Baikal

Staying in the tiny village of Baikalsk with my host, we woke early-ish to catch a bus to the next town to catch a train to Port Baikal.

Enjoyed a breakfast of pelmany (dumplings) whilst gazing at the mountain view.

Lake Baikal is still iced over, but starting to melt (so no walking on ice for me).

Innokentiy took me to the supermarket to stock up on snacks, they stocked cans of horse meat!

Staying in the tiny village of Baikalsk with my host, we woke early-ish to catch a bus to the next town to catch a train to Port Baikal.

Enjoyed a breakfast of pelmany (dumplings) whilst gazing at the mountain view.

Lake Baikal is still iced over, but starting to melt (so no walking on ice for me).

Innokentiy took me to the supermarket to stock up on snacks, they stocked cans of horse meat!

Apparently this is the guy who came up with the idea of the Transiberian railroad.

Pretty amazing views from the train as it trundles alongside the lake’s edge.

When I did manage to peel my eyes away from the view and look out the other window I noticed tiny little settlements.

We arrived at Port Baikal where we would be staying the night.

Had a little explore, the temperature changes here were really weird, you’d be walking along quite comfortable, then all of a sudden you would hit a pocket of cold. Like walking through ghosts!

The water here is said to be drinkable straight from the lake. That may have been true at some point in time, but when you see the locals littering the shore and throwing fag butts into the clear waters…I wasn’t about to drink it!

It was so peaceful here, exactly how I imagined. I could have stayed standing here staring out at the water and mountains, listening to the ripples of the water and the cracking of the ice melting for a good hour.

Innokentiy wanted to show me around a bit.

This is where lake Baikal ends and the river begins, this bit never freezes, which is lucky as they closed the road from Port Baikal to Irkutsk. So you have to take a little boat over to the other side to take the bus!

Now, I would consider myself a fairly responsible traveler, as in, I do a bit of research about the country I’m going to to find out if I need certain vaccinations from any nasties. I did this research and it showed we don’t need anything.

I learned from my host that in Siberia there are ticks that may be infected with encephalitis. Which, if you look it up, is a bloody horrific thing to be infected with as it eats away at your brain cells. Scary. Obviously, I’m not vaccinated against this. And sure enough, a bloody tick landed on me! I freaked out a little bit. I like my brain. I like it functioning. I didn’t get bitten, but you don’t feel these buggers land on you OR bite you, so by the time you’ve found them with their heads buried under your skin, it’s too late.

Tried to enjoy the view of the sun setting over Baikal, whilst constantly checking my coat and trousers for ticks!

Finally made it back out of the grass and to our ‘hotel’ which is also the train station, as I discovered in the night when trains sit outside chugging the engine and tooting their whistles regardless of the fact it’s 3am.

I jumped into the shower as soon as we were checked in and examined myself for ticks. There were none! Thank goodness. My brain is safe, for now.

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Transiberian Travels

What do you do on a train for four days? Catch up with blog writing (and sleep).

So I’ve finally caught up, a bit late, but better than nothing!

From Russia with love and

Some like it hot are the only films I’ve seen and can think of that involve sleeper trains. So I’m going to blame them for my longing to travel on one. They both conjured up the sense of adventure and romance. Plus it’s an awesome, chilled out way to travel, as the Russians showed me. You can sit in the restaurant cart drinking vodka and eating fish and potatoes from 9am until midnight, or until you pass out, whichever comes first!

I preferred to nurse my green tea and gaze out the window, the train moves slow enough that you can actually appreciate the scenery without it becoming a blur.

This seemed like the perfect time to admire the surroundings, there was still plenty of snow everywhere, but a clear blue sky behind the birch trees.

Changing time zones as we travel through the country, falling asleep at 2200, waking at 1200, but realising I’d only actually slept about 6 hours! That spun me out!

I woke up one day to the sound of an Irish accent, I went to investigate and met Niall, who was also achieving his bucket list goals.

Through Niall I met two guys who were in the Russian army and also knew some English. All their food and snacks, they shared, they would help translate when I was struggling, and good fun to be around.

These guys definitely made the journey quicker.

Before I knew it, I was at Baikal.

The smallest station I’d seen. I was the only person getting off and the train completely passed the platform and I had to exit the train via a long drop into the darkness!

My Couchsurfing host, Innokentiy was there to meet me. It was past midnight and we made our way by taxi back to his apartment.

He showed me around and then opened a map and gave me two choices of tour he would take me on the next day.

First, try to sleep in a bed that isn’t rocking and no gentle ‘ta-chuck-ta-chuck’ of the train as it rumbles along the tracks.

Thank you

Victoria Morgan-Hill

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.

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!

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.