bed and close eyes to the rumble of train tracks.

Cpakoynoy nochi!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 2 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow

Dobroe utro from Moscow. It is another beautiful day in the Russian capital. Time to rise and shine. It sounds a bit like a newsperson on Good Morning (INSERT COUNTRY) show :) It is really a beautiful day, the sun is shining, you have all of Moscow spread in front of your eyes, and a delicious breakfast with all the Russian culinary delights is waiting for you.

This is what one calls breakfast with view

This is what one calls breakfast with a view

On today’s menu is semi Soviet, semi mingling with the locals walks. Nikolskaya, Vorobyovi Gori, Moscow State University, Gorki park, rose garden, selfie crazed people, rain showers, riverside promenade, and finally the culinary jewel of the day dinner in one of the world’s best restaurants.

Let’s start the day with Nikolskaya promenade. This street has become my favourite in Moscow. The atmosphere here is just so uplifting.

Nikolskaya Street is all about taking it easy and enjoying life

Nikolskaya Street is all about taking it easy and enjoying life

After a small promenade on Nikolskaya we take the metro to Vorobyovi Gori (Sparrow Hills) for a riverside promenade and panorama views over the city. Now metro in Moscow is a whole other level of aesthetic experience. It is not just a simple mode of transportation. There are several stations where you feel like you have stepped into a jaw-droppingly beautiful exhibition. I think that deserves a separate post on its own, so I will not dwell onto metro much here. If you are in Moscow and have a few hours to spare – do it!

Moscow River

Moscow River

The panorama platform on top of the Sparrow Hills is not just any platform with beautiful views over a city.

Sparrow Hills panorama platform

Sparrow Hills panorama platform

Here you meet casual passers-by, tourist groups, matroyshka (Russian traditional dolls) vendors, motorbike loving leathermen and even a cheerful and totally out of place and at the same time why not half-naked guy casually holding a WWII gun.

This guy! Question one - wonder if the gun is loaded??? Question two - why on earth would he be standing there?

This guy! Question 1 – wonder if the gun is loaded??? Question 2 – why on earth would he be standing there? Question 3 – will the rig on this motorcycle get you faster through Moscow in the rush hour? I sense some opportunities there.

Us trying to pose as the space around us gets smaller and smaller and the crowd bigger and bigger

Trying to pose as the space around us gets smaller and smaller and the crowd bigger and bigger

Turn your head 180 degrees and in front of you opens up the imposing building of the Moscow State University. You might have seen this iconic structure elsewhere in Moscow. Nope you are not having a déjà vu. There are seven of them spread around the city bearing the prominent name – Stalin’s Seven Sisters.

Moscow State University housed in one of Stalin's Seven Sisters

Moscow State University housed in one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters

I remember my very first time visiting Moscow back in 2004. This was one of the places where I was brought to by my kind hosts. Back then the structure felt so imposing and important and the student in me felt like it could be a cool place to study. 15 years later stepping onto this exact place felt a bit nostalgic.

Soviet bus

Soviet bus

Seeing this cute bus drive by across the street from the university didn’t help the nostalgic matters much. On the contrary it only accelerated the emotions and took me right back to my school years. Every morning come snow, rain or sun I would do the 30 minute commute on one of these buses void of any modern A/C amenities to my school in Armenia and back. Though sometimes in the summer months the heat levels would go excruciatingly high, there are mostly fond memories associated with it.

This little girl and her carefree ride into the tunnel of light captures the moment and the spirit so beautifully

This little girl and her carefree ride into the tunnel of light captures the moment and the spirit so beautifully

From the university we ended up in Gorki Park, place beaming with life and people enjoying life and taking it easy. The northern section of the park is home to many Soviet statue. That section we visited in the wintertime some months ago and the Soviet heritage in me was quite excited from the nostalgic feel of things. This time the focus was on the southern grounds.

Stumbled upon a beautiful rose garden in the middle of the park

Stumbled upon a beautiful rose garden in the middle of the park

The rose garden was an enchanting sight and apparently a magnet for selfie crazed and wanna-be models.

You can either opt for a professional setup or if you don't want to splurge of personal photo takers then...

You can either opt for a professional setup or if you don’t want to splurge on personal photo takers then…

... you can take the matters into your own hands

… you can quite literally take the matters into your own hands :D

The photoshoots came to an abrupt end as a sudden rain shower decided to befall upon the crowd. It was fun to see families and “models” alike running to seek cover under the tall trees. For families the priorities were ensuring the kids don’t get wet and saving the picnic food. For “models” and their personal photographers the demands were tougher as they had to rescue the hair, the dresses, and at the very last the photo equipment.

Rain showers in the summertime are quite magical

Rain showers in the summertime are quite magical

The heavy rain stopped as suddenly as it started and the sun came shining through the clouds. People appeared quickly out of their covers to continue their strolls, picnics, songs, chats, and dances…

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Impromptu dancing by the dancing fountains

Impromptu dancing by the dancing fountains

After hours of walking and some 20.000 steps, the last stop of the day was of culinary nature. An exciting dinner experience was waiting in one of the world’s best restaurants – Twins Garden. Each of the dishes was quite a special treat. My absolute favourite was the baby sturgeon. This is where I should quickly add – pause NOT. I literally squeaked in terror as the waiter put the dish in front of me with the sturgeon staring right into my face. The fish was quickly beheaded to ease my conscious.

Twins Garden

Twins Garden

Sunset

Magical sunset paired up well with the dining experience.

A few hours and several culinary delights later we ended up where we started the day – in our hood at Nikolskaya Street.

Isn't this just magical

What a magical sight!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 1 on Trans-Siberian Railway: CPH ->DME

There is something comforting about train travels. Soothing rumble of rails moving forward and forward, letting your gaze wonder out the window and onto the world slowly passing by, no rush, no worries. Just you and your day-dreams flying at the pace of the train…

Privet from mother Russia! We have just boarded the train headed from Moskva to Kazan. 800 kms away, 11 hours and 10 minutes after we will arrive in the Republic of Tatarstan. A few months ago the loosely-discussed-not-sealed-on-paper travel dream of Trans-Siberian railway adventure spontaneously became THE adventure of the year.

A few months in – the route was mapped on Google. It took a few attempts and adjustments trying to comprehend the vastness of Russia. The landmass comprising Russia is big, really big, the biggest. However it is only when you try to map out your journey from Point A, in our case, Moscow to Point B Kazan and Point C Ekaterinburg and Point D Irkutsk, the size of it really hits you leaving you in awe.

Buying the tickets is seamlessly easy these days. A quick Google search and you discover the very handy app of RZD, the Russian Railway service. Just a few clicks and a couple of tens of thousands RUB after, voila tickets are purchased. The only slight hiccup on the route is trying to cross the border from Russia to Mongolia. That stretch you apparently cannot buy online as a commoner. So we had to call in the help of a local travel agency to procure the last leg of our journey stretching from Irkutsk to Ulaanbataar.

Before hopping onto the train, Singapore Airlines comes into the picture transporting us from STO-DME. Now that experience deserve a small mention. It was my first time ever flying with this airlines and can I just say that for a brief moment there, I was close to swapping the Trans-Siberian tickets for a 10 hours of flight to Singapore.

Flying with Singapore Airlines is quite an experience

Flying with Singapore Airlines is quite an experience

A few hours later and a quick stopover in Stockholm we hit the tarmac in DME, Moscow. Despite its imposing Soviet appearance, the airport itself was quite efficient, just a short walk through the baggage claim to out into the wonderful afternoon heat of Moscow.

The rest of the day revolved around Red Square – Nikolskaya Street, Red Square, Armenian restaurant, back to Red Square in the sunset, Nikolskaya Street and back to our home in Moscow just off Nikolskaya.

Nikolskaya Street puts a smile on your face every time you walk through. The entire street is decorated in shimmering butterflies leading you right to the heart of Red Square.

Nikolskaya Street puts a smile on your face every time you walk through. The entire street is decorated in shimmering butterflies leading you right to the heart of Red Square.

Nikolskaya Street puts a smile on your face every time you walk through. The entire street is decorated in shimmering butterflies leading you right to the heart of Red Square. There is so much life on that stretch perfect for people watching, some impromptu musical performances and just letting yourself immerse in the buzz of Moscow.

Kremlin area is adorned with beautiful carpets of flowers everywhere

Kremlin area is adorned with beautiful carpets of flowers everywhere

Moscow is so different in the summertime. The last few times I visited the city was in the bitter cold of December. The juxtaposition with summertime is so stark. The city comes so alive in the summer, women strolling gracefully in their best outfits and posing at every corner for their best Instagram looks and likes. It feels like the city is turned into the big open-air stage of Bolshoy Theatre, and everyone is dressed to impress on their way to the Swan Lake performance.

The colours of Kremlin

The colours of Kremlin

Parks and people everywhere

Parks and people everywhere

Stalingrad - the alley of hero cities during WWII

Stalingrad – the alley of hero cities during WWII

First important stop of the day - Armenian deliciousness for early dinner

First important stop of the day – Armenian deliciousness for early dinner

There was one fixed thing on the agenda of the day and that was to head off to one of the several Armenian restaurants in the city and indulge on the deliciousness of my home country. You should have seen the sparkle in my eyes from the sight of lavash (our traditional bread), panir (cheese) and mixed greens. The precious moment of making a brduch – lavash roll, the taste so simple yet so so delicious. The feeling of simple joy from conversing in my native language… Simple joys in life.

After a few hours of feeling like back in my homeland, the feet led us back to Red Square, glowing in the sunset, filled with faces from all corners of the world, strolling casually and documenting their walks with every step they take.

Making a wish before entering the Req Square

Making a wish before entering the Req Square

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Churches around Red Square are so impressive

Churches around Red Square are so impressive

The famous tower of Kremlin glowing in the sunset colours

The famous tower of Kremlin glowing in the sunset colours

St. Basil's Cathedral basking in the sunset glow

St. Basil’s Cathedral basking in the sunset glow

Another pretty cathedral

Another pretty cathedral

Gazing across Moscow River

Gazing across Moscow River

Relaxing in the evening breeze while listening to a beautiful street concert

Relaxing in the evening breeze while listening to a beautiful street concert

Good night Moscow! Sweet dreams

Good night Moscow! Sweet dreams

The train is continuing to roll slowly yet steadily across the vast Russian landscape. It is past midnight here, and I am ready to call it a day. Good night and sweet dreams!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan