Monday, March 19, 2007

Trains, Vodka and MORE SNOW!

The first of many trans siberian train journeys was from St Petersburg overnight to Moscow. Was a relatively pain free experience despite the rock-hard leather bunk beds that were almost big enough for a small child, incessant 'Musac' the blastest from our cabin speakers till the early hours of the morning and heavily sedated, snoring Russian man who slept below me.
First impressions of Moscow were that of more snow, more cyrilic and more very very cold weather. Moscow was much more like how I had imagined a Russian city to be. Gone were the renaissance buildings, picturesque canals and pretty streets and in their place, wide Stalin-style apartment blocks with wide roads and imposing statues. If possible, less people seemed to understand in English in Moscow than they had in St Petersburg.

Definitely the highlight of Moscow was seeing Red Square, complete with the Kremlin, St Basil's Catherdral and Lenin's tomb. We were fortunate enough to meet a guy from Slovakia (who continuously referred to himself as Central European when asked about his nationality until we forced him to admit he was a Slovak after spending a few hours with him) who helped us get on board a very dodgy tour of Red Square that seemed to be the only way we would be allowed to go inside Lenin's tomb.
The catch of this tour was that you had to hand over all possessions (including cameras, wallets and passports) to this little Russian lady - who looked very much like a beggar - to be stored in her big canvas bag. Fifteen minutes into this hour long outdoor russian speaking tour in -20C, it became apparent that the worst aspect to her taking all our belonging was that we were unable to escape the tour till the end if we wanted to see our things again. Seeing the embalmed Lenin was absolutely amazing though and so definitely worth it.
From Moscow, we embarked on our longest train journey of the trip, 77 hours through Siberia to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. Finding entertainment on the train was interesting. It certainly wasn't to be found in the passing scenary as the excitement from seeing snow and birch trees wore off after the first 5 hours. Instead we used vodka, purchased off the train station vendors we passed along the way.


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