Lots of little dolls

Trip Start Jan 26, 2008
Trip End Feb 29, 2008

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

After both of us woke a bit footsore today we decided to take things a bit easier. Today was the last day of the WEVA Conference. The Conference too was taking things a little easier with the three streams running concurrently in the morning but Stream 3 having the afternoon off.

After breakfast we tried to visit the Museum of Cosmonautics which is just across the road from the hotel. Turns out this is under extensive renovation and therefore closed. Given that we were just next to it we decided to quickly visit the Showcase Exhibition Centre instead, which has an impressive archway as a very grand entrance. The Exhibition building is situated in extensive grounds, parts of which have been converted in to amusement parks with roller coasters and a Ferris wheel. There is a bronze statue in front of the building which looks like it could be Stalin but there was no obvious plaque identifying the subject so I could be wrong. After our brief detour it was on to the Metro for WEVA. After lunch we took our queue from stream three and had the afternoon off, heading back to the Izmailovsky Markets. We did at last find the markets and they lived up to expectations. They were in two parts, an outer precinct where you could buy clothing, DVDs and other domestic items and an inner precinct with a five rouble entry fee that had all the souvenirs you could ever hope to find.

Belle was very disappointed to find fur hats available at the outer market because she had succumbed to temptation and purchased a typical Russian fur hat, made of rabbit fur, yesterday at a souvenir stall just outside Red Square. At the time it seemed cheap and Belle had accepted the stall holders line that the hats were unisex even though we both knew, in our heart of hearts, that only men wore that particular style of hat. We had an interesting discussion with the stall holder at the Izmailovsky market during which he denigrated Belle's rabbit fur hat, tried to sell us a mink fur hat in a female style, and eventually convinced us to buy a fox fur trimmed hat for substantially less than we had paid for the rabbit fur hat the day before. Belle was pleased with her new hat that would ensure she no longer stood out so completely as a tourist, but annoyed at herself for believing the guys line yesterday about the unisex nature of the hat from Red Square.

We next wandered the souvenir market where you could buy hand painted lacquered wood items, music boxes shaped like St Basil's Cathedral, Amber jewelry, Soviet era items, water colour and oil paintings, many other things and, of course, the characteristic Matryoshka dolls. Most of the things at the market we had seen elsewhere, e.g. in the souvenir shops in the hotel lobby but the big bonus of finding the markets was the price - cheap! We managed to get all the Russian souvenirs we had been wanting at prices we could afford, the only problem we have now is to try and fit them all within our luggage allowance! At one point we found a cafe for a snack and tried Borscht for the first time and we will certainly sampling it again. Very warming on a cold winter's afternoon and certainly fills the hole left by tramping around the markets. Another bonus of finally locating the markets, I located a shop that sold nothing but Russian made watches so was able to get my POLJOT watch.

As the evening closed in we headed back to the Hotel for a quiet evening in before a big day out tomorrow of touring the Kremlin and hopefully seeing the Moscow Circus in the evening.
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