Sunday, 22 December 2013

Moscow and the transiberian train


This is the gorgeous  faberge egg of the Transiberian train given by the tsarina to the last tsar of Russia, found in The Armoury at the Kremlin.

We spent seven pleasant hours on the express train between St Petersburg and Moscow. and for 50 pounds we even got a meal, maybe we should mention that to midlands railway ! Before arriving we planned our route on the metro to our hotel. And what an underground metro, more like an art museum with paintings, mosaics, statues and high renaissance  / classicle style roofs that would have looked grand in a mansion. In our tour book they even suggested a tour of the ring line just to view the 
decoration ( though after moving around with heavy bags in rush hour i would say it still 
feels like London underground and you would't want to tour that :-) the locals were
really helpful,  going out of their way to direct us.

.......After leaving the train we followed the crowd out of the station to Kosmosolskaya metro station for 200 metres. Then after asking the way couple of times we found
the brown circular line and went one stop. Then walked to the dark blue metro line. on
the way an older woman insisted on helping us find our way and handed us over to a friend.  but we made a good show of finding our own way and after 3 stops got off and said goodbye to the friend..........

. Our giant hotel  was 28 floors high, gamma delta at Izmailovsky hotel complex one of 3 massive complexes  made up of shops, hotels, pubs, night bars, you name it it was there. Very handy if you didn't want to go back out into the cold air.  A standard communist era room, we had to share an extra large double bed,  very Cosy... The restaurants in this complex seemed to be of oriental / Turkish theme very strange and a lot of dark skinned men wondered around, as well as a lot if single pretty females ! Yet the hotel had a professional business feel ! 

Day  one in Moscow we did the essential centre The Kremlin and the armoury within. We were a little churched out and only looked at one inside the Kremlin and were told off by an earnest young soldier for crossing to look at the river were there was no road pedestrian crossing. We left the Kremlin and went through the gardens and round past the tomb of the unknown soldier to red square. Xmas was in red square in the form of a fair and decorations. We visited St Basil's which was very impressive  and dominated red square What was surprising was we didn't feel as in awe or as impressed as we expected with red square as we thought we would be ! maybe without the tanks and marching soldiers and with the Christmas fair stuff,  gave us this unexpected feeling, still good though. 
We had a quartet of male singers on the first floor singing religious songs beautifully in st basils After St Basil's and merry go round rides and we walked through the famous mall ? and noticed the army and police had a strong presence in the whole area. 

All around Moscow you can see that there are many people mostly older ladies doing small jobs from sitting in toilets, working in cloakrooms, helping guide people around, in churches ect.. I'm not sure if they are payed jobs or not?  you feel that there is a drive to get everyone working at something however small. 

The next day was a lazy day we walked round Izmailovo lake. Said to be a most beautiful area of Moscow mmmmmm! Theres a Disneyesque themed castle /area with a few winter craft stalls which in summer would be heaving with tourists, now near the hotel, and a waste dump that the tour books might have overlooked :-)  we headed for the lake And felt much better,  played on a frozen play park and fed the sparrows, had some snow fights and visited the Tsars of Russia winter home and estate which had a moat around it ..most properly  to keep out undesirables..  A beer a wine two beer two wines and two vodkas later we went to bed. Up early next morning and breakfast for 1200 roubles again we made our way via the metro to our station and four nights on the Trans-Siberian. 

Moscow to irkurst leg one of the transiberian journey 
Day one of the real Trans-Siberian. we left Moscow 1503,  as with all the trains here they are very punctual. It might be something to do with the fact that they allow  between 10 to 40'mins to  get off the train rather than virgins(  frantic ) 1 minute,  :-/ As we discovered the trains keep Moscow time. We went through 5 time zones in total over five days. This can be a little disconcerting when the sun is at high noon but the moscow train clock says eight in the morning. Our five paid for meals meals consist of four lunches and  One breakfast.  Lunch consists of choice of soup followed by either rice with chicken or pork with noodles or fish with potato. The first day we did not need to eat after lunch, we had enough nibbles from the hotel and from a kiosk to last us for breakfast. The next day we tried the restaurant but were not enamoured by the quality or the price 2300 rouble (40 pounds) for four of us, After that i (Tracey)  (very bravely ) foraged on station platforms for dinner. How worrying is it to leave the train even though you know it going to be here for at least twenty ... quite a nervous moment.  

We met a group of 3 men from Krasnayansk whom we shared vodka with for a couple of hours on the third day. When they left, a russian Buriat family  going home talked to us while our children played with their 4 year old son, volodya. 
They were returning to Ulan Ude after a year in Krasnayansk. The children had a little problem with the days being 23hours long but after 4days they have acclimatised just, if you say getting to sleep by 11/12 pm is acclimatised.  At 11 pm it felt like 8/9 pm .....They and we are handled  the confinement on the train very well, the kids did some jumping around on the seats and made the top bunks into the toy room. 

It wasn't as bad As i Maybe thought it would be, it was comfortable, warm almost to warm, the train was very slow in area but theres no rush.
We had our own couchette so seats by day, we made our beds at night which were comfortable we were given sheets and towels. the food was basic Eastern European, sustaining but  Seb didn't like much of it,  the staff were nice and worked long hours, 2 people took shift duty for the whole five days.
 we did have the hot water urn, so tea, chocolate kept us going and you must buy extra milk as you are given very little.  We had great views from dirty windows :-) which is why we mostly took  video not photos.
Comparing  my journey with  the stories I have been reading about travellers who first took the transiberian in the early 1900 this was a luxury :-). (story time ) ..did you know at one point before the train tracks were finished around the get people across lake baikal in the winter they froze line tracks into the ice and drove the train over the frozen lake.. The first time they did it the ice cracked and the train sank ...after that they dismantled the engine to make it lighter and passengers walked across! 
There seemed plenty to fill our days especially as the sun doesn't even come up till 10 am so we slept till sunrise, there were stops every one to two hour it varied a lot,  even through the night. This made for a very noisy train especially when at each stop they needed to take a long metal spike and bang the bogies to get the ice of!@x    sometimes the train rocked sidewards so badly I think they were changing them as well. 
Surprising it didn't bother the kids who slept through it all, 
All in all an epic trip, well worth doing and not as hard on the body as expected, though coming of the train was interesting,  as we all got to some degree what i called sickness from spending so long on the moving train and then stopping :-/ 
So after five days on the train we had made it to Irkutsk in Siberia, 
That's all for now 
From Russia and Siberia with love xx 

1 comment:

martin said...

Makes me soooo jealous guys. Except for the cold! Can't wait for the next instalment