I awoke in a windowless cell. Wft? Then I remember I’m staying at Winterfell Hostel or ‘the worst hostel in Moscow’. That’s good news, despite the dragons and Tyrion Lannisters on the walls, the rusting metal staircase and plaster falling off the walls. The bad news is we lost 4-0 to Russia last night. Ah shite it’s coming back to me now.
The Luzhniki Stadium was rocking as Russia ran riot. Unable to watch I left early but unfortunately so did thousands of jubilant Russians. We flowed out the stadium, banks of riot police directing us to the Sportivnaya metro where we poured down the enormous escalator to the famous Moscow metro. I was the lone Scot and I’ll never forget the noise. RoooSeeeAaaah!… RoooSeeeAaah! …. it echoed around the curved marble ceilings, shaking the chandeliers! I sat on a marble bench like Ally MacLeod, head in hands. Different fans came over with words of consolation. Or maybe they were really saying ‘your team is pish, da?’
Fuck it, it’s my last day in Moskva, put your kilt on and get out there. My room was so small I had to open the door to get dressed. I’d saved the Kremlin til last. It was amazing and again destroyed my preconceived ideas of the dour Kremlin, the grey fortress from where spies were dispatched to infiltrate us. It was beautiful churches, golden onion domes towering above, a huge cobbled square and finally stunning gardens, tree lined avenues with autumn colours. A group of Asian tourists, many dressed in red were taking photos, smiling. They nodded at me, noting the kilt. Finally one woman came up ‘can I take your photo?’. That started a queue, I was there for ten minutes,lots of smiles, gestures and laughter. Not the Kremlin I was expecting.
I walk down a cobbled lane through an archway onto Red Square and theres St Basils Cathedral , tourists and locals scattered around. Again people want my photo, a mother asks nicely then pushes her two tots to stand beside me. Offers me cash.
Back at my new hotel and its brilliant. Its opulent but stuck in the 1970s, all beige colours, high ceilings, mahogany panelling and chandeliers. Cocktail bar, pianist playing and even a cigar bar. I took a photo of a long corridor with framed sepia photographs of old Moscow, stuck it on Facebook with a comment about The Shining. The response from home was hilarious. ‘Here’s Johnny!’
My last night, I had to go to the Cigar Bar. Leather chairs, mahogany tables, framed pictures of Fidel and Ché on the wall. A group of four sat at one table, decanter of whisky and four glasses. All smoking cigars. Mafia?
I sat apart from the mafioso with a dram, reflecting on my 8 days in Russia and how friendly they all were, how welcoming. As if to demonstrate this, a mafioso called across ‘you are Scotland yes?’. Da. ‘You want see Moscow, I get you women’. Niet.
‘Ah you Scottish are boring. I prefer the Irish’.
Burst ma bubble!
This blog is for Henry Leask who procured me a ticket for the football. It was amazing, Henry.