Our arrival into Moscow by train is in the early evening but after assembling the bikes and locating our first night’s hotel its already 9pm. At least the long daylight hours mean the sun is barely setting. Making a hasty dinner we review the route to our Warmshowers host for the following morning. He has asked that we arrive before 10am and with 30km to cover through Moscow city streets in rush hour we plan an early start.
Using our (sometimes) trusty GPS we ease back into cycling in traffic. Before long the traffic builds up and frustratingly I find the GPS has re-routed us adding around 10km of cycling to our route. Picking up the pace we arrive at our hosts apartment by 9:30 to find he lives on the 24th floor of his building. Normally this would entail much carting of bags and bikes but his building is fitted with elevators big enough to easily fit a fully loaded touring bike inside.
After some quick conversation our host heads to work and we are on our way to the Mongolian Embassy to arrange our visas. With our visas sorted we spend a few hours walking around the central Red Square area surprised at the heavy military presence and the fact that many roads and Red Square itself are closed to the general public. We later learn that there was a practice for the 9th May parade taking place. Our host is busy working and also redecorating a new apartment he will move to at the end of the week meaning we barely see him and feel like we suddenly have our own apartment in Moscow.
Our guide book helps us locate a few possible stops for sight seeing but all our plans are put on hold when we read there is a collection of former Soviet-era statues in Gorky park. The park is a little under-whelming, but with the sun shining and temperatures hot enough that we picnic in the shade, we enjoy a few hours meandering through the park then back towards Red Square pausing at the impressive statue of Peter the Great and various cathedrals along the Moscow river.
We plan to visit the impressive sounding All Russia Exhibition Centre via a trip on the monorail, but looking for a bank machine we are side tracked into the Cosmonaut museum and find ourselves immersed in the displays even though all the descriptions are only in Russian. Later that evening we have a meeting with our contact from the Russian Cycle Touring Club (RCTC) where we get valuable advice about our onward route and admire the clubhouse’s collection of photos from the many tours their members take within Russia.
The guys at the RCTC advise us to use the local trains to make a quick exit from Moscow. However itching to get back on the bicycles we plot a GPS route out of Moscow that sees us cycling on busy highway-like roads and unpaved mud tracks until we finally seem to be outside the ring roads of Moscow and get our first taste of Russian forests and countryside.