Trans-Siberian Part 5: The Ostankino Tower
I was dumped at Kievskaya station in Moscow at around 6.45 in the morning. I knew exactly where I needed to go - my hotel on the other side of the city, dump off my suitcase and the head off to the Ostankino Tower for a 9.30 morning appointment. However I was a bit bewildered - not sure how to get a ticket for the metro, not sure where to go and so I opted for the nearest taxi, which wasn't too easy either, but in the end I found one who would take me to the hotel for 1,000 roubles or about £20, which is no more than I would pay from Brentwood to Billericay some days. I might have tipped him too if he didn't stand watching me shift all my heavy luggage in and out of his boot twice. Russia is not a customer service place.
Having successfully negotiated the left luggage room at my hotel, the Hotel Cosmos, I was a bit heartened by the view from the front of the hotel. This kind of thing is what Moscow is all about.
The statue on the right is Charles De Gaulle, and it's massive, more than 60 feet tall. Apparently the hotel was built in Communist times by a French company and the statue was part of the deal.
The hotel itself is enormous. There's practically a whole city inside the place, with thousands of rooms plus lots of shops, a dozen restaurants and a mobile phone guy who I found very useful in sorting out a data SIM card for my (unlocked) mobile phone - 3GB for under £20, which should sort out my Facebooking and Twittering for the week as long as my battery holds out.
I had arranged a trip to the top of the Ostankino Tower before I went away, as I saw people complaining on TripAdvisor that you can't just roll up and enter. I think you can sometimes, but like everything in Russia, it is incredibly difficult and bureaucratic and you need to invest a bit of time before you go in making sure you can do all the things you want to do. It was doubly exciting as it was close to my hotel and I had to ride a MONORAIL to get there, a real monorail and not the stupid one at Stansted airport. This one takes you out through the suburbs and you're literally flying above roads and people's heads all the while.
The stop for the Ostankino tower is next to the unfortunately named Perviy Kanal TV1 building. This massive block is decked out in the colours of various testcards which I thought was brilliant, even though no station probably shows a testcard any more, and you'd have difficulty explaining the whole concept to anyone below the age of 20.
(The Perviy building - which I later found out is known as the Ostankino TV centre, just to confuse it a bit with the tower - caught fire a couple of months after I was here, at the end of July, Not sure to what extent it was damaged.
The walk to the tower looked like it might take 5 minutes - in the end it took 20. One of the things I learned about Russia, everything is a lot further away than you think it is, especially when you're on foot! I checked in and paid my 500 roubles (£10) fee - the standard fee is 850 roubles and I'm not sure why I got a discount, but this is something that not's going to happen a lot in the next week or so.
The Ostankino Tower is still the tallest building in Europe and used to be the tallest in the world, until the CN Tower pipped it by a few metres. I went to the CN Tower about 20 years ago and the experience at the Ostankino was pretty similar - it's like looking out of a plane as opposed to looking out of a building, you're that high up. I took a few shots of the surrounding city although I don't know Moscow very well so none of this means that much to me.
It was also the sixth-tallest freestanding structure in the world when I went up it on that Monday morning, although by the end of the week it was seventh, having been overtaken by the new One World Trade Centre in New York, and by just four feet too.
The difference between this and the CN Tower is that it has the world's highest Skywalk - some glass panels where you can stand and look down below. They have them at the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth too, but this is three times higher. Your brain tells you that it's safe but you just don't want to stand on it - as if the glass really is going to give way and send you to your doom.
The other difference between this and the CN Tower - or any other tall building - is that they only let up about 20 people at a time. So it's not crowded at the top at all and you do feel a little bit exclusive, which is a bit of a reward for all the hoops you had to jump through to get here.
Most tall buildings will have a glass lift to show off how fast/high you're going, but not in Russia, it's just a normal lift. There is an indicator in metres (not floors) which goes up to 337 and your ears will pop and then hurt as you zoom up - without seeing what's actually happening, this can have more of an effect.
The ticket to get in/out through various levels of security is a plastic credit card with the date/time and your name on it - in my case, my name in Cyrillic, which I thought was a nice touch. Something for me to put in my Box of Crap that I've accumulated throughout my entire life.
|Next:||Trans-Siberian Part Part 6: Around VDNZh park|
|Previous:||Trans-Siberian Part 4: The train to Moscow|
Last updated 01 June 2013 12:54
I think I'm meant to do an "About" here but I think you'd be more interested in seeing a random seagull.