Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Russia 2012

Well I am back from Mother Russia and shall now share my adventures live on the worldwide web!

On the 8th October we flew out to Moscow Vnukovo airport. We arrived on time but stood in the unmoving passport control queue for over an hour before they decided to shove us through. We then got a car to our hotel, we were glad we pre-booked since the journey was over 2 hours and only cost us 1600 roubles (about £30). Here is where we got to see the absolute chaos that is Moscow traffic!
We finally arrived and checked into the hotel. The hotel 'Sherston' was kind of old-fashioned Soviet style, but it was good enough.

The next morning we headed further into the centre of Moscow because we needed to pick up our tickets for the train to St Petersburg. Here was where the fun started. We had received a note from the company who had the tickets, telling us their office was '100m from Proletarskaya metro station'. They neglected to mention in which direction, or from which of the four exits the office was 100m. After two hours of walking up and down, three unhelpful and very expensive phone calls to the office, and a conversation with a babushka who tried to help but really knew as little as we did, we finally jumped in a taxi which took us about one minute down the road to the office.
Crisis averted, we headed off for some sightseeing.

The first place we went was Novodevichy Convent ('Новоде́вичий монасты́рь'), which is pretty large and also has a cemetery full of famous Russians, such as Boris Yeltsin and Nikolai Gogol. 

We then tried to trek up a hill to get a view of Moscow, but ended up coming across some sort of Russian children's olympic training camp. Ummm!

That evening, we headed to Prospekt Mira, to a restaurant I wanted to visit. 'Kavkazskaya Plennitsta' ('Kidnapping Caucasian Style') is a themed restaurant in the style of a popular 1960s Soviet comedy film of the same name. It's one of my favourite films, so I really wanted to check it out. The restaurant was great! Some of the food was a little on the pricey side, but that's to be expected if you want to find good food in Moscow. The food was Georgian/ Caucus style, and the atmosphere was great.


Things learnt on Day One:
-How to navigate the metro system (after some uh... teething problems)
-You can't get a metro map in a metro station
-Russian directions are not the same as other directions
-People steal milkways, so shops lock them away 

Quotes of the day by Smurf;
"They don't have disabled people in Russia, do they?"
"I feel like Mother Theresa. Instead of children flocking to me, the birds do."

"Problem is... those ducks might be religious." 

The next day we went into the centre of Moscow to Red Square!

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan 
St Basil's 

Lenin's Mausoleum. It was closed so we didn't get to see him :(

After lunch we went to look at the Kremlin
The Unknown Solider
Each part of the Kremlin is you want to go into is a different charge. Since we weren't too interested in the Armory museum, we went to Cathedral Square. 

Later, as we were looking around the souvenir stalls, the weather brightened up.

We then got on the metro and went across to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which was pretty epic.

Once it was dark, we went back to Red Square to see it lit up.

The following day we went back into the centre again, to look around Manege Square;

...The Bolshoi Theatre; 

...And Lenin Library;

Komsomolskaya metro station 
Afterwards, we did some shopping before heading back to the hotel to pack. 
The next morning we had to take our bags to Leningradsky station, where we would be taking the overnight sleeper train to St Petersburg later that night. We decided to take the bags and put them in left luggage. That was quite an experience! After queuing up for ages waiting for a locker to become free we finally rammed our bags in for ten hours, for the very cheap price of 120 roubles. After this we went to the zoo, and got dinner to kill some time. 

Moscow was a huge city, and not unlike most others in terms of people being in a hurry, some rude, others helpful. There was very little English spoken, and almost no signs whatsoever, not even in the centre, which was surprising considering this was the most touristy area of the city. Thankfully, being able to read Russian, I was able to navigate the metro and road signs without too much difficulty. Shame my spoken skills aren't up to as much! We discovered very quickly on day one that I, apparently, am extremely Russian-looking. On the first day, eight people in total stopped me in the street to ask for directions/ babble at me in Russian. Most looked quite perturbed when I told them in pretty poor Russian 'I don't speak Russian very well.' Understatement. In total, over 20 people asked me for directions whilst I was in Moscow. DO I REALLY LOOK THAT RUSSIAN? 

Our train departed from Leningradsky station at 00:50.
We were in a 4 berth cabin, in which they had managed to squash two bunk beds. We roomed with some absolute random Russian guys.

It was actually quite comfortable though and a good experience. Although I somehow managed to lose my pyjamas. I WONDER WHERE THEY ARE NOW.

We arrived in Saint Petersburg at 9am, after an eight hour journey. After leaving our bags at the hotel we headed out to explore.
St Petersburg is A LOT smaller than Moscow. It is also more touristy. And everyone speaks English, very, very well. Our hotel this time, Sky Hotel, was right in the centre. 
Kazanskiy Cathedral, close to our hotel

We then crossed the road to see the Church on Spilled Blood, which was amazing.

Later, we headed over to St Isaac's Square

St Isaac's Cathedral 

And to the Bronze Horseman, which is one of the most famous landmarks in the city 

The next day (after sleeping in a room, not a moving train!) we went to the grounds of Yusupov's Palace, where Rasputin was murdered.

..And to the nearby St Mary's Cathedral

In the afternoon, we went over to one of the other islands, Zayachy. 
First, we saw Vladimir Cathedral;

View across the other islands:

The ship was a restaurant. But it was pretty. 

These 'wedding locks' were everywhere. Basically couples write/carve their names into them and just chain them to fences. 
This one is 'Dima & Masha' 

Beach around Peter & Paul Fortress

Peter & Paul Fortress
Peter & Paul Cathedral

On our final day we had planned to go to the Hermitage Museum, but it was closed LOL. Instead we went to the nearby Zoological museum on Vasilyevsky Island.
The Hermitage Museum
Famous Sphinx on Vasilyevsky Island
St Andrew's Cathedral

And there you have it! The full adventures of Smurf & Rachel in Russia.
On the way back we flew through Copenhagen, where the prats on security confiscated Smurf's Bacardi due to 'airport rules.' Unfortunately for them, the six bottles of vodka in our cases went undetected.

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