Moscow and Trans Siberian 1 Blog
Trip Start Sep 30, 2009
23Trip End Jan 30, 2010
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Next day Chris and Olivia took off to successfully secure the Mongolian Visas, while Robyn nursed a sore throat with Ryan and Mitchell keeping her company. C and O arrived back to pick up the ensconced group and jumped on the underground to the Red Square. Trying to read the Cyrillic alphabetic was a problem compounded by Robyn and Chris’s aging eyes which struggled with the small print on the underground map, thank goodness Olivia was on hand to read to us. The Red Square was so beautiful, the churches and Kremlin look so different in real life, we even managed to get into see inside the famous St Basils Church, the temperature much like a freezer. Amazingly there were only a few small dregs of snow visible. We headed off into a mall for a very late lunch and were amazed to find how little English was spoken here in Moscow. It was a matter of pointing to what we wanted and looking at a calculator to see how much we owed them at the end, paying 8000.00 roubles for lunch another new experience. Mitch and Ryan loved the Pizza shop and came back quite chuffed that they had acquired whatt they wanted, along with the correct change.
Great excitement the next day when we woke up to snow flurries. Off to Red Square again and had been there only 20 minutes when the snow built up was so great they decided to close the square off. It was time to retreat into the Gum Mall on the side of the square to get warm again and window shop at all the fancy label stores while we were serenaded with live jazz music. From the look of the prices it is only the Oligarchs strutting by us in their long authentic fur coats who could afford to purchase anything. Back to the common people’s mall to satisfy, yet again, three continuously hungry children
Headed back to the lobby of the Hilton to kill a couple of hours before splashing out and eating at their restaurant (the guide book informed us to indulge if we could afford it, and knowing we would be in Siberia and eating dried fish soon enough we savored every mouth full.)
We had checked out previously the route to the railway station (about a 15 minute walk from the Hilton) hence after a fab meal in a lovely place we plummeted straight back down to reality. Rugged up and in true kiwi style we wheeled/dragged our suitcases through thick snow to our train. We looked a sight following each other over major intersections and we were all covered in snow by the time we arrived at the platform.
Moscow to Irkutsk on the Trans Siberian. The train took off on time and we were pleased to find that Robyn and Olivia in their two bed 1st class cabin were only one carriage away from the three boys in their four birth, 2nd class cabin. The stories of the heating being intense on these journeys were correct
The train was quite full until the next morning when almost half the people exited. We found a smattering of English speaking people (Swiss, German, French, Scottish and American) amongst the Russians. The American guys, 26 year old twins were staying in 3rd class (the only ones brave or stupid enough to do so out of all the English speakers we met). Apparently the carriage is an open bunk room, sleeping 56 and they said the smells, when it was full on the first night, pretty diabolical.
The train stopped every three hours or so and it was a feast of bartering when your feet hit the platform. The locals have offerings of hot home baked meals, warm potato and onion pastries, alcohol (mainly vodka, the Russian’s Lemonade), bread, salami, wool scarves etc so the whole white platform is a busy market place. The home baking is pretty good so Chris understands why the older saleswomen are rather large. The whole family enjoyed the experience even though at -35°C taking the gloves off to complete the transaction almost gave one frost bite.
The formidable Russian Cabin Provinista’s are certainly very controlling over their territory, which they keep immaculate by vacuuming daily and wiping down every surface. They manage to turn out each morning looking like they had just exited a beauty salon – I am sure they have a huge hi pressure shower hidden purely for their exclusive use
The Restaurant car is a gamble to eat in, the food is not much to write home about, and financial hardship in Russia has not made things any better. The cars are apparently run by private franchises so food quality and variety of menus unpredictable. On entering the car (having averted our eyes from the kitchen to safe guard our appetite) we were presented with a menu written in Russian, by a large waitress who spoke no English. We did okay and ended up with chicken, chips and a salad, but the bread felt like it was 5 days old and we were not offered any butter to try and moisten it into being somewhat edible.
Having read that four nights was a short time to go without a shower in Siberia, did not make the prospect of not showering while on the train any more appealing. Two toilets with basins at the end of each compartment are for brushing teeth and washing in
Robyn secretly wondered how bored she would get as with the restriction of luggage there was only so many books and games the family could take for this leg of the trip. However there has not been a moments boredom, books were read, copious card games played, iPod listened to, pictures from the camera downloaded and viewed on the laptop, socializing with other English speakers and of course The Blog written
After all trying to smuggle our drinks into the restaurant car to celebrate New Years Eve we were told in no uncertain terms in loud Russian, with yet again much gesticulating, that we could not drink what we did not buy at their counter. All the English speakers on the train retired to a couple of cabins located in the same carriage and had a great time together. There was some confusion over time zones so we ended up celebrating New Year twice within two hours. Ryan, Mitchell, and Olivia enjoyed the company of the two Scottish girls their age in a different cabin – lots of laughing could be heard.
With the time difference it meant we would arrive in Irkutsk at about 1.30am Moscow time
We just loved the sign SEWTER being held up when we arrived on the platform at Irkutsk and were whisked away from the station into a van and dropped at our hotel door. The local time was 6.30am and we all promptly went to sleep for about four hours.
Next Blog SIBERIA