YEA! WE MADE IT! We are in Japan

May 29th, 2003 , 10:40

YEA! WE MADE IT! We are in Japan and I’m sitting in a tiny little cubical trying to deal with an unusual keyboard layout. Any mistakes are due to the keyboard. No honest, they are.

The ferry crossing was fine. It was interesting going up the Huangpu River out of Shanghai. Our room was quite comfortable and there were very very few people on the ferry. Joe reckons no more than 15 people. So very quiet except for the infant in the next room. We could see Japan from the afternoon of the second day so spent some time on deck and a lot of film got used. Got to watch the docking this morning as well, then sat and waited and waited and waited to leave the ship. Got to watch Mr Bean though so it wasn’t too bad. Immigration was easy, but customs was tough. We got loads of questions about our travels and then our small bag was searched. Joe has been saving loads of those little plastic zip lock type bags for some reason – you know, the ones that drug dealers use to sell their product? So that was a bit interesting. We also had to show our airline tickets, but he evetually let us loose in Osaka! Where we promptly got lost. Headed out in search of the shuttle bus and found a train station instead. Managed to figure out where we were and where we were going but then couldn’t figure out how to get the ticket. Finally a woman stopped to ask if we needed help and showed us that we had to put the money in the machine first, then chose the ticket. Oh. She was heading our way, at least through the two stops where we would have to change trains so she went with us and showed us where to go. Very nice. Then gave me a lovely fan.

We have found in general that the people here are much nicer than in China and it’s much easier, even just to walk around. Much more relaxed.

So we are checked into a hotel for a couple of nights, have seen Osaka Castle, are now walking around the hang-out area of Osaka looking for a celebratory drink, and generally enoying ourselves. Tomorrow it’s the aquarium and more looking about and then we are off again on Saturday. Hopefully will continue to find Internet places and keep everyone informed!

Top travel tip for China

May 26th, 2003 , 5:44

Yea, found an place to post that’s about a quarter of the cost of the hotel internet access.

Top travel tip for China: if you go through Beijing don’t admit it or you won’t get a hotel anywhere. Joe finally told the Ramada in Nanjing that we’d just flown in from Ulan Bator, so we spent the couple of days there sneaking in and out so we wouldn’t have to give a flight number! We got our train in UB and I must say that Deluxe First Class is not as good as First class on the Trans-Siberian – also felt much more insecure. The Chinese method of finding their compartment is to just walk down the train opening doors at random. If they see something interesting – like a couple of brits having a cup of tea – they just stop in the door and stare. So we had to keep our door closed and locked; however, that didn’t completely help as at one point someone *unlocked* the door, had a look, then closed and locked it again! On that train the little British Gas Metre key we’d brought came in very handy as did the straps – we locked everything and wrapped the straps around the door to keep the nosey Chinese out. However the last bit of the train journey is pretty spectacular as you go up into the mountains and along the Great Wall. We even stopped at a station that had wonderful views of the Wall and everyone got out to get photos. It was interesting as there were very few tourists on the wall, if any. The car parks were nearly empty.

Don’t know if Beijing (where we haven’t been, honest guv) was empty or not as we have nothing to compare it to. But we hurried to Tiananmen Square and got a few photos before our train left for Nanjing. We spent very little time in Beijing (and according to Joe we weren’t there at all). The train to Nanjing was nice. We travelled soft class which is pretty nice even if it is four bunk. I got a bit worried when we were put in with a Chinese bloke who got out his beer and cucumbers, cranked the music up, and started loudly munching on his cucumbers – all I could think of was a kappa! But Joe got to talking to him and he was quite nice. He even rang his mate who spoke English to help us fill in one of the numerous health forms we had to complete – his English was very basic. Turns out he works for China Nuclear Industry in the Construction. From what we could make out he’s an engineer building Nuclear Power stations! oops. Joe broke protocol and didn’t offer one of his business cards as we were getting on with him. We got several health checks there as well and a bit worried as they kept taking my temperature: come in and take it (with a nifty little thingy that they aim at your forehead), have a bit of a chat, go away for a chat, come back and take it again. Finally they came in specifically to say that I was ok. Gosh.

Nanjing was pretty, though loads of building work going on. All cheap accommodation, i.e. dorm type, in China is closed so we’ve had to bust our budget a bit on hotels. However, we have found places to stay which is a bonus. Even if Joe has told porkies to get the rooms. We saw the bell and drum tower in Nanjing, had some good meals, drank tea, and did loads of walking. Oh yes, if you order a four fruit frappe in Nanjing you get a huge plate of ice covered in, yep, four fruits (I think they were prunes, apple, watermelon and loads of red beans) with a drizzle of vanilla. We also went to the top of Purple Mountain! Made a few mistakes however. We went to the park and walked along the Ming Walls which were impressive and the park was quite nice. Loads of people out exercising, playing, walking, riding bikes, generally out having a good time. Then we made our first mistake and went into the wrong park which was simply a sculpture garden. Took ages to find our way back out again as there was construction going on. Finally got out and found our way to the cable car for the mountain where we made our second mistake and bought a ticket for only one way, deciding to walk back down. Cable car is a bit posh as it gives the idea of a nice little car to sit in; this was actually a chair lift with only a little bar. Quite a long ride up, about half an hour, and we were about the only people on the thing! We passed only about 2 other groups going down. It was lovely going up as the mountain is covered in forest and we were riding along at about tree top level looking down at the path below us. However, the really good views were going the other way. Made it to the top and walked around looking at the view, then headed down past loads of little statues and grottos and scary dark caves with models in them. And here’s the other mistake – the path is not at all well signposted (even the Chinese were getting lost) so we did some scrambling around on the mountain trying to find our way down! By the time we got to the bottom we were too knackered to do anything else so I missed seeing the Ming Tomb.

Then we got the train to Shanghai – hard seat this time which was actually nicer than British rail standard. Three and half hours later we were in Shanghai. I’d booked a hotel before we left Nanjing and what a hotel! First however, we had to go through the health checks, many forms and had our temperature taken. Also had to show our tickets from Nanjing, but he seemed willing to believe that we’d arrived in Nanjing from Ulan Bator and we didn’t have to mention the train at all. We’re also not allowed to have a key to our room, so every time we go into the hotel we have to report to our floor attendant and fill out an ‘egression report’ and have a health check. The hotel we are in is the former Astor House and the lobby is still quite impressive. The lift has an operator, no buttons just a lever, and the lobby on our floor looks pretty normal. But once we’re past the floor attendant’s station it gets very impressive: the whole thing opens out to a medievel banquet hall. It sours up to the glass roof, with a gallery running around at the next level. Down the centre of this is benches with ‘gas lamps’ beside them, and the brass room signs are on hooks outside the door. Apparently ‘Albort Einstein’ stayed in a room a couple of doors down from us. The room is also impressive – huge – we have a entrance lobby, with walk-in closet, huge main room and, not quite my marble bathroom with huge marble tub, but pretty close!

The first day in Shanghai we got our ferry tickets, so we are ready for Japan. We have even seen our ferry in port here and it should be a comfortable journey. We done a lot of walking – up and down the Bund as our hotel is at one end, just over the bridge. Any time we go into any building we get our temperature taken. We’ve even been on the Bund Tourist Tunnel which is definitely an interesting experience. A very interesting experience. People’s Square was fun and the Shanghai Museum is lovely. The Square seems to be where everyone hangs out – they were skating, flying kites, blowing bubbles and just generally hanging. We sat and watched and then walked along getting stuff on sticks. So Joe has had his meat on a stick. And I got a dumpling. We’ve also been down to the Yu Yuan Gardens though we didn’t go into the gardens themselves, just the shopping area around them. Had more dumplings, but a different sort, for breakfast – they were freshly cooked as well. You could stand there and watch the people making the dumplings – there was quite a queue and for good reason as the dumplings were very good. We also headed out one night to try the ‘food street’ near our hotel – wild. The neon was so bright you needed shades, there were fish tanks every where, and people keep approaching you to come in and say ‘English Menu’. The resturant we finally chose said ‘English Menu’ but it wasn’t really. Anyone know what ‘Four flowers on a mountain’ is? Or how about ‘Four happy vegetables’? Those are just the two I can remember, there were loads of others.

I’m shopped out so glad that we’re sailing tomorrow morning. Up early and to the port which is only about 15 minutes from our hotel, which is why I chose it, but boy I’m glad I did. I would certainly recommend going there if just to see the place! So another update when we finally get to Japan.

WE DID IT!

May 24th, 2003 , 12:35

WE DID IT! Have made it to Shanghai, but having difficulty finding Internet access – the hotel access is very expensive so this won’t be long. Will update further from Japan – yes, we now have our tickets and have found the ferry port so are ready for Japan!

Shanghai is a shopper’s dream, so a bit of a nightmare for me. Hate shopping. Still hate shopping even in China. Especially hate shopping in little Chinese markets where they grab you to try to drag you into their shop/stall/whatever. Nanjing was quieter, but we got stared at a lot. Obviously not a place many foreigners go.

More when we get to Japan!

Out of Ulan Bator

May 17th, 2003 , 6:37

This trip just keeps getting better and better! Up early on the Thursday (I think it was Thursday – it’s been very easy to lose track of the days), threw our stuff into the back seat of a blue Russian van, climbed in behind the stuff, and we were off! We also very quickly learned that our driver didn’t speak English! Well, he spoke more English than we speak Mongolian but that’s not saying much! Out of Ulan Bator on paved roads, through an arch and checkpoint, then a left turn onto what we’d be riding along for the rest of the time – a dirt track. Mongolian roads seem to just be where everyone decides to drive – so dirt tracks, some times rocky or muddy, but tracks all the same. We spent the time bouncing around the back of a blue Russian van! We probably could have stopped more often to see stuff, but being British we just looked out the windows. And what did we see? We’ve tried to think of how to describe it, but it just can’t be done. Forget pictures of Mongolia – the real thing is much much much more amazing! The scenery changes quite a lot for what you may think of as grassland, and we went through several types of scenery – grassland, mountain, different sort of mountain, hills, lakes – and all of it just amazing.

We also managed to see some of the wildlife, but don’t have a clue what we actually saw as we don’t have any books with us! So we decided, in true British tradition, to name the things ourselves. In no particular order we saw: Mongolian grass and ger (yurt) sparrows (well, they looked like tree and house sparrows but as there are no trees or houses . . .), Mongolian Steppe eagles (huge things and beautiful), Mongolian cattle egret (grey, black, and white birds that looked like they didn’t fly), various Mongolian finch birds, Mongolian hoopee, Mongolian furry critters – well, let’s be a bit more specific, Mongolian groundhogy thing, Mongolian weasely thing, Mongolian foxy thing, and Mongolian rodenty thing. We also saw horses, cattle, camels, sheep, goats. Up close and personal even. Like riding. At least we had to ride a horse and camel – just round the yard. Some of the other things we did: ate mutton soup with noodles (watched the noodles being made); watched a camel being sheared; played shepardherd to a lost lamb (decided I was it’s mother and I couldn’t get it to stop following me!); slept in two different gers and met two different groups of Mongolians (never did figure out the relationships); milked a camel (Joe got out of doing that one); watched sheep and goats being milked; helped round up lambs/kids (Joe got to do that and let one get by); went to an amazing shrine/temple hidden in the hills; saw some wonderful scenery; changed two tires (one on the first day which was pretty straight forward – flat off and spare on – and the second the second day – funny that – which involved taking the tire off the rim and replacing the inner tube); and bounced around the back of a blue Russian van trying to get pictures that will never do the place justice.

We now have our tickets to Beijing – deluxe first class (gee) – and we leave tomorrow morning. So we have seen nothing of Ulan Bator – we’re pretty tired and need to get packed up as we leave at 7am tomorrow morning. Oh well. We plan to go straight through Beijing – only stopping long enough to get a ticket to Shanghai. We’ve met several people doing our trip the other way and that’s what they’ve done (in Beijing long enough to get tickets to UB!) and it looks like it’s no trouble. Japan is still allowing flights from China, including from Beijing, and our ferry is still running – so we’re off again tomorrow! Probably no update until we are in Shanghai, hopefully Tuesday!

Posting from Outer Mongolia!

May 14th, 2003 , 6:13

Posting from Outer Mongolia! We made it to Mongolia after a couple of days on a train. Have now run into our first contact with Sars prevention – all the border control/customs/immigration people were wearing masks and our train was sprayed with something nasty and disinfective smelling. People in Ulan Bator are wearing masks, espcially in public places. So we’ve taken to wearing ours now. Still planning to maintain our travel plans, but will probably just go straight through Beijing.

We are in Ulan Bator which our guide book says ‘Mongolia has, on average, 283 sunny days each year.’ Just guess what’s it’s doing right now. Yep. Absolutely pouring it down. And snow out in the mountains. I think we’ve brought this stupid cloud with us from London!

A note about our blog – we have now made this public, so if you lose the URL you should now be able to search on the Blogger site and find us. Of course, if you’re reading this now this little piece of information is of no use and if you aren’t reading it cause you lost our URL it’s no use at all! But there you are.

The train journey was a bit more interesting between Irkutsk and Ulan Bator. The scenery changed completely and kept changing; though we missed our last look at Lake Baikal. Went by that late at night as we were on the very very very very slow train. Even when it was actually moving it wasn’t doing much of it. A bit more like Railtrack! We were also in a kupe compartment (four bunks rather than just two) but were only in with one Russian woman. She didn’t speak any English and we speak no Russian, but we managed to communicate fine! We also met a Dutch couple on the train who were travelling the same way. They’d flown to Moscow though and were flying out of Ulan Bator to Tokyo. As they hadn’t planned to go to Tokyo they borrowed our guide book to see what they would see! So the trip was much more interesting.

The border was even more interesting – took hours. We went into the station and all got out for a stretch. Joe wandered off in search of a bank to get rid of the roubles we had left. Our carriage attendant told us all to get back on the train, but Joe was still missing. The Dutch couple went a bit hysterical thinking we were leaving Joe behind – I knew we’d be at the station a while yet but was worried the train would be moved to where Joe either wouldn’t find it or wouldn’t be able to get back on. So we were looking out the windows for him and getting the carriage attendant to re-open the door. And here came Joe, sauntering along, humming and looking around. Dum de dum – all the time in the world. (sigh) It turned out that we were merely shunted out of the station back towards Irkutsk, then shunted back in, then shunted back towards Irkutsk . . . about four or five times. Then we were shunted to a little siding just beyond the station and our little carriage was left all on it’s own. For five hours. So everyone got out and went shopping, walking whatever. In the rain. I read Tolstoy. Joe found the bank and changed the roubles. He also found a nifty little market and a little food shop where the attendant was adding purchases up on a abacus then putting the amount into a till.

Finally we got shunted a bit more, then attached to another train and the border control started. That was the easy bit. We went over the border – barbed wire, tanks, and amazing scenery – beautiful! And on to the first station in Mongolia, about 20km from the border. Customs barely looked at us, but went through every single bag that every single Mongolian had. And caught a bunch of smugglers. That took another four or five hours! But at last we were on our way – slowly but on our way. And arrived here at 6 in the morning. Had to sit in the station waiting for everything to open, then had an adventurous ride on a Mongolian bus to the centre. Found a nice place to stay and are off to the wilds of Mongolia tomorrow morning early! Going to stay with nomadic families in gers and hopefully see some wild life! So won’t be able to update this until we are back on Saturday – hopefully will be able to update before we are off again early Sunday morning.

Thanks for the e-mails. Postmaster seems to be running a bit slow so I haven’t been able to answer any, but we are reading them!

An update Irkutsk

May 11th, 2003 , 7:23

An update from an Internet cafe in Irkutsk – with loads to say! The train ride was good – we have pictures of trees, train stations, trees, train carriage, trees, trains, trees and maybe a few pictures of trees! It was surprising how little the landscape changed once we were outside of Moscow. It was mainly taiga with some marsh and stayed that way. Joe was disappointed with the Urals as they are quite small and not Alp like at all. They are more like the Smoky Mountains in the eastern US. We travelled first class which was a new experience. We had a little cabin to ourselves, in fact for quite a bit of the trip we had the carriage to ourselves! We were the only ones in the carriage travelling all the way from Moscow to Irkutsk; other people got on and off at various stations. Our meals were brought to us and we were generally looked after, but weren’t allowed to go exploring around the train. The one time we did go exploring one of our carriage attendants caught us and was a bit cross. So that was the end of the exploration of the Trans-Siberian train! We did get out at stations and walk – each area/station had their own speciality. So we started with people selling glass and china, then knitwear, then fur, onto smoked fish, and then veg and bread. The attendants all knew what to get off and buy. We didn’t get much as we got meals on the train, but Joe tried the caviar bread (yuck, but he seemed to like it) and we had ice cream at one stop.

We arrived a bit early in Irkutsk – all the way accross Siberia, four days, and our train is early. Maybe Railtrack should get some lessons! So we were standing on the platform looking around a bit lost at 3 in the morning, but Sergey (our guide) turned up right on time and whisked us out of the station, through the taxi touts and into a waiting car. We’re staying with a local family in a little house on the outskirts of town. Our host does work with Greenpeace locally and so it was arranged through the office. It’s a nice little place and it’s great staying with a family and seeing how they live. We have been well fed as well. But our first morning it was a cup of tea and off to sleep – we were too wound up about missing our stop to get any sleep on the train.

We were up at 9 and got a shower! What a luxery. I’d managed to wash on the train (we had hot water) but that was by filling the sink with water and pouring it over me with my mug. It was wonderful to get under an actual shower and feel clean. Then we were off around Irkutsk. The first day was just walking around the town – several times. We went to the train station, which is across the river Angara from the town, and arranged our tickets to Ulan Bator – which was an adventure in itself – then across the river and along the Angara. It was a beautiful day, very sunny, and a holiday (Victory Day) so everyone was out walking along the river or in the city centre enjoying the holiday and sun. We sat in the centre for a bit watching people go by and generally had a lovely day seeing the city.

The next day, yesterday, we headed out for Lake Baikal. Beautiful. Very short time there, so we have to come back and spend a few days actually at the lake. The diving should be wonderful. We did dip our hands in (5 extra years of life according to legend). We also walked a bit along the shore and up the cliff for a view over the lake. Got hit by squally rain but otherwise it was nice. On the way back to Irkutsk we stopped at the open air museum, which is where several types of Siberian wooden buildings have been brought and rebuilt or reconstructed. Had lunch there – smoked omul bought at the lake, stuffed bread, blinis, vodka and even Lake Baikal water. So a very interesting day.

Speaking of food – since we’ve arrived in Irkutsk we have been very well fed. We get breakfast at the host house and the table is loaded with food – we’ve had buckwheat, omlette, and rice cereal and those always served with cheese, sausage (more like what we would think of as hot dogs), bread, cream, boiled eggs, sweets. We have also tried or been fed dumplings (more like stuffed pasta, but steamed) with sour cream, blinis, omul caviar, loads of salads with mainly cabbage, beetroot, carrot, cucumber and tomato, all sorts of breads – generally wonderful food.

Today we have been ‘doing’ museums – just two. The Regional Museum and one of the Decemberists houses – the other was closed for repair. So an interesting day for me, boring for Joe.

We are off again tomorrow evening around 8.30pm heading for Ulan Bator. We’ll be in UB until 18 May and hope to get out of the city on a trek – possibly off to the Gobi desert! Sergey has been in the Gobi so we’re getting pointers. We have had a wonderful time here – our host family and guide have been more than wonderful and we have enjoyed being here. Just have to come back to spend more time at the Lake! Hopefully we can update when we get to UB!

Dead People

May 5th, 2003 , 8:37

So we are in Moscow in the Greenpeace office after two good days. Highlights: being met at the train station by a woman waving a Greenpeace calendar; getting a tour of Moscow by car and seeing the view of the city from the highest point; walking through Red Square; seeing the Kremlin in the rain; going to the Bolshoi Theatre and seeing Don Quitoxe. We’ve had lovely food, vodka, kvass and met some wonderful people. I can say ‘thank you’ in Russian now and that is about the total of my Russian. Poor Joe couldn’t get on-line to do the updates but did type his bits:

Day 1 : This is the first day of our trip leaving the house at 6.30 ish on the first of May leaving the anarchists behind to start our own kind of insanity hop the tube and down to Waterloo station. After a sit and wait for the brussel train to be called, every thing is fine until we start boarding and the dead people are on the moving walkway and thay aren’t going to walk and they’re going to stand two abreast and chat. Make the train find the seats and not too much fuss until I go to get some tea and coffe: immediately agent 78 is alerted probably named after his age and IQ. He cunningly manages a blocking manouver that Schumacher would have been proud of, and holds the pole position all the way to the buffet car; then with a strock of qenius orders evey thing thay have not got. Get the tea and coffe, back to the seat find its a tour of dead poeple, as two are missing presummed still getting to their seats. At Brussels we make quick get away as the dead poeple are still hooking up there god knows what (seriously one of the people have a medical thing on wheels). A quick panine and water then off to the thalys – the fast train to Koln. Not much to say really apart fron the poor train gaurd had to announce everything in French, German, Dutch and English, which means that you are in the station before he finished, and the English was always last. About 10 minutes before we got to Koln he started his spiel, at which point a lady jumped up and was off, coat bags and to the door camping in front of it. The train stops she hits the button jumps out the door which then shuts behind her. Evey one else gets out on the other side; when we left she was still trying to get back on the train so she could get to the platform! A stop for some pre Moscow trip shopping and some German train station food which was ok (I had potatos, root veg and liver and onions, Kathleen had the sausage and mustard. Up to plaform three and a wait for the sleeper. It arives a very Russion looking guard looks at our tickets and we are now in a 2 by 1 m cabin till Moscow. So here I type and the poor gaurd stick his head round the corner and speaks and wonders off we have not a clue what he said. Kathleen has a laughing fit (you probably have to be there :). So that it for today over to the speel checker (kathleen )

Spell checker here. It’s been a good trip except for the big black cloud that has followed us from home. And the fact that I am travelling with a total nerd who has to post a report from the train! At least he’s a cute nerd. The laughing fit was due to the totally matter-of-fact manner the guard poked his head into our ‘room’ and made the statement and the look of total bewilderment on Joe’s face which was mirrored on mine! It has been a good day and I look forward to arriving in Moscow – especially as there is no shower on the train.

Day 2 : This started at about 3 AM; we crossed the border to Poland, a quick swip of the passports by the Polish border guards and a where are you going and we we’re through, if a bit tired. Got up about 8 ish not sleeping really but not too bad. 9 o’clock we stop in Warsaw for an hour and get a quick trip out and up and down the platform. Having fun with the Russian conductor who speaks no English, but got some coffee and biscuits for breakfast 🙂 The scenery has been quite nice. The most obvious difference has been the worker in the fields hand sowing and ploughing by horse; the buildings are tall and high piched roofs. It took about 10 hours to cross Poland and arrive at Belarus about 1 pm. This looks like a real border. Swiped out of Poland and then shunted across to Belarus passing the army barricks and guards. As far as we can make out we have been processed by Belarus and Russian immigration so may be no more three am wake up we hope 🙂 It took about 3 hours to change the wheels of our carriage, as the Russains use a railtrack 3.5 inches wider then Europe. Before we went into the shed we had a load of street sellers jump on passing through the carriage selling champaign, vodka, beer and salad veg and news papers. Into the shed with all the people still in the carriage, the carriages are separated out then lined up and jacked up, the wheels are unhooked and moved out of the way, new ones are put in place and the carriage lowered down, the carriages are put back together and then we leave the shed and back to the station, where we waited till 5 30 before carrying on. I have put another hour on the watch as I think the time zone has changed? Off into sunny Belarus full of trees, marsh, and the odd factory. Everyone seems to be sitting outside chatting, smoking, drinking, or all over the above. Very little else to say so far, only sparse mobile phone signals, so haven’t been able to try an upload yet. The one in Germany finally got through but would not accept my password. humm. Over to the spell checker, but battery is running thin so we see

HA! Battery ran out before I got a chance to check it so it’s already day 3 . . .

Day 3 : The battery’s on charge so here we go. After putting the laptop to bed we prepared for the next day, packing and sorting, laid down and watched the world (well Belarus) go by and the sun set, passing a classic Edward Hopper (editor: that painter that did Nighthawks – we can’t seem to agree on the name) scene of this waiting room station in sunset with sodium glow on a man in a suit sitting with his paper, only the inside was lit and it had orange walls ceiling to half way then red to the floor. The sunset took a long time. Finally pulled into Minsk station (?) and stopped so we pulled the blinds and to sleep, the train trundeled on. Must have slept some. At 7.30 ish got up, got some tea and coffe, and had a fine breakfast of pickled gerkins, to finish them up. We packed away the beds so had seats, and watched Moscow roll in. The small shacks and sheds gave way to closer and bigger buildings, the bigger houses to tenament blocks, the blocks to roads and stores, and all finally to city life as we now expect to find anywhere only the words have changed. We pull in on time to a line of porters and taxi drivers, ignoring them started looking for Irina. Then coming up the platform was a woman with a greenpeace calander – that had to be her 🙂 Out of the station, a quick picture of our mobile hotel for the past few days, through the station a quick look up to see a painted ceiling of George and the dragon, though to a car park and putting our bags in the car a tour of the city. Point here point there and this park and that statue, Moscow in 10 minutes and only one ticket. To the hotel, up to the room, a quick wash, and out. Changed some money and went to a My-My (possibly Russian for cow ??). The menu had English subtitles as we are now on our own. The food tasted good even for fast food. Then a long strole across the river around Gorky park, though the art market, across the river again, through Red square and back to the hotel by tram. Over to the overseer for spelling 🙂

We won’t be completely free of 3am border crossings – we still have several borders to go! Irina meeting us at the station and driving us around Moscow was a bonus – gave us a good idea what to see. And she showed us the Bolshoi Theatre! Can’t believe Joe left that out! There are several statues of Pushkin as well. Unfortunately St Basil Cathedral has scaffolding around it so it isn’t quite as impressive. But I’ve now been in Red Square! Going to see the Kremlin tomorrow as it was getting late and we are very tired. Hard to believe I’m actually in Moscow. Oh yes, our hotel room overlooks the horse race track!

Day 4 To finish off day 3 we wanderedd out of the hotel and down to the road, looking for something to eat. The inablity to read cyrillic become a problem as interpreting from the sights and symbols outside is tricky, finaly spot an ausie pub on the other side of the road, near the railway station; crossed the road and took a chance they did food. The menu had pictures and English on most things. ordered drinks and waited for the food. It took a while but when it arrived it was better than it looked on the menu, so a main course of chicken for me, duck in orange for Kathleen. Kathleen finished off with cheesecake and an irish coffee and an glinents for me (which turned out to be a mulled wine /punch hot 🙂 a nice strole back to the hotel just in time to watch fireworks from the balcony. Up and down to breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of a block of egg ? some where between scambled and omlette, with pinapple juice, instant coffe and a slice of raw salmon on bread. This produced the quote of the day from Kathleen, “I don’t mind seeing new things and trying new food but not this early in the morning”. Out of the hotel on to the bus and down to the center. We get off a bit early and walk. We walk over to the Kremlin ticket office (it displayed information in English) 350 roubles for our ticket into the Kremlin and various churches and a display of Faberge easter eggs, an extra 50 roulbes to be able to take photographs. We started with the easter display and the rain started. For us the Faberge was the most interesting part. The churches are a bit uh ah. Unfortunatly the rain just got heavier and the wind worse, so not much wandering around 🙁 We lasted as long as we could then got into a shopping mall nearby. we wandered around looking at things, trying the ice cream (try the lemon sorbay). Leaving this we ran for the bus hit it just right and away in the the wind and rain to the right stop and back to the hotel. A coule of phone calls from Irina later i think we going to the balshi ? we’ll see 🙂

The spell checker – yep we went to the Bolshoi! Wonderful Then off for a quick meal as the resturant staff were trying to close and go home. Irina and her husband are wonderful and really got us as much Russian things as possible. What a fabulous evening.