20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Some church.

Famous Church.

Ok, I like it.

State Museum

Entrance to Red Square.

Red Square.

St Basil's from behind.


Inside GUM.

Lubyanka (KGB).

1 of Stalin's 7 Sisters.

Rizkaya (to Riga) Station.

12064 km from Hong Kong.

Moscow was much the same as I left it 2 years ago, cold and snowy. Having pre-booked my room from Hong Kong it was a notch up from the one I used before and I had a nice room (except that it was on the 24th floor). However the fact that it was rated as a 3 star international Hotel didn't make it any more friendly or efficient.

Russia is hard work, in China, which people say is difficult, I managed to book all of my train tickets by myself from the station booking halls, in Moscow it was more difficult to get one from the official travel desk in the hotel and involved some multi-level translation through French and German via other guests to get what I wanted.

I did basically the same sights as I did last time I was here, Red Square, St Basils, GUM and a few underground shopping malls to get warm. I thought they must have cracked down on the police scams as I didn't see and dodgy groups of them hanging around Red Square on the make, in fact I even saw a few posing for photographs.

My train to Riga wasn't until 7pm and check out from the hotel was at midday so I investigated the hotels luggage storage facilities - open between 9am and 10am, 1pm and 2pm and 6pm to 7pm - ie worse than useless, so I decided to take my bag to the station early and use the storage facilities there. I'd never been to Riga station before so wasn't quite sure which way it was from the metro, I took an underpass and had to pass a dithering policeman, and then it happened, "Papers!". I protested that I didn't speak Russian and asked if the station was that way, "Papers!". I had no choice but to show him my passport which was in my money belt. He inspected every page of my passport and the visa registration from the hotel and then my train ticket but seemed more interested in my money belt. He told me to take it off which I refused but he insisted in opening the zips and peering inside, then checking all of my pockets and day pack. He went back to the passport and again checked every page, I kept making noises about Embassy (I have the UK Moscow embassy's number programmed in my mobile for just this situation). Eventually he asked where my Russian Entry stamp was which is usually on the visa but they stamped the page opposite under the Exit form. Soon after seeing this he gave me my passport back and moved on, leaving me in an underpass with my documents in my hand and all my coat and pockets undone, bastard. I got to the station and deposited my bag, on the way back through the underpass he was frisking someone else, it's obviously his little patch.

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