OK, it’s not what we focus on here and it’s out of the timeframe of the blog but Alexi asked real nice, gave us a place to sleep for the night and showed us where to get the best dang dumplings we’ve pretty much EVER HAD so we’re gonna pay him back and review his hostel for him.
Now, you could easily say this review is predicated on the fact that he gave us a free night at his hostel (that’s called disclosure people) but we’d contest that being as we actually stayed there for about a week and paid full price for the privilege to do so.
The first thing you need to understand about Russia: the hostels are not what you are expecting. In America, or, at least, in our experience of our home country, “hostels” are scary places where homeless drug addicts live. The rest of the world, not so much.
Russia is unique however because their hostels are not, by far and large, buildings that are actually purpose built for mass housing. The overwhelming majority of Russian hostels are actually converted soviet-era apartments.
Which, if you’re a cold-war nerd like Greg, is fan-FREAKING-tastic! We got to stay in a converted soviet-era cold war apartment! Come on, that’s cool!
Now there are some logistical difficulties with converting an old apartment that every hostel in Moscow must face. What we’re talking about here are bathrooms. You might be able to comfortably fit 10 bunk beds into one of 3 converted dorms
(Seriously, we didn’t believe it either but Greg’s 6’3” and he had plenty of room on the bed) but there are just so many toilet hookups in a place. These guys do their best with it and are currently renovating their bathrooms (The female bathroom was being worked on when we were there) to include extra toilets and “shower pods” that have over 10 different nozzles from which water can be expelled to hit your body.
Look, our first honeymoon (long story) was in Vegas, we’ve stayed in swank places all over the US and quite a few places outside it. Heck, we’ve had our own private beach bungalow in Tahiti but never before in our lives have we been so spoiled for choice when it came to the exact amount of or angle of attack upon which our shower water would strike us.
So while admittedly there sometimes is a line for the showers and bathrooms during peak periods, that’s pretty normal in Russia and where these guys can’t produce quantity they have most assuredly upped the ante on quality, or at least water volume which is pretty much the same thing. ;-)
The other kicker is that there are only dorm rooms so if you’re looking for a private abode, this ain’t your place.
Chillax hostel is located in a nice little piece of downtown Moscow, Russia. Which is kind of weird because we thought that “chillax” was an Aussie word but whatever. The place is right beside a few metro access points and within easy travel distance to lots of stuff we’ll tell you about soon enough like Gulag museums, the Kremlin, and Cold War nuclear missile command posts (AWESOME!!!) but really, that isn’t what makes the place great. What convinced us to turn a 2 day stay into hanging around for our entire time in the capital of Russia wasn’t the location (which was good) or the cleanliness (though the place was pretty dang spic and span). It was the people.
For us, as travelers, the most important thing to do in each country we visit is to get connected with the local people. With only a month to legally be in the physically largest county on the planet this was a daunting challenge: how do we see it all while also getting to know the people who live here? This was the area where Chillax hostel really shined. The hostel is owned by a pair of young Russians who go out of their way to make the common room into a place where people hang out and talk. The owners and the staff can be found in their off time relaxing in there, having a pizza and willing to talk about life in the motherland. Not sure about US / RU cultural relations? No problem: both these guys lived in the US for several years and if you’re there to argue the pro and cons of differing government philosophies, be sure to bring you’re A-game because these guys love to talk shop.
Don’t worry though, if the collapse / resurgence of western society isn’t your cup of tea just plop down in front of the huge plasma TV and join in on the PS 3 mortal kombat tournaments. Greg’s facebook post says it all….
The rest of the time the big screen is showing Euro cup matches or whatever other sport happens to be on at the time. People are talking, tasting vodka and having a great time well into the night. If we got to bed by 2AM we considered it an early night. Luckily, sound Russian building materials ensure the sleeping rooms are pretty well shielded from the volume.
But maybe culture, politics, video games and European sports are all out the window and what you really want is a good recommendation on where to get some tasty Russian eats. These guys live around here and Alexi just in passing recommended a place he goes to for lunch from time to time…
Dude, if heaven does not serve the dumplings we got at that place we are demanding a refund.
So good times, educated locals to talk with, great food recommendations and video game tournaments interspersed with sporting events on a high def big screen. We’d stay there again and if you’re looking for a great place at a good price, we’d suggest you give these guys a look.
Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures. If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at www.CoastGuardCouple.com!