So, after some time deciphering our Cyrillic Moscow A-Z came the realisation the hotel we'd booked in at was 10km outside the city centre ... by the murderous look of the taxi touts hanging around in the station - the Metro would certainly be our best option. Grand, palatial, ornate, run down and utterly confusing are all expressions that would sum up our first taste of the underground system here. Saturday morning rush hour seemed to be full of people dressed in sixties leather jackets (and sometimes trousers & waistcoasts) generally looking stony faced and malnourished ... Thanks to some masterful translation of our A-to-Z and equally impressive navigation through the Metro by Mel, we finally made it to the right station in the suburbs of Moscow. Our first impressions on exiting consisted of "this can't be right ... can it?" and "why would there be a hotel out here ...?" - we were somewhere between row after row of Soviet apartment blocks, a train junction about the same size as Clapham, hundereds of industrial units and a 12 lane wide main road. Nice. No exaggeration, we had to use the compass on my GPS to find the hotel. In the end despite the outward appearance of some of the buildings we decided that Vladykino was probably a nicer place than our original impressions suggested, and we finally found our hotel on a tree lined street where the helpful staff let us check in at 9am (try doing that in London without paying for an extra night!) ... or perhaps it was our aroma after a night on the train gradually filling reception? After a first day of getting to know Moscow it's beginning to grow on us, London prices at the main sights it may be, but at 35p a Metro ride, 420p (yes there's no pound symbol on this keyboard ..) for a litre of Stoli there are plenty of bargains to add some balance - added to that and Mel's student card is gaining near legendary status for gaining free or discount entry to various museums etc. Sunday and we headed for Moscow Zoo (free for Mel, of course) - now I'm not a big fan of zoo's in general & would much prefer to see animals in the wild, but then again a Siberian Tiger is not one I'm especially likely to come across ... Sunday being the day that winter changed to summer - we we're joined be every Muscovite with a child under 10 years of age, not exactly relaxing but a nice day out all the same. Needless to say, the tiger we'd come to see was in the next to last enclosure, and asleep, but we got a good view anyway.
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