There seems to be a complex set of unwritten rules and etiquette regarding acceptable behaviour on the train, but given that our Russian is limited to 'hello', 'thank you' and the numbers 1 to 10, we're slow to pick up on much of it. Smoking in non-smoking areas, trailing power cords across the corridor, playing loud music and selling nick-nacks to other passengers all seem to be OK. But we've already been told off for standing in the wrong carriage, not smoking in the smoking area and failing to produce the towel belonging to our compartment's previous occupant.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012
There's some confusion over whether the train attendant will accept our train tickets, and we come incredibly close to missing our train. Thankfully, after some very frantic running between platform and ticket office, and the intervention of the station manager, the train is delayed for us. With the train whistle blowing, locals help pile our stuff onboard, Steph just about manages to hold herself together and the train pulls away.
We spend the next 56 hours onboard, alighting only for brief stops at a handful of Siberian industrial towns.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
We take a break from the train and spend a day in the city of Yekaterinburg. It's a pretty utilitarian-looking place, and somehow manages to feel wintery even under the bright sun of a summer's day.
Standing out from the rest was the Church of the Blood, dedicated to the recently canonized Tsars murdered in the revolution. A U-turn from the pro-revolutionary monuments in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Over the Urals
Our first two-night train journey, from Moscow to Yekaterinburg. We get another frosty reception from the train attendant due to the tandem boxes, but Steph improves relations by throwing up all over the corridor outside her office.
Monday, August 27, 2012
In one afternoon, we saw the preserved remains of two Soviet heros; Lenin, father of the Revolution, and Belka, one of the first dogs to go into space. We take our turn to get a photo of St. Basil's in Red Square, and tour the USSR Economic Achievements Exhibition, full of enormous, but now crumbling, Soviet monuments.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
People keep telling us that St. Petersburg and Moscow aren't the 'real Russia'. It certainly seems that there are two distinct classes of train.
Friday, August 24, 2012
The Winter Palace houses everything from Egyptian hieroglyphs to French impressionist paintings, in stunning rooms that go on and on and on. The State Museum of the Political History of Russia is equally comprehensive, and the elderly attendants are insistant that we read every last word.
Our taxi driver knew only a handful of English words, but two of them were 'Top Gear' and he was very proud of his Soviet-era taxi with 900,000km on the clock.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
We join 1000 other cruise ship guests and invade Tallinn's old walled city. The old buildings are impressive, but it's a rather surreal, Disneyland-esque experience.
Much to our surprise and delight, it turned out that our ferry to St. Petersburg is in fact Russia's only cruise ship, complete with very cheesy entertainment.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
We spend the day sightseeing in Stockholm. We see the changing of the palace guard, complete with the military band's rendition of Sweden's winning Eurovision entry.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Four trains take us from London to Stockholm. The bisected tandem and its custom boxes perform admirably, but our luggage still turns heads on the platform.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Ready for the off
Our stuff has shipped, the flat is empty, the bike is boxed up, and we're ready to go at St Pancreas!