Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
297Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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00:04 I am quite literally on the midnight train to Moscow (was it Georgia in the song?)
Me and Irena battled through the metro, speed walked to the train and found my berth. I opened the door and 2 men were sitting there. One quite young with a netbook and one older very Russian stocky man with a bald head and a grey moustache. The younger one looked up a I entered this hamster cage with a large rucksack and daybag that that doesn't get any smaller or lighter. The 'room' is less than 3 metres across, there are 2 bunks and some storage over the door into which the younger one asked me if I'd like some help with my bag. I thought yes, so he took his shoes off, put one foot on each of the lower beds and then lifted my 15 tonne, er kg rucksack into the cove over the door. I have decided I will not need anything from that bag tonight and will sleep in my clothes.
I suspect that the older man is going to be just inches from my face and I hope he doesn't snore. He looks like a snorer. A really loud snorer in fact. I have earplugs of course, but he looks the sort who would cause avalanches with his snoring. I will let you know in the morning. I'm facing the direction of the train so if there is any unexpected braking I will end up on the floor for sure.
After 20 awkward minutes of everyone sitting in silence the silent older Russian, who was sitting on his lower bed (don't forget that younger man is technically sitting on my bed and I'm not sure how much yawning and eye rubbing hints I need to drop before he disappears up to his bunk.) gathered up a few bits and started to make his bed, I then also reached on top of the bed where the pillows and duvet were and brought it down, then he got the hint and we all settled down for the night. There is indeed a hot water cistern on the train, a toilet and even a shower I think. But I won't be trying that on this particular journey. Nope, like a true traveller I will smell tomorrow until I get to my hostel and will be glad of a shower.
12:35 The man did snore, not constantly but occassionally quite loud. It was the best nights sleep, but I did at least sleep and then was woken at 745 by the carriage guard poking me. The 2 guys left the room as I put myself back together and assembled my things. As the train still had about 15 mins until arrival i looked out the window and saw yet more concrete, high rise, angular towerblocks, designed for mass living i think. It so makes me think of George Orwells '1984'. We had arrived in Moscow. I put all my warm clothes on, wrestled myself into my backpack and picked up my daypack and got off the train. It's much like any other platform and I headed into the arrivals area. My paperwork suggested there might be someone there to meet me. I looked around and found no one. So I would have to find my way by myself. This meant the metro underground, and at 8am, it also meant rush hour. I found my way through the bustle, it's more like London now, people don't hold he door open, they barge past and knock you. The fact that I might have been struggling somewhat with a bulk of bags and clearly looking lost didn't deter the rushing past and evil looks that I should be in the way of them getting somewhere. I queued for my ticket, pointed on the map of where I wanted to go and this time got a card instead of a coin.
I way clearly in the way when I gathered up my change, my card, my worldy belongings, and people just started reaching money across me to get their tickets. I walked away, promptly asked a train attendant how to get to tvetsnoy bulvar and was pointed in he direction I needed to go. Having joined a massive throng of people all moving in the same direction a step at a time, I was able to move in a more considered and balanced manner. I went down some escalators and steps and found a cove that I put my bags down in, sat on the rucksack and took off my jacket. I was hot, tired and felt very manky as I hadn't showered yet. It was 830 am. I felt that if I waited a while then rush hour people might subside, I sat for 20 mins and watched the people coming through in waves, it seemed to lull so I picked up and carried on down the steps to the platform. I stared for some moments at the words on the sign, an arrow pointing left and right with names in Cyrillic underneath that as hard as I looked I couldn't make my brain interpret Russian. I took a picture of the map on my phone and pointed at the station I was trying to get to and tapped the odd Russian lady on the shoulder to confirm i was on the right platform and eventually reached my destination. I emerged from the final station to a grey snowy day. The only way i could work out where i was meant to be was by converting the letters i saw into something that was english looking. So Tvetsniy Bulvar looked like it might be called Ubethon Bynbap. Therefore i knew where to get off! People were still bustling around and followed the route to the hostel. It was a 5 min walk over slippery, icy ground and I was relieved to reach the hostel. I climbed the steps and checked in before being taken to my room on the 3rd floor. When I walked in I met steve, an Australian who was also on my tour. I put my kit down and headed straight to the shower. Oh the joy of a hot shower and fresh clothes and feeling human again. I had some breakfast and then steve and I got the metro to red square. Where we saw the kremlin, the church of our saviour, a similar building the church on spilled blood.
I managed to get my phone to choose a network and suddenly found that I had 7 text messages all from Zoya and Neil trying to get hold of me! Damn phone! I called Zoya and arranged to meet her in red square then waited about 20 mins whilst steve went off to the markets.
Zoya arrived, she is the girlfriend of my neighbour on Manchester - Neil. We quickly wen into the shopping mall next to red square to find something to eat and drink, I had lasagne and some roast potatoes,which were weighed before I was given a price. A strange thing they seem to do there. It came to over £8!! Not for nothing is it considered one of the most expensive cities in the world.
We hopped back on the metro which is very cheap- 28 roubles to go anywhere. Essentially that's 60p. How anyone gets around London I don't know, it's so expensive and overly complicated. Our destination was Moscow state university. The underground train station was actually under a bridge! We had a 10 min walk through a woodland path uphill to get to the university. It was also an amazing viewing point for the whole city. They also happen to have an eddie the eagle style ski jump there!
The university is one of stalin's 7 skyscrapers around the city which all have the same architecture. It was a magnificent building, one of many I have seen here. We walked right up to it and found a couple of wedding parties having their photographs being taken there.
Afterwards we went back down to the metro and over to the church of our saviour, another gold domed church with detailed statues and carvings. We had a cup of tea and pancakes in a very posh restaurant right next to it and saw some really quite glameroud people there which made me feel a little out of place in my travelwear once again! There were 2 ladies next to us, who were maybe 70 years old, one had a real fur hat on the other had very short hair but a hand full of very expensive looking rings on her wedding finger, there were probably 5 on that finger alone with precious stones. They smoked between courses and reminded me of Meryl Streep in the film 'the devil wears prada'. When they got up to go more real fur coats and attire was put on and off they went. Such a contrast to some people I've seen, I've seen quite a few very old ladies begging in the streets, which at -15 is not the place these poor old women should be.
After tea I had to get back to the hostel for 5pm to meet the rest of my group and honcho. There was just the 4 of us, me, steve, rishy and Anita, and our guide Ivan.
We wen for dinner nearby where a lot of the food was out so you could point at it. I chose a chicken escaping covered in cheesy spinach and mash potato. I looked all round for some peas or green beans, there was nothing green to be had
23:00 Best thing today, seeing Moscow with new friends
Worst thing today: fighting the underground and my bags to get to hostel
Most beautiful thing: Moscow at night from the university
19:12 Steve, richy and Anita are my travel companions, i shall write more about them when i know them a little better.
Had lovely emails and texts from family and friends and will heed advice from both Gavin and parents on being as careful as possible with my belongings!
This must a fairly dirty city as the contents of my ever running nose is black at the moment!
Weirdly we found a bronze statue of a clown next to a car with a very shiny nose. It is supposed to be good luck to run it. So needing some luck this year I did of course rub the clowns nose and there's a picture to prove it.
21:04 After dinner we went for a 2nd time (for me anyway) up to the university, so another 15 min walk up hill through the woods to see Moscow by night. What a beauty. We could see pretty much all the 7 Stalin skyscrapers.
After going back down into the city we went To the pub for drinks. I had vodka and lemonade where the vodka arrived in a shot glass and bottle of sprite came on the side! Of course I had to ask for another glass to pour the lot into. Everyone had some vodka shots and beers. Ivan, quite eccentrically had a pipe to smoke.
One thing I've noticed as a whole in this country is the amount of police and army men we see everywhere. I'm sure if we had a similar density we'd have far less crime.
I've also discovered what happens to the snow. You see much of the snow is ploughed out of the way and then a digger will collect it and put it in the back of a truck. Where do they go? As we walked home we passed an area where trucks full of snow were waiting to leave their snow in an area where it is put into a melter.
We arrived back at the hostel. A word on sharing a dorm with boys. I went to a girls boarding school, girls don't seem to smell. We came back to our room this evening to find 2 more boys in the room and as lovely as they were out room smelled of BO and feet! I was grateful when someone suggested opening the window. Although I'm not a fan of open windows in -15, tonight I was very grateful! I can cover my eyes, put earplugs in, but covering the nose seems impossible without suffocating!