The Trans-Siberian Rail

Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
St Basil's Cathedral

Flag of Russia  ,
Friday, August 12, 2005

If I am completely honest I would have to say that the scenery between Irkutsk and Moscow is perhaps the most boring I have seen on any journey throughout the world! Three nights and four days of tree's, flat swampy ground and afew (very few) settlements of 'gingerbread houses' here and there and that's about it. The romance with the Trans-Siberian really surrounds the journey in itself and that really is amazing!

I was lucky enough to share a cabin with just one other person - Charlie, a French/Australian guy who was on his way back to France having been in Japan. Much to the disgust of our cabin attendants, it really didn't take long for our cabin to become the 'social' cabin. We managed to accumulate an Ozzy guy (Connal), who'd been travelling continuously for the last 13 months, a French guy (Guillaume) a seaman who works on container ships. Guillaume's ship had taken him to Shanghai on this trip and he was on his way back to France. We also had a great couple from England (Liz and Andy)to keep us company who'd been teaching in China. Time becomes irrelevant very quickly on the rail; even more quickly for myself because my $3 CK watch purchased in Hong Kong promptly stopped working the moment that I changed it from Irkutsk to Moscow time. Not surprisingly we seemed to be drinking Vodka and beer at all hours of the day (and night). Connal woke up one morning in his cabin to his Russian 'nana' cabin buddy kicking him... too drunk to get into bed he'd slept on the floor between the bunks. All in all it was a pretty good trip, Charlie did have his camera stolen but it was sitting on his bed like a carrot ready for the taking!

On arrival in Moscow Guillaume and I went to the Banya (Russian sauna)... a real experience in itself. Basically you get your kit off and cruise into a sweltering hot sauna and lie down; in this case the sauna was ancient and beautiful. The banya's aren't mixed sex. Someone then comes along and beats you with bundle of birch branches (meant to purify the skin) and then you go and dip yourself in a cold tub, repeating the process until you've had enough. Along with this you can get pretty much any beauty treatment under the sun in the banya - full body mud packs, honey coatings etc. I was abit nervous about getting my kit off to begin with - kiwi chic's just don't parade around naked with 60-70 other women! On realising that there was no way of entering the banya with any belongings at all I didn't have all that much choice. It was no big deal though, people obviously go to the banya to chit chat with their mates, drink tea etc so it was all pretty relaxed and luxurious.

My hotel is pretty amazing, situated across the road from the Kremlin I have the most fantastic view of St Basil's Cathedral. St Basil's is alittle like a styly Walt Disney castle, with beautiful colours and tear drop domes on the roof apex. My room is on the top floor, I have fabulous views. The really odd thing though is the widows in my hotel room - they stretch the height from ceiling to roof and they are large enough to walk out! It's really crazy - I'm on the 12th floor and effectively have bifold doors, but with no patio to walk out onto. I have to wonder how many kiddies have walked out the window's of this hotel to their deaths below.

Moscow is really beautiful, with all of the ornate trappings of a European city with Russian uniqueness in architecture. I can't express how nice it is to be in a European city, I love it. I'm looking forward to sight seeing, but for today I have simply been walking the streets, yet again I am suffering from a debilitating head cold which has knocked me for a 6. I haven't suffered from head colds as severe as what I have done whilst traveling ever, it's really annoying. So, I'm off for a little sleep now and then the Trans-Sib troops are meeting at my hotel at 6pm with a vague plan to have dinner and a drink.
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