Irkutsk to St Petersburg
22.04.2007 - 09.05.2007 11 °C
Time for a real Russian update - we have been very slack on the blog updates due to laziness, hangovers, tiredness and train travel. Is the excuse good enough? Anyway, onto the story. . . . .
The Trans Siberian Odessy is over. No more train travel for us and we are happy and sad about that. We caught our last train into St Petersburg yesterday. So far our travels in Russia (although short) have revealed a number of things that are alive and well:
- the 80's (love the mullets, keep up the good work team!)
- bad music, may be linked to previous point (heard I Should Be So Lucky on the train the other night - Stephen Winkley requested it)
- huge women
- blokes called Sergei
- unfriendly beauracracy
And we love it!! The accents rock. One point I forgot to mention in our last email is our new found fascination for organised crime - we have watched way too many movies. After our Mission Impossible effort to register our visas we have been very suspicious of. . .well, everything. This was fuelled and encouraged by our Aussie buddy Ben who was also loving it. It got to the point that on returning from dinner with hostel buddies in Irkutsk the three of us lingered in the car park to check out a supicious looking mound - completely convinced it was a body. Too funny, we swore never to speak of the incident again. It wasn't a body by the way.
So our travels through average Siberian cities turned into a finely tuned routine:
- arrive looking like we have gone a few rounds with Kostya Tzyu (spelling??)
- catch a random trolley bus
- get off at a random stop
- check in - sleep
- try and find vegetables to eat
- go to bed
- get up
- look for vegetables (pizza is a vegetable right?)
- catch the train
When we arrived in Novosibirsk we checked into basement hotel with themed rooms. Should have read the warning signs, clearly it was a brothel but we were very happy in our refurbished Egyptian themed room. The spa was pretty fabulous too but of course we couldn't afford it!! We headed into town very hungry and discovered what was soon to be our best friend - Grill Master. Bad Russian fast food chain with really crappy food. We ate very little and then headed off to find sustenance of a liquid variety - this was the beginning of the end! As is the way in the middle of Siberia our location of choice was an Irish Bar with the optional extra of a basement karaoke joint called the Hammer and Sickle. Perfect! The next thing I know I am singing an Elvis song (Bec, you would have been proud!) with my new Russian best friend. It was a slow deterioration but a complete one - we didn't stagger back to the brothel until 1 or 2 am. No disgraceful night is complete without the corresponding hangover - we both had rippers. Travelling reached new lows that morning. We went into a supermarket and bought some bread and coke to save ourselves whilst on our way to Grill Master! We staggered down the street in the pouring icy rain (without rain coats) with cokes and food in hand. It was a pitiful sight. I am surprised that people didn't give us money!!
Main Square - Novosibirsk
Next stop was Yekateringberg - not much to say about this town except that we stayed in a dreadful hotel without showers and shared our floor with the Russian Basketball Team. Really tall dudes . . . that is the best I can do right now!!
Church of the Blood - Yekateringberg
May Day Rally - Yekateringberg
Needless to say we were absolutely stoked to be on the train to Moscow!! We shared our compartment with two Russian fellas who both had moustaches. . .cool. They turned out to be very nice and they shared their fabulous food and vodka with us, bless them. One of them was wearing a leather vest (big fan!) and when he got changed into his tracksuit pants and t-shirt on went the leather vest over the top. We have photos!!!!! Anyway, they were so lovely and they even gave us a large snow globe of Moscow which plays music. We love snow globes . . .
Sasha and Alex on the way to Moscow
Moscow was fantastic, amazing, striking, beautiful, big. We stayed in a pretty good hostel that came with its own kitten!! We met some very cool people there and had a few great nights just sitting around chatting. One of the best things we did while we were there was a tour of the metro stations. They are amazing but we felt like big train watching nerds. However, for $1 AUD each, it is the cheapest fun to be had in Moscow. The stations were like Museums and double as air raid shelters - handy to know. We have put some photos on the blog so you don't think we are absolutely crazy - it really was great.
Scenes of Metro in Moscow
Of course we went to Red Square, the Kremlin and so forth. All were really fantastic, just wandering around the city was great.
Adam in Red square
Our second last day in Moscow we tried to get tickets to the Ice Hockey World Champs - too expensive so we went and sulked and watched it in a bar. We met some very cool Russians who started buying us drinks - I think we all know what happened after that. One of them was the Deputy Editor of a big Russian newspaper (The Kommersant) and seemed to have a bit of money to throw around. We ended up going back to his place for more drinks (as if we needed it) and continued the party. Shortly after we got there he pulled out a big black case and with some reverence showed us the contents. A 25 year old, 25th year anniversay, signature Fender electric guitar.
Yes, we all played it... yes it was very cool.
The night ended with Adam and I eating chips and Mars Bars in a gutter somewhere in Moscow. Awesome . . . .
The next day, we had to catch the train to St Petersburg. After the initial panic of having lost our tickets (not permanently - we found them) we also realised that we had lost our Trans Siberian Lonely Planet in the festivities of the night before. We still had passports, cameras etc - lucky. Anyway, we finally arrived in St P. It is really beautiful and we are staying in a cool hostel. More to follow on our adventures here - we have another week to go!
The Bronze Horseman
Adam on The Neva - St Petersburg
Thank you for the emails, they are great. Will send some more emails over the next few days!
Love Meaghan and Adam (The Trans Siberian Veterans - TSVs)
PS - We didn't find a Juke Box - does karaoke count?