Transiberian Train journey

Lots of bucket list ticks going on right now. Transiberian Train!!! I’m so excited! 4 days on a train, eventually arriving in Baikal.

I boarded in Moscow, and as soon as I saw the room, I kinda thought ‘oh dear god, what have I done’. Me in a room with three strangers for four days! Eek!

I boarded after midnight so climbed straight into my bunk and passed out.

I always thought I was a light sleeper, turns out, I’m not. I slept right through two people leaving the room and the beds being re-made!

First day was mainly me exploring the limited space, I didn’t want to sit in the room for 4 days, I would go crazy, so i ventured out and found the restaurant cart.

Trying to be frugal after spending money like a millionaire at a strip bar in Saint Petersburg, I only ordered green tea just so I could sit there, read and enjoy the scenery.

That didn’t last long.

As soon as the Russians who can speak a bit of English find out there’s an English speaker on board, they crowd round to practice their skills!

I watched as they downed shots of vodka, chasing it with either beer or fruit juice and slowly ate a meal of potato and fish.

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Space Museum

Pretty amazing sculptures to show the location of the space museum, although I had to walk all the way around to find the entrance!

The first Russian space suit was really short!

Space dogs. Belka and Strelka. These are the ones that went into space, orbited and came back and survived.

Space inspired art and adverts.

I am loving the little porcelain figurines. Such a random thing to have a figure of, a spaceman!

Inside the space capsule.

This is where I get lost, I need to research my space history here, but from what I remember there was almost a race between Russia and the USA to get to the moon first. Here is a picture of a flag and a bit of space dirt, which was presented to the Russians, by Nixon. It says they took the flag into space and back and collected the dirt for the Russians. Is it me, or is that a ‘in your face, we got there first’ gesture?

This is the space suit of the astronaut of Michael Collins who was aboard the Apollo 1 which landed on the moon.

Don’t know about you, but if I traveled all the way to the moon, I’m going outside to have a gander!

Then all we get is all the Luna robot information. So we landed on the moon, then after that we just send robots? Wouldn’t we send the robots first?

I still have a lot of questions about space! Maybe I should visit NASA next!

Moscow day two

Went back into the city and visited Gorky Park. A giant area to escape the city. Over winter becomes a giant ice rink. And now, in spring, roller skaters everywhere, walkers, dogs, kids climbing up bridges.

The sweetness of doing nothing. Just enjoying being, walking, people watching. No pressure, just taking it all in.

I realised there was a Couchsurfing English language group meeting that afternoon, so I messaged them to join them.

There were a few characters there, and a very handsome Russian, who I obviously was not paired with. Gutted.

Instead I had to experience language learning like speed dating with one guy who had no hobbies, just work, and then refused to talk about his work, and another guy who looked like Ron Jeremy, but was more interesting and even gave me ideas of where to travel to next!

It was exhausting! And it’s my first language! Crazy!

I made my way back to where I was staying via the metro, where, let’s face it, they put our little London Underground to shame. Chandeliers, mosaics, statues. It’s all going on underground here!

Some of these are Saint Petersburg, just thought I’d include it all in one place!

Spring is springing!

Once the snow melts and the sun starts to show its face, the Russians arrange a picnic and BBQ to celebrate.

This was a lot of fun, and something you wouldn’t get from staying in a hotel or hostel!

Met up with Oksana’s friends, and head into the woods for the best spot to picnic.

The boys hard at work doing man-fire-cooking. While we enjoy the sun!

The boys had done a good job! So much food! They made shashlik

This was a great send off as it was my last day in Saint Petersburg, I was off to Moscow that night on the sleeper train!

When I woke up, I was in Moscow. Convenient, although not the best sleep as you can imagine!

Alexandra, who was going to host me, met me straight off the train.

It was still early in the day so once I’d freshened up and unpacked we went on a whirlwind tour of the city.

Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, which meant the whole world and it’s dog was out, but that didn’t stop the thrill as we approached St Basils!

I was so excited to see this church, ever since I can remember, and have a picture of it in my bucket list book! So that can now be ticked off!

Look at that smile!

I may have got a little carried away and taken photos from every angle!

And sketched it…

Reluctantly moving on, we walked past a film set, for a film we will probably never get to see in the uk.

Over the bridge to the ‘island’.

I can’t get over how hot it is here. I packed layers of clothes and bobble hats and it’s like 18 degrees out!

Saw the Kremlin from the outside.

Alexandra and her husband Andrej took me to a Russian Soviet restaurant. Which was basically like stepping back in time to the 80’s.

I’m getting a bit obsessed with Piroshki, filled buns, the meat ones taste like corned beef pasties!

After the attempted sleep on the train and a day of sight seeing, I was ready for bed!

I was waiting for an overcast or rainy day to do the museums, but it’s seems like the sun is staying (I’m not complaining!) so I’m embracing as many museums as I can!

First up is Erarta, an art gallery, recommended by Oksana, is not in my guide book. Amazing place!

The painting with the blue candy floss made me giggle. As at Christmas in London I was served the biggest blue candy floss I’ve ever seen! This picture was so similar to the photo I had taken!

Except I look chuffed to have candy floss!

Next up was…the Hermatige. In all honesty, I was putting this off, because it didn’t really seem to appeal to me when I read about it.

I’m definitely glad I went against my initial thoughts!

Just the building alone is worth it, huge, palatial staircases, a room which inspired my future house.

The peacock room.

The room where the peacock lives, the Pavilion Hall, is designed perfectly. Huge windows over looking the river one side.

Huge windows looking out to a impeccably manicured garden the other.

Loads of light, loads of views, a giant gold peacock clock. Who could ask for more?

Reluctantly leaving this beautiful room to explore the rest of the building.

Found a stairway that could easily be from The Shining.

Obviously, I’m not pro-ivory, but the carving on these pieces is so intricate.

Once I had exhausted the Hermatige, I was onto the….

Museum of Emotions!!

I found this accidentally looking at my maps, and my curiosity got the bette of me.

It was a guided museum, and the poor guy who had to show me around and attempt to give me the tour, was a bit nervous if having to give the tour in English, but he got there!

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else who wants to go, but at the same time I want to describe the experience.

So the guide lets you go first through a curtain into pitch black, telling you to keep walking. Like, where? It’s completely black!

He did put a torch on for me when he realised I wasn’t gonna shift until I could see!

The first room we came to was the Anger room, a darkened room with tv screens showing images of people being punched, animals slaughtering other animals, war images and protests. Heavy metal music is playing and the centrepiece to this room is a punch bag with all the stuffing spilled out of it which was used by a famous Russian fighter.

The next room took a turn in the other direction, the room of Joy.

An upside down room where you stand on the sky and the grass and flowers are above you.

The next room was Disgust, well, it was supposed to be. But I like cockroaches and bats and even the rotting bull’s heads covered in maggots was more fascinating than disgusting!

Next up, the Love room, obviously all red and pink, with love hearts everywhere.

But just as I was about to write this off as cheesy, the guide explained how a Saint Petersburg couple who loved each other so much, had come to an agreement that one should eat the other. Taking ‘I want to be a part of you’ to the next level.

So, under consent, he killed his partner and started slicing him up.

Naturally, he was caught before he could finish him, and was committed where he spent his days drawing images of his partner over and over. Scary.

Next room was death, there wasn’t an awful lot in there except a coffin and an electric chair.

Onto the fun room! A unicorn rocking horse, bright colours, a throne (which I’d been obsessing about all day while at the Hermatige) circus mirrors, screens showing animals doing silly things, dress up! The lot! Obviously loved this room!

The final room was a bit of an anti-climax, the room of Creativity. It was essentially post it notes stuck all over the walls and some UV stars hanging from the ceiling.

For me, creativity is messy, but this was chaos!

And I got a ballon at the end. Happy days!

Walking Tour

Armed with very little Russian, my guide book and the directions Oksana had given me, I ventured out to explore more of Saint Petersburg.

Starting with getting a decent view of the city from the top of St.Isaac’s Cathedral.

Next stop, one of my favourites, the Church of the Spilled Blood!

This was enough walking for me (they are spaced pretty far apart and takes me an hour to walk there!)

Met Oksana once she had finished work and we went all girly and had our nails done!

Sparkles and Russian flag.

Time for alcohol. You would think vodka would be the choice seeing as I’m in Russia, but I’m not the biggest fan since drinking too much of it in my younger days, and now I can’t even look at it.

Belgian bar for some cherry beer instead!

Beer was good, food wasn’t brilliant.

I may have got addicted to the cherry beer.

It wasn’t over

Part three of the incredible journey around St Petersburg took us to a little ‘plaza’ where we stumbled upon lots of little bars (hipster bars), one bar which contained the strangest painting I’ve seen in a while.

On the way, we crossed over a bridge where the river is lined with statues of horses. One horse in particular has a distinguishing feature. The story is that the statue maker discovered at the time of his creating his statue, that his wife was having an affair with another man. So, as any artist would, he made the horse’s genitalia resemble the other man’s face.

Definition of ‘dick head’ I guess…

Anyway, we were enjoying a drink in this bar and I couldn’t help but stare at this painting.

Clearly the one pint of dark beer had gone to my head!

Oksana had one last thing she wanted to show me before the day was over. As we were making our way out of the plaza we noticed a little kiosk selling hot drinks, donuts and ice cream. I wanted ice cream, the beard in the box informed us it was too cold for ice cream! Rubbish! He sold me a hot chocolate instead. I compromised because he had a beard.

We finally made it to our last destination, the mosaic garden.

Art students get allocated a piece of wall to allow them to create their designs. This probably isn’t in any guide books and is definitely worth visiting, thanks to my insider knowledge from Oksana!

And that, was just day one!

Needless to say, we slept well that night!