Mockba the Magnificent!

Trip Start May 07, 2003
Trip End Sep 05, 2005

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Flag of Russia  ,
Monday, August 8, 2005

We left the pretty city of Irkutsk, after stocking up with shedloads of supplies at the excellent city market, on the best train on the Transiberian line - train #9 - "The Baikal". We left Baikal the lake behind on Baikal the train. This was our first Russian train, the others had been Mongolian. We had heard stories of the infamous moodyiness of the "provodnista", usually a more mature lady complete with suspect badly bleached hairstyle who looked after each carriage, normally they moaned at passengers, kept the bogs spic and span and the old boiler stoked up; indeed our Mongolian carraige mums had been very difficult. But we were infact blessed with a lovely helpful young lady who could even speak a bit of English. We shared with two more Babuskas, thankfully they turned out to be a hell of alot nicer, than the Baikal Battleaxe and woke us up in the morning with fresh tea and tasty deep fried samosa-like thingies. One of them insisted we eat all her food - "I don't need it, I'm fat enough already" - we were of-course only too happy to oblige. Although we were sad to say goodbye to them in Novosibirisk after only 24 hours, we were overjoyed to see that we had the whole cabin to ourselves and could make it as stinky, messy and noisy as we liked.

1st day was a poor show on the vodka front, everyone was too tired and no one was in anyway feeling banterous at all, plus we had the two old babuskas in our cabin to think of. 2nd day however was a different matter entirely, with the ladies leaving us to our own devices we able to make an early start. The Californian couple, the lovely Tim and Jess, we've been with for over a week now started off proceedings with a bottle of wine and a few beers. Before long we were getting wired into the vodka and in no time had attracted other carriage dwellers, including the Ozzies from the UB-Irkutsk leg. By the end of the night I was running up and down the carraige making new friends with all sorts of people, of-course in the morning I remembered only a few of them but had the joy of unknown people coming up to me afterwards - "hey ya crazy Scotsman, how the hell are ye?"

Anyway other than that, the journey was quite uneventful, very quick with no border crossings and no problems. We travelled around 5800K's in 3 nights and four days. That's 6 timezones, I think.... Who knows... it was really confusing as we travelled thru space, also thru time, what was the time? Nobody knew. We rolled thru the biggest forest in the world, the Taiga, which is the size of India and therefore only got glimpes of the countryside thru the trees which dominated our train window. This forest contains 25% of thw worlds wood reserves. We did see some massive cities, punctuated with enormous powerstation chimneys and quite what we expected of Siberian cities - terrible Soviet town planning - they installed these huge chimneys near the city centres! So, I finished a couple of books, hammered a few people at chess and ate and slept as much as I could!

Before we knew it, we arrived in Moscow. This has been the biggest surprise of my entire last 2 years. We all expected a dull, drab city, bogged down with the communist legacy. We were actually greeted with one of the most beautiful and interesting cities I've ever been in. If you don't bump into the lamposts while gazing at the incredible, unique and colourful architecture you certainly will do as the legions of Russian super-models pass you by and leave you in a slavering mess. Even the marbel clad subway system here is a piece of artwork and a historic relic in it's own right. Red Square is simply stunning, they don't call it that for nothing: most buildings are either painted red or use red bricks. The scene is dominated of-course by the otherworldly sight of the incredible St. Basils cathedral and the enormous Kremlin lying adjacent with the old man Lenin's tomb. Moscow is buzzing at this time of year, we've been enjoying blazing sunshine, 26 degree temperatures and the numerous beer gardens that seem to have been set-up round the city centre. The nightlife here is meant to be some of the best (and most expensive) in the world - who know's if the wallet can take it - eeeak!

Tomorrow, we'll be braving the guards at the Kremlin to go poke Lenin in the eye, maybe sqeeze in a river tour too. But this place is WAAAAAYYY beyond our budget, geezus it's pricey. We must leave here too: in a blur. Maybe for visiting some ancient towns round the Golden Ring, most probably to St.Petes for the weekend, then for the ferry over the Baltic from Tallinn.

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bonkers on

Hey buddy!

Yeah Ingrid lovely girl from Enschede, met her in those crazy times in Nha Trang. Yeah man, I was dreading having to tell you, wanted to leave it till I was sure that I couldn't come, but credit card can take no more, I'll be in debt for years if I put any more on it! So we just shoot straight thru to Gothenburg from Stockholm, then hopefully get the ferry from there to Newcastle. I'm real pissed about this beleive me, we had loads a folk to see in Sweden, Copenhagen and all over Holland - but alas - nae cash!

Will be in Holland hopefully before the new year tho mate...

Speak soon,

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