The Perm to Moscow leg was our final journey together, our posse would separate in Moscow, Karen flying back to Bangkok while Pete and I complete the last of the Trans-Siberian route to St Petersburg.
This was a 24 hour journey and I wanted to make an effort. Opting out of the dining car, we took along a picnic dinner of traditional Russian goodies: rye bread, smoked salmon, cream cheese, red caviar, pickled herring, beetroot salad, a herring salad a bear pate (which we forgot to open) and vodka. Washed down with individual bottles of bubbles and gin & tonics. On the iPad we watched “To Russia with Love”... Party time!
On one of our shorter journeys, on an open third class carriage, we met a group who didn’t speak a word of English and whilst we had internet we used ‘conversation’ in google translate. We had so many people all down the carriage laughing along at the attempts to communicate with us. It was a lot of fun.
KC has been continuing her online Russian lessons. She is very willing and eager to try her skills. The funniest moment - calling the waitress stupid instead of perfect!
She also has resigned to the fact, quite graciously, that she is Australian. We point to KC and say England and then us - Australia. Australia causes so much excitement, and responses like “kangaroo” or “Dundee Crokodill”, that England is forgotten. One guy said he is really hoping to go to Australia, when KC asked why - he said because they have good beer! If they speak Australian, we do try to explain, one from England, two from Australia but we all live in Thailand through this is quickly brushed over and we are all Australian again. Poor Karen, we’ll have to start calling her “Kazza”.
We arrived on a Friday evening, at peak hour, so decided that the metro was the best option to get to our accomodation. A little difficult as KC had a wheelie suitcase, as opposed to the backpacks that Pete and I have, and Russian metro stations aren’t particularly suitcase friendly. She got a good work out at each station.
After a few hiccups we eventually found our apartment. It was now Friday night and we needed drinks...and dinner. Luckily we were staying in a very hip area, so finding both was not difficult. We settled on a bar close to us where had a few pints of German beer and grazed on shared plates of local treats.
While Pete finalised the last blog the next morning, KC went out to explore. By the time we met up with her later she had discovered some interesting streets and sights around Red Square so, with KC as a tour guide, we retraced her steps.
The entrance to Red Square was blocked off by military police, as it was, bizarrely, when we first visited back in 1993. The reasons though could not more starkly show the cultural change. In 1993 it was because Yeltsin was sacking parliament and the older generation were protesting against social change, today it was blocked for a ultra-HiSo wedding!
The General Manager from Eat Me in Bangkok, Maria (who is Russian) recommended a cafe nearby called Dr Zhivago, where we enjoyed a late lunch. It was very quirky. Neo-Old fashioned theme with typical Russian food - which was very good! Sipping on our Aperol Spritz (the in-drink in Moscow) we had various blinis (Russian pancakes) of lamb, game and fish followed by a crayfish julienne (ramekin pie) for me, salad and more blinis for Karen and grilled monk fish for Pete.
There was a free classical concert in the amphitheatre of the Zaryadye Park, starting at 6pm, so we left Gorky Park and headed back. Unfortunately, after sitting on wet seats for 30 mins watching a famous black & white Russian war movie, I found out that the concert would start after the movie, 8pm. Given we couldn't understand the movie, we didn’t hang around. None of us were that hungry so we decided to picked up a bottle of wine and some snacks and took them back to our apartment.
The next day we strolled down the streets of one of the more exclusive areas of Moscow, past trendy cafes, restaurants, Mazarratis and Porsches on our way to the Kremlin. I suppose the Kremlin is a ‘must do’ in Moscow, as it is the founding site of Moscow and the ultimate symbol of political power in Russia.
Pete was keen to revisit Zaryadye Park as he discovered, on leaving the previous day, that the enormous dome actually houses an indoor park and wanted to check it out. We decided to grab some lunch in one of the cafes in the park. Just a light meal as we had a special dinner planned that evening.
KC was heading to the airport at 3.00pm the next day and, as she really likes Georgian food we, followed a recommendation of a local friend, and headed to a nice Georgian cafe for lunch.
After lunch, we said our goodbyes to KC who was sadly heading back to Bangkok. We have certainly covered some miles together on this epic journey, 10,000km across 7 time zones, Russia is without a doubt- massive. It was great that KC could join us on this part of our travels and after 3 weeks we were all still talking, surprisingly, since we were with each other 24/7 with several 24 & 30 hour overnighters in the same compartment!
Having fair welled Karen, Pete and I moved from our luxurious apartment to a hostel closer to the train station and settled in to a 7sqm room with no air conditioning, as opposed to the 25sqm with air conditioning that we booked (sorry mistake on website!!!!)... budget back on track!!
That evening we caught up with Maxim, an ex-colleague of mine from my TopTalent days, who heads up the Moscow office. It was good to catch up with a local who gave us some extra tips for our time left in Moscow and also for St Petersburg. After our drinks, we headed off to visit the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. It was massive, definitely worth the walk. It sparks a love it or hate it reaction from the locals. It is described as grandiose and gargantuan. It was completed in 1997 in time for Moscow’s 850th birthday.