Hostel Territory

July 19, 2008

Ever since my old standby hotel in Moscow, the Rossiia, was demolished (here's a clip of the implosion--it's too short but gives you an idea of the immense size of this place) I've been without a regular place to stay in this town. The Rossiia was a dump but it was an enormous dump, so I could always get a room there. It wasn't a bad deal--for about $40 it was possible to stay right across the street from Red Square.
I miss the Rossiya
Hotels in Moscow are really expensive, so for a while I tried staying at the Izmailovo Gamma-Delta Hotel, but I just got sick of it. Not only is the Gamma-Delta as much of a dump as the Rossiia was, but it's also rather pricey in its own right and is just too far away to be much fun.
I therefore decided this time to try staying in a youth hostel. I hadn't stayed in a hostel since my trip through Asia in 1999. Not that I was really looking forward to doing so again, but since I was looking at spending three nights in Moscow it seemed like the prudent option, especially as--thanks to our wildly successful president--the US dollar now buys thirty percent less abroad than it did just a few years ago.

So, I went online and looked to see what was available. I'd stayed in a hostel once in Moscow--some place near Prospekt Mira where I'd stayed back in 1998. That place was closed, but to my surprise I found several listings for places, all of them offering a bed in a six-person room for about $30 a night. I made a reservation for two nights at a place called the Sweet Moscow Hostel on Arbat street, but had to book my third night at a different place, since the Sweet was full on Saturday.

To put it mildly, the Sweet was not so sweet, but I guess it was a good enough deal, considering most of the alternatives. The good part about it was the location--right on Arbat Street, close to the action. But man, it was really packed. My six-person room actually contained nine people, and the room was really small and cluttered with people's belongings. On the plus side, they did give us storage lockers where we could put valuables. On the negative side, I think I slept about thirty minutes my first two nights here.

The place where I'm staying now is more expensive--$40--but is considerably better. Because of the price and location (a bit farther out, near 1905 Revolution Street station), it's less crowded. There are seven beds in a large room, but only three of them are occupied. They've got wireless internet which is good, and which is the reason why I've been able to update the site today. All in all, I'd probably even stay here again.

Both of these places are unofficial hostels. They are basically just apartments with loads of beds in them. There are no markings outside, nor are there any other indication that they are hostels. Neither of the places I've stayed in appear to register passports, either.
All in all, however, the 1905 place is pretty good. Only two of the rooms have beds in them, and the living room is comfortable and a good place to hang out. The building is new, and the kitchen and bathrooms are well-appointed and very clean. The guy who runs it, Karim, was also very friendly, and I actually enjoyed spending time here, so go figure.

Anyway, Ufa awaits me with a 7:30 flight tomorrow morning, so I must be getting some sleep. For those of you who haven't been there, Ufa is about 900 miles east of Moscow, north of Kazakhstan. I was there for a few weeks in 2005 and liked it pretty much--I'm hoping that at least I won't be sleeping nine to a room there!
To see more photos from the Caucacus journey, go to the photos page of  
More links, analysis and photographs can be found at the Borderlands Lounge

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