Monday 29th September – Great Wall

What a brilliant day it has been today. Up at 6am and down stairs for breakfast and then we were collected by Linda at 7:10 but still kept looking for Chas who was at our hotel and heading back to Unn Zud after some time in Tashkent. He eventually turned up and so we rolled on to the next hotel for a French couple working in Abu Dhabi and then on for a Spanish family of four.

Small commuter bus but capable of 11 so we all had plenty of room. Made good friends with Chas during the day and hearing of his experiences in Tashkent which continued over dinner when we got back to the hotel.

Started at the jade shop and were given a good talk and the great opportunity to buy (i guess they all have to have their pitch and commissions) and then on to the tombs/mausoleum of Emporer Shenzong of Great Ming.  We had another good explanation and tour – interesting learning that the Emporer was buried normally in one room and then his wife or wives in adjoining rooms (they usually only had one wife unless she pre-deceased him) but he still was allowed and expected to have concubines who were buried elsewhere in a concubine grave.

Left the Ming tombs and headed off to the Great Wall where we had a traditional Chinese meal on the way to give us strength before heading up for the long walk. We took the chairlift up to the top because it was easier and time restrained but Ian & Chas went up on the cable car – the only restriction was that they had to return the same way whereas we could choose between the chairlift or the toboggan to drop down the book. Jenene and Jon will know where I was, I went from tower 7 and climbed to tower 1 and beyond and then returned to tower 8 & started towards tower 9 before I realized it was time to get on the toboggan.

It was a great experience and i was surprised how hard it was to get up some of those steps. When I got back to the transfer station it was on the toboggan and off down the hill. ll was good fast running until about 90% of the way down and I could see there was a group of 3 in front who were practically stopped. The game has come to an end but what a wizzer of a run up to then.

Back into town and we were eventually dropped at the hotel by “Not English”, the bus driver who was also called Lee. It has been an absolutely brilliant day and certainly worth doing if you are in the area.


Us since Saturday 27th September

Returned to the hotel and got organized for the flight tonight, had another walk mid afternoon and returned after a light dinner, booked out and headed to the airport.

We noticed all toilets in Beijing have gents on the left and ladies on the right.          ……….because apparently;   they always are!!

2014-10-01 11.22.41

Met up with a late 20s Chinese breast cancer surgeon and we enjoyed each others company until we took off. He was trying to join us in our car to the hotel but realized it was the wrong Novatel and found his own way back to his home. He was a nice lad who had just enjoyed 2 weeks in Russia.

Headed to the “Gate of Ritual and Celebration” in Tianemen Square which is rarely open to foreigners but as Wednesday is their national day, 1 October, we had today only to have a look at it and so in we went.

There are some photos of people we did not know but certainly provided wonderful views of the city. We met a Swede, Samuel and asked him if he came from the Manchester area but no, he was born in Sweden and his Dad was from Nottingham and had always spoken English with the kids. We walked a little more round the square afterwards and he left to go to the museum.

Sorted tomorrow’s details for the great wall, tombs, Olympic web & lunch. It will be a bus tour rather than taxi but seems to be well worked out.

Ian decided on a rest so I went off to the Temple of Heaven where I spent nearly 3 hours wandering in the solitude with few interruptions – it was brilliant. On the way to the Temple, noticed the many people on scooters and bikes:

Walked back at 6 pm and woke Ian add I opened the door. He was obviously really tired and I feel invigorated. Decided to have a light meal downstairs rather than try and find something outside as we need to get to bed also at a reasonable time, lucky breakfast starts at 6am.

The problem with smog in this city has be mentioned as a real problem, there is practically none, we just picked the right days and this is weekend and many things will be closed here tomorrow which might hold the smog off for a few days. With the celebrations on the 1st, lead up work has been done in the hope that the smog will have lifted and they have also had a few days of rain which makes a big difference.

Leaving Russia

Escape from Russia
Collectively the Russian people were glad to see our dynamic duo depart. Many people had gathered at Vladivostok airport to witness the occasion. It did not occur to them that the people may have been there for their own travel arrangements.

Tim and Ian got the Aeroexpress from Vladivostok Vokzal to the airport. The trip cost 200 rubles each, much cheaper than a taxi, and safer. The trip took 48 minutes, which was a lot faster than the previous taxi ride. It was interesting the carriage had few occupants.
The Aeroexpress appears to be a similar model train to those in Moscow. It is functional and has a moderate amount of comfort.
The last train from Vladivostok runs at 8:04 PM, so we had a while to wait at Vladivostok airport. The new facilities at the airport made the waiting comfortable. (Ian last passed through Vladivostok in August 2012, when the facilities were very Soviet)
By chance we were at the front of the queue to check in, so we got the pick of seating. We met our new best friend, Eason Qu, a medical student. He was happy to find someone speaking English, after spending 20 days in Russia. Tim resisted telling him about Boris.
As it was Saturday (27 Sep) there had been many weddings. Tim sat next to a couple going on their honeymoon, we suppose. The bride was still wearing her veil. And further forward on the plane were another couple, where the bride had flowers in her hair.
Thankfully the flight was relatively short (2:30 hours), the processing through immigration was swift, the wait for luggage was moderate, but then the drive into Beijing was lengthy. Roadworks on the Airport Expressway made it a parking lot.
Upon arrival at the Novotel, just down the street from Beijing (main) Railway Station, we were to witness the desk clerk having a heated argument with another customer, while we were being checked in. Oh, for goodness sake! We just want to get to bed. And we did, eventually.


Departing Vladivostok

Interesting observations as we leave Vladivostok and Russia.

Before we arrived we were aware of the news of an unsafe Russia, but;

  • seen no car accidents at all,
  • seen no punch ups
  • not felt intimidated as we walked through groups of young people or older people for that matter,
  • felt safer here than on the streets of Sydney.

But did see a car being dealt with when incorrectly parked:

  • people tried to be helpful, although some could not care less,
  • interested in where we came from & knew it was far away,
  • surprised we would want to go on the Trans Siberian Railway,
  • more surprised we would come to Russia for a holiday as they see Thailand or Vietnam as holiday destinations,
  • were recognized as being different,
  • even a lady on the station suggested we move further up the platform as those carriages would go to the airport.

 Wonderful experience it has been despite Boris being here


From the 27th in Vladivostok to Beijing on the 28th

We returned to the hotel and got organized for the flight tonight and had another walk mid afternoon and returned after a light dinner, booked out and headed to the airport. Met up with a late 20s Chinese breast cancer surgeon and we enjoyed each others company until we took off. He was trying to join us in our car to the hotel but realized it was the wrong Novatel and found his own way back to his home. He was a nice lad who had just enjoyed 2 weeks in Russia.

Up at 9 and had breakfast and thought we would feel awful but today has been excellent. We headed off and found the “Gate of Ritual and Celebration” in Tienanmen Square which is rarely open to foreigners but as Wednesday is their national day, 1 October, we had today only to have a look at it and in we went. There are some photos of people we did not know but certainly wonderful views of the city.

I then headed off to the Temple of Heaven where I spent nearly 3 hours wandering in the solitude and few interruptions – it was brilliant. Ian decided to take it easy for the afternoon and lay down for a rest.

Walked back at 6 pm and woke Ian as I opened the door. Decided to have a light meal downstairs rather than try and find something outside as we need to get to bed also at a reasonable time, lucky breakfast starts at 6am.

People mention the smog here in Beijing/Peking, today there is practically none, we just picked the right days and this is weekend and many things will be closed here tomorrow which might hold the smog off for a few days. With the celebrations on the 1st, lead up work has been done in the hope that the smog will have lifted for the day and they have also had a few days of rain which makes a big difference.


A day from the journal of Mister Vasily Bond

Boris and Timofei have discovered the Far-East of Russia. However, their incompetence continues to amaze the combined intelligence agencies. They were tasked to observe and report on maritime activities. In the first instance their photo of the Pacific Ocean Flota was obscured by an inflatable matryoshka.


Next they found a beached or marooned mini-sub.


It wasn’t going anywhere. Then they discovered the last of the S-class submarines. It is on display in Zolotoy Rog, and well and truly grounded.


The couldn’t even take photos of a naval school, just the anchors holding it firmly to the ground.


Neptune, help us!

By the way, the S-class were quite successful during the Great Patriotic War, sinking 82,770 gross register tons of merchant shipping and seven warships, which accounts for about one-third of all tonnage sunk by Soviet submarines.

Khabarovsk etc

In the shadow of Graf Nikolai Murav’yov-Amurckiy
In Khabarovsk, the main street is called Ulitsa Muravyova-Amurskogo. It changes name to Karla Marxa at Lenin Square, and of course, there is a Lenin Street.There is a statue of Muravyov-Amurskiy in the park adjacent to the regional museum (Muzei im N.I. Grodekova). [It was first erected in 1891, removed and replaced by Lenin in 1929, and restored to its position in 1989] Boris and Timofei first noticed this fellow, when they fleetingly touched 5000 ruble note. They of course went behind his back and went into the museum.And upon leaving the museum, they found the United Russia headquarters.


Khabarovsk – contrasts
When Boris and Timofei arrived from Irkutsk, it was the middle of the night, but with 6:00 AM on the clock. The taxi driver had relieved 2000 rubles from them for 600 ruble trip. Mafia taxis! They were welcomed at Sapporo Hotel by a very sleepy receptionist (she had been working approx 24 hours straight). As they had not slept on the plane, they caught a little sleep, until midday. Upon looking at the view from the window, they saw possibly a less desirable side of Russia.a20140923_134127

However, they found a gem in the Tsum (ЦУМ) store in the main street.  Here there are richly decorated windows on the staircase.

a20140923_151838 a20140923_151703

Khabarovsk in the Far East

23 Sep 2014

When we arrived at the Sapporo Hotel in Khabarovsk at 7am, a comment was made that we had arrived very early so we apologized and commented that that was when the plane landed. We were then told that our room happened to be free so we could move in straight away, just brilliant as out eyes were hanging on the floor. We crashed until about 1 pm and then decided to walk the town and headed off up the main street. Well laid out streets, clean and tidy but again the very uneven footpaths which would be hell for less agile older people and also during winter. Arrived at Lenin Square and here are the fountains

Not Lenin afterall

Not Lenin afterall

2014-09-23 12.36.37 and Ian taking the stance, as he does. XX

From here we headed downhill, and along the Amur Boulevard where the local dressed up ladies promenade along displaying themselves in their finery, and is only heading towards the local markets. The trams are incredibly varied- it seems that if they are still working then they are on the road. They don’t seem to be cleaned at all on the outside but good fun picking an older one to take us back up the hill. XX

We got off the tram at Ussuri Boulevard which serves the same purpose as Amur but much quieter today. We headed towards the Amur River and passed by the Peace Park along the way. Made of metal and showing all the major continents

North Korea Peace Monument erected 2008

North Korea Peace Monument erected 2008

was rusting away at the base and falling apart after just being created in 2008 – followed the plaque to find that it was presented by North Korea Kim Jong-Il was born here (his Russian name was Yuri Irsenovich Kim and his father was leading a battalion of Chinese exiles), a bit concerning! Came upon Komsomolskaya Square where we saw Odora Concert Hall and the church.

2014-09-23 15.07.15

Continuing back up towards the hotel along the Amur River we came across building a memorial to the Patriotic War, a ship with the name of the fallen behind it. As we took the picture a worker waved at us, posed again and has a short conversation and we all had a good laugh. XX

Ian had a desire for pizza for dinner and we ended up at V-Drova where they were dressed as Italians and kept calling out on loud voices, Mama Mia, Buono Sera and Uno Momento, all a lot of fun but meaning nothing – a most entertaining evening. XX

Baikal ozero – “nature lake”

I believe we had a rare opportunity to visit Lake Baikal.
It should be ranked as a Wonder.
Well, with 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water, with its natural beauty, with difficult to access, and with few people other than Russians and Koreans, it is a wonder.
It is the deepest lake in the world: 1600 metres. It is in an ancient rift valley. It is probably 25 million years old.
We got there after an adventurous bus ride from Irkutsk.
The driver has two speeds: and it was go more often than stop. Overtaking was more a matter of luck than calculation.
Eventually we arrived at the village of Listvyanka at the “mouth” of the Angara River. (The Angara actually drains the lake, flowing into the Yenesei and the Arctic Ocean.)
 2014-09-22 12.41.18
It is a one-street town, well with a few side streets. The main road is Gorky Street, and there is no Lenin Street. This must be a mistake. How will the Soviet Union survive?
We did the obligatory walk to the market, the purchase of souvenirs, the boat ride on the lake,
and then the Baikal Museum.
I must acknowledge the museum. It was well set out with a range of displays, including an aquarium housing Baikal seals. These are fascinating balls of blubber.
 2014-09-22 15.54.35
On the way back to the centre of Listvyanka, we hired a taxi (150 rubles),
and the driver saw himself as a tourism ambassador, and included in his commentary identification of the mafia homes (above).
The ride back to Irkutsk on the bus was more extreme than the previous. It was an 18-seater bus, but at one time may have held 25 or more.
While the driver tempered his speed to match the load, his attention was not always on the road. We escaped this thrill ride at a shopping centre in the centre of Irkutsk (to make use of the free toilets) and made our way back to the hotel.
A day to remember in many ways!

Alex aye-aye-aye

Little is known about Boris and his allegedly nefarious activities.
When he is in residence in Brisbane, it is known by a few that he has a weekly sojourn with acquaintances at a competitive event.  It is trivial.  One of his associates is a fellow who resembles Tsar Alexander III.  On occasion in Russia, Boris is known to take photos of Alexander III, to remind his colleague of the likeness.


In Irkutsk there are such opportunities.  Boris found a photo of Alex aye-aye-aye (as Timofei calls him) in the city museum (note to travelers: don’t bother, not worth 120 rubles entry).  On the second occasion, it was a much grander opportunity.  There is a 5 metre statue to the fellow at the end of Karla Marxa street.  Rather ironic.


The statue was erected to commemorate the original statue erected to commemorate the arrival of the railway, and the new statue was paid for by the railway company.
Boris took another photo for Allan!

The Last Train Ride – to Irkutsk

20 Sep 2014

Heading off on our last train ride from Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal – another 18 hours and we should arrive at our destination….

We watched the view from the window change as we headed east, the forests giving way to less trees & large fields growing livestock feed & the harvested chaff dumped in small haystacks.

Headed off to dinner and were joined by some people from the carriage in front. Interestingly, there were Mongolians (who cooked their own meals in the carriage) plus English, Suisse/Deutsch and French/Deutsch.

We were in the Russian carriage (according to them) and they were not allowed through to our carriage but went and used our toilet to see what they were like whilst they had the chance at dinner. They obviously had a newer carriage with vacuum toilets but then we were mixing with Russians. We have an older carriage, the beds are bigger and we are probably less open to theft with not being a target nationality. Russians seem to be rather trusting and respect other people.

21 Sep 2014

For the 1st time we had to strip our bed in the morning & the conductresses came and collected the sheets and towel some 10 minutes later. I feel we had a good deal because Ian ordered the train in Russian directly from the Russian railway site.

Pea souper this morning as we arrived into Irkutsk probably brought about by the proximity of Lake Baikal, will see what the day brings…

Although the temperature was 0 at the station whilst waiting for the cab by early afternoon it had reached 22. The shops are open between 10 and 8 pm when it starts to get  theand then everyone goes to bed late because they then don’t start work again until late.

Back to the hotel where we grabbed a little nanna nap – the sleep on the train is practically non-existent, one does drop off bit still stays conscious of the rocking of the train.

Headed out for a walk along the “green walk” which took us through the statues of Irkutsk, loe and behold, Vladimir Ilyich is still on site to great is yet again!!!!.


Irkutsk on Sunday – Eastern Siberia

Tourism can do without the taxi mafia waiting at railway stations, ready to relieve passengers of their money. They are a nuisance, an irritation and a scourge. While our travelers have learned to avoid them, they are persistent pests. It is getting to the point where rudeness could be the only weapon in deterring them. Our travelers rang the Imperia hotel, and a real taxi eventually arrived. This was just in time as the temperature hovered around zero.  After refreshments at the hotel, our intrepid duo set out to acquaint themselves with Irkutsk. They first saw a restaurant was firmly anchored to the pavement.  It would be realised that the city is different in character from any other in Russia.  The buildings have a different appearance. The back-streets resemble suburban Melbourne, and perhaps it is just the high fences.  Boris and Timofei arrived at the [dis-]Information Centre. “How do we get to Lake Baikal?” – “Go to the Autovokzal and catch a bus with the destination, Listvyanka, and it leaves every 30 minutes (wrong)”.  Why not explore more of Irkutsk?  The marketplace was crowded with stalls. There were all manner of wares on offer, but none of interest.  Setting off to see Alexander III brought them firstly to Vladimir Ilyich.

He had to do it!!!!

He had to do it!!!!

Boris really!! did have to mimic the pose.

Finally at the riverside they encountered Alex aye-aye-aye.
He and the pigeons looked well.  At this spot, the Russian populace were holding the All Russia Running Day.          Fellows in tracksuits were running everywhere.




After Kirov square, they again saw the restaurant was well anchored and that the anchor had well served its purpose.

The restaurant is still there - the anchor has done its job.

The restaurant is still there – the anchor has done its job.

That evening they had a repast of soup, rye bread and beer.

The Restaurant Wagon on the Transmongolian

Somewhere between Krasnoyarsk and Nizhny Udinsk
Timofei and Boris had retired to the restaurant wagon on the Transmongolian (Moscow to Ulaanbaator, but boarded in Krasnoyarsk, and were to detrain at Irkutsk).



The purpose of their venture was food and beer (Baltica No 7).  It all started when some loud poms arrived.  They occupied a table and began to complain about the weather. Soon; Timofei introduced himself and had every piece of information that could be extracted without resorting to tools of the inquisition.  It turns out they were travelling from Moscow to Beijing.  And they were doing the trip in one journey.


Sounds as exciting and boring as a Butlin holiday camp. Our heroes felt this group had missed Russia in the process.  They were soon joined by the Swiss Germans who were traveling from Zurich to Bangkok by train – what an objective! They were stopping off along the way.  The Swiss French remained in their compartment.  After much conversation, the groups called it a night and allowed the officientka clean up the restaurant wagon.

.. and the cockatoo said nothing

An encounter at the Zoopark
It is interesting how in the Russian language the word, zoopark, is pronounced.   They voice both o vowels individually with emphasis on the first. So it is pronounced “z-oh-ah-park”.   When Boris met the taxist outside the hotel, he firstly mistakenly used the Engrish pronunciation, then realised his mistake.   Finally the taxist took the dynamic duo to the Zoopark.  They had received informations that a cockatoo would tell them something.  After Timofei upset the old woman in the Kassa, by giving her 1000 ruble note – this is a country without change for moderate size notes – so it seems – they entered the park.  They made their way to many exhibits.  The European bison were extremely dangerous, 2014-09-18 11.35.25  and the keeper was more dangerous and less impressed when Timofei approached too close to the enclosure.  It seems that his standard answer of “ya ne govoroo par russki” is not being understood nor well received.  English is not his strong language either.  When they saw one of Santa’s reindeer, they were circumspect. a20140918_114855 They did not mention they had consumed one of his cousins. (Alas Kevin Radd was no more – only jerky).  The oryx kept pointing their behinds towards the observers. a20140918_115952 Maybe they had good sense.  Timofei and Boris were grateful after they saw the stork had been imprisoned a20140918_130304 for delivering so many babies – doubt whether this fairy-tale translates to Russian folk-lore.  Finally they met the cockatoo.a20140918_130959  It was a bloody bird! How could it tell them a coded message.

This spy business is fraught with many mis-informations.

Anthropology will never be the same again

Boris and Timofei will pretend to be anything. 20140917_113123

Now they are studying the eskimos. 20140917_113744

Not being politically correct they wouldn’t know a Ket from a Yakut, let alone an Entsa. 20140917_11355920140917_113437

They studied the exhibits in the Krasnoyarsk Krai Regional Museum. 20140917_11382620140917_113158

Perhaps they got an education.20140917_113925

20140917_114752  The world awaits this positive outcome.


The spy story begins

The great spy novel: The Least Wanted Men.



Boris:   Timofei, I know we are close to FSB Headquarters, but do you think they have installed a camera here or is it a funny looking rivet in a cement wall. Perhaps we should be careful about what we say.
Timofei:   Da. Ze walls have ears and eyes here in the James Shark Pub. We will be very careful. We will not give away any secrets, especially the recipe to womabt stew.Think of the damage the FSB could do with that informations, comrade.
Andrei/Andrew:   Hello. My name is Andrei, err, Andrew. I am your contact, err, waiter. Would you like some service? Perhaps some food? We have reindeer jerky (don’t tell Santa Claus – it is one her slow reindeers; her name was Kevin Radd) and we have nuts. {Stage whisper: the nuts will not be alone} I recommend the good James Shark Beer. It is our local beer. No. Not brewed in this pub. It is brewed in a zavod in this city. Perhaps you would like some more food. No. That is not a code word. Perhaps you would like some Shashlik. We have very good selection. I agree. Pork and chicken will be very good.

Arriving in Krasnoyarsk


Boris caught with an old friend today.

2014-09-16 09.49.43

Some locals

Krasnoyarsk Bokzal

Krasnoyarsk Bokzal

Our home for last 33 hours

Our home for last 33 hours

He had arrived in Krasnoyarsk and had to introduce Timofei to his acquaintances.

This fellow resides on the corner of Lomonsova and Dekabristov and has been there for some time.2014SepTim-2

Boris claimed that he was a good judge of vodka. Timofei observed that his dog was relieving himself on the fellow’s leg.
The dog is a good judge of locations. 20140916_195126


Yekaterinburg and surrounds

14 Sep 2014                               Boris meets his equal…..
When our heroes finished their night symphony on a low note, they peered out the hotel window and saw rain. After breakfast they made their way along Malisheva to 8th March Street. There they established their base at the Traveler Coffee cafe.
There they asked how they could get to Europe-Asia monument. A helpful and attentive waitress called an unknown party, possibly family or friend or mafia. Soon a driver arrived and he introduced himself as Sergei. Now here was a fellow to challenge Boris, in many ways.                Timofei described him as a pleasant fellow.
Sergei drove the duo to the line and monument marking the boundary between Europe and Asia in the Ural Mountains. The place was perhaps 20 km west of Yekaterinburg on the Siberian Highway towards Perm. The road was wet. The traffic was constant, and there were the ever present roadworks.
We found numerous ribbons tied around trees, fences, any pole or bar, to mark weddings.
Asia & Europe

The 2 of us stradling Asia & Europe

Each now stood in front of the monument, with legs spread across the line.
Stories were told, reminiscing about the meridian at Greenwich.
(There is no coincidence that there is a shopping centre in Yekaterinburg called Grinvich)
At the conclusion of the activity, Sergei suggested all go to the site of the murder and burial of the last royal family (Nicholas and Alexandra and children). He knew it was near the village of Sredniuralsk (middle of the Urals), but also he had been to the Boris School of Navigation. He got lost!
a20140914_131833 2014-09-14 13.23.52
To his credit he did stop several times to ask several old women where to go.
It seems he has the charm of Boris as well.
Eventually Sergei arrives at the destination. Timofei and Boris rushed to the toilets, only to find smelly and unsightly Asian squat units.         Thankfully they were only there to pee.
All entered the compound and found many churches commemorating all family members. Boris unwisely asked if a small building was a memorial to the family pet.
Timofei noticed that Sergei was very proud to show them around the site.

They entered a church clambering past and pushing aside old ladies on a religious pilgrimage. If a miracle were to occur they would be there first. It was a miracle that no one fell over because of the darkness encountered as people entered the church.
Inside was an array of icons. Also Timofei was taken with a portrait of the royal family. It is a basic church but holds a special place in the hearts of the believers.
Upon return to the city, Boris and Timofei paid Sergei 1000 rubles for his services and entertainment. They arranged for him to meet them at the hotel in the evening, and to transport them to the vokzal.
The duo spent their remaining time in Yekaterinburg exploring the city centre. The were numerous monuments and sculptures, which they had to mimic. 
There was a coffee shop in Grinvich, where a delightfully happy waitress, Maria, served their needs.  On the way back to the hotel, Timofei terrorised the wildlife in a large park, especially hunting squirrels
(Tom Lehrer?
In the evening Sergei combated the traffic and made good time in getting to Yekaterinburg Passenger Vokzal(Railway Station).
There our duo waited in a crowded
sitting hall for more than an hour. And upon arrival of the train 056 Moscow to Krasnoyarsk, they made quick time to the platform 2, line 4. Wagon 3 was at the end of the train, and they were greeted by a cheerful conductor, Larisa.       Soon they were settled in their compartment for 33 hour journey.


Yekaterinburg, the Tsar’s Murder and squirrels

We have straddled the European/Asian border a20140914_121223(but with any Vodka, pity) – it was a lot of fun with the cabby who only charged us about $30 for 2-3 hours and we used him because there was a bit of rain and the day did not look good. Only had a few light showers but mostly just a bit of wind.

Went off to where the Tsar Nicholas II was murdered in 1918 – just stunning – a church has been erected for him, thea20140914_131833 Tsarina, each of the 3 daughters and the son who probably would not have reached 20 anyhow because of his acute haemophilia.a20140914_131531

The Tsar’s church burned down a couple of years ago so it is being rebuilt and they are all made of wood.

Got a good shot of a squirrel in the parka20140914_172043 this afternoon whilst we were enjoying a walk around the town and some photos will be loaded when we have Wi-Fi again.


Kungar through to Yekaterinburg

Yesterday was a good day in Kungar at the Ice Cave. Michail and Tina were excellent guides. Tina was an individual tourist guide who was employed by Michail because of her English. We were collected from the hotel and it was explained how the day would progress. We were given a tour of Kungar, being shown the river from good vantage points and also the local church where 3 weddings seemed to be taking place simultaneously and although everyone was dressed up, they still appeared to have been civil weddings. We then went into the cave and were guided by Olga who was very short and would never have hit her head. It was brilliant to see but Jenolen caves have many more stalagmites – our caves are certainly a hard act to follow.

After coming out of the cave, we saw the fairy tale part of the forest with all the little forest folk easy to find. And then it was off to lunch, our 1st full Russian meal of the trip and to help us recover from the coldness of the cave (even though the effects had made us 3 years younger), we chucked down a vodka with thanks to Michail who abstained because he was driving.

We then returned to the hotel before 5. Excellent day and glad we did it.


Got out of Perm via a taxi to the rail station and eventually found out where platform 4 was located – signage is not to good here and some people do not seem willing to help even though they are on the information desk.

Pines and birch trees by the lots of, some are just starting to take up the autumn colors – could be interesting in the next week or so. Sun outside is very bright.

We arrived in Yekaterinburg and contacted the hotel to arrange a taxi for us as we now know this is the cheapest method for using Russian taxis. Arrived in the room and then went off for a walk and hopefully find dinner. This has been noted in Boris’ comments on the day.

Perm to Yekat

The cafe at Perm 2 vokzal is basic. If you want tea, water is poured into a glass with a teabag. If you want coffee water is poured into a glass with a mystery beige powder. Timofei is still getting used to Russia. There are many surprises in store. And then they had to rush to platform (Путь) 4 – not an easy task against the oncoming swarm leaving the train.Our heroes left Perm at 11:45. The carriage was a little dated, however, it was clean due to the efforts of the conductor. During the journey she mopped it out.They sought out refreshment in the restaurant wagon, but at 1:00 pm they were told that it was zakrit. This had to be good for the diet and waistlines. Boris and Timofei were in a compartment with a talkative Russian fellow. He said, hello and goodbye, and nothing more.
The change in seasons is occurring. Timofei noted the change in leaf colour as they progressed eastward. a20140913_151415 They traveled through birch forests which are turning orange and brown. A lovely sight.
The city of Yekaterinburg is quaint. The streets are well paved, but the footpaths are uneven. The buildings are a mix of new glass and concrete, a few soviet era buildings and some old wooden buildings. a20140913_161911
Timofei and Boris found a cafe (more a canteen), named Fork and Spoon (Вилка Ложка), serving a very cheap meal (475 rubles for both). a20140913_163357 They were proud that they are eating like the natives, standard Russian fare. They progressed to a patisserie for dessert and coffee. a20140913_191145 And on the way back to the hotel Timofei had to buy fruit from a kiosk (Boris did not feel that health conscious).
All is well as our heroes head east.

Chinese adventurers

Chinese adventurers going from Guangzhou to Paris.
As we stepped out of the hotel, we headed down a narrow street towards a green glass building. a20140913_155758 At that point we saw five new Chinese cars with distinctive registration plates. a20140913_160333 (Later we determined they were GAC Triumpchi GS5 five-door sport utility vehicles).  They looked good.
By the time Ian made it to the vehicles, Tim had well engaged them in conversation. They were a little surprised to find people speaking English in the depths of Russia. Ian greeted them with Ni Hao, and the smiles grew bigger. They helped him with his pronunciation of Wo shi oo-da-li-ra-yen. In a short time it was discovered they were traveling from Guangzhou to Paris. They were not totally aware of the route they had taken – each car had three drivers, and we guessed they had additional navigators. a20140913_160356 Before we could find out more, a minder got the drivers back to their tasks.  They certainly have set out on an adventure.

Kungur Ice Cave Adventure

Krasnov Travel – a good tour
We were met at our hotel in Perm by Mikhail (but introduced himself as Michael) and Valentina (who introduced herself as Tina). We were driven in a comfortable SUV (Mitsubishi Pajero) from Perm to the town of Kungur.

View of Kungar river

View of Kungar river

The sights of the town were covered: several churches and magnificent views of the Silva (Сылва) River. 20140912_095534 Tina gave a running commentary in perfect English as we went. She brought the town alive with historical stories and pointed out the significance of landmarks. The trip included a tour of the Kungur Ice Cave. This is an interesting geological formation. The tour of the cave was led by Olga, who pointed out in detail every grotto and rock and ice formation. The tour of the cave lasted 2 hours. We were well dressed in warm clothing for the tour, which is essential. The temperatures vary between -3C to +5C (26F to 41F).

Entrance to Kungar Cave

Entrance to Kungar Cave

Tour ended with a traditional Russian meal in the Stalagmit Hotel cafe adjacent to the cave (consisting of Russian salad, solyanka soup, cotlets with vegetables, and tarts).

Ian & Michael

Ian & Michael

Michael also supplies an invigorating ryumka of vodka to warm the participants after the cave. Michael and Tina provided a relaxed atmosphere where everyone felt welcome and looked after.

Arriving in Perm

One does not sleep too well on rocking trains so we were awake at 6. Consumed the supplied breakfast of strawberry jam cake, which really wasn’t to bad for a cake, quite moist and followed that with what looked like an apple jam which maybe we should have put on our bread roll last night. It was an apple puree, incredibly sweat. Ian is now cleaning his shoes with the shoe cleaner that was also supplied. It has been a most interesting trip. Lots of forest beside the track but have just noticed some oil well caps not far away.

We arrived in Perm and found Alla as we walked to the bus. She used her unique method to get us in a taxi to the hotel, delightful.

We had a shower and freshened up, grabbed an hours sleep and asked Ksenia at reception to sort us a walking tour without the standard Lenin type photos as we had so many. She listed our bus numbers, 1941-45 memorial, the apple which was half eaten, Popov who invented radio, Perm bear

Perm Bear

Perm Bear

, big ears

Big Ears

Big Ears

photography 20140911_163651

, movie statues

Movie statues & Ian

Movie statues & Ian

– all totally different to the other cities we had visited. The only glitch was when catching the 13 in what seemed the correct direction of home and then it turned left, not right. Easy fix, change buses and home we went.

Moscow to Perm

Looks like this one is a very old train, no

The old train to Perm

The old train to Perm

power to cabins, only a point at each end of the carriage and 2 part way along. Means one needs to stand guarding electronic device whilst it charges. Good view out the window whilst this is happening. The girls have just delivered a breakfast package with toothbrush included. About an hour later dinner comprising of bread roll, buckwheat kasha and probably small bits of lamb shavings. That was about 1630, and it is now 7pm and she has come through and vacuumed the hall and our rooms, most interesting.  We just went and tried to fill our mugs with hot water to make a coffee and Elena would not allow us to do it. She filled our mugs and took them back to our room for us. She and Tatiana have been delightful.

By the time we got to Nishky Novgorod there were only a couple of people that got on the train so we have the cabin to ourselves for the night, so of we went to bed at 9pm.

We did meet up with Alla who was a research chemist in Moscow going to Perm to see her family. The only English speaker we encountered on this train. She would short or taxi for us when we arrived in Perm although we did not know it at this time. She saw us walking towards the buses looking obviously lost check where our hotel was and rang them to send us a taxi. We will use this technique again.


Emailing from Moscow railway station

Arrived in Moscow at 630 this morning, beds on the train are like rock but they are 2nd class. We had 2 delightful people in our cabin, 1 Gregory(pronounced Gre. Goary) and the 4 th person in the cabin was Katya.

Ian, Gregory & Katya on the train from Pskov to Moscow

Ian, Gregory & Katya on the train from Pskov to Moscow

She had just got married on 23 August and was back in Pskov after sorting out change of name and getting new identity documents and passport. Her English was impeccable and his did not exist, so just like Ian and I.

The conversation was very easy and Ian had a lot of practice with his Russian. Katya was able to help him with words he did not know. She was taught English by an Irishman so had an interesting accent.

Red Square

Red Square

We went off to red square after

Red Square

Red Square

putting our luggage into storage, had

Red Square

Red Square

some breakfast and then returned to the station (the one next door to where we arrived – there are 3 all together). We tried to find somewhere for a shower but no luck, guess we stay dirty and just have a bird bath on the train to Perm. We leave here at 1400 and get to the destination at
1000 tomorrow midday local time). Will be a long ride so our bums are likely to be sure as it is again 2nd class but hopefully we will meet some nice people.
Temperature a bit warm, my jacket has been off all day – about 12 when we arrived this morning. We expect to quieten down from the crowd as we head further east which will be good after 3 very busy days in Peters.

Night train from Pskov to Moscow

At Pskov Passenger Vokzal, our heroes waited with the sad crowd in the sitting hall for the train. As there was only one train at that time (the next from St Petersburg to Riga was at midnight) it was safe to assume all were going to Moscow. Among the crowd there was a youthful man having an animated and joyful conversation on an old Nokia mobile phone, which he held with difficulty because of the handcuffs he was wearing. Occasionally he made comments to his captors, two large athletic and well-groomed men, sitting opposite. It seemed a contradiction that the only happy man should be a prisoner. Shortly the train hauled by a heavy diesel locomotive pulled into the station. It was still moving when Boris and Timofei made their way to platform 2. Soon carriage 8 appeared, drew level, and went by. They scurried along the platform to where the carriage stopped, and waited. Eventually their tickets and passports were checked and they climbed up a ladder onto the train. Places 005 and 006 were found in kupe 2. They settled in for the journey. Soon they were joined in the compartment by Grigory, an older man, who could have been an artillery officer, and sporting a huge moustache. He occupied place 007. Boris engaged him in conversation in Russian. He was going to Moscow for a holiday. Just before the train departed Pskov, all were joined by agent Katyushka. She was a slim built tall blonde with a pretty face and a charming smile. She introduced herself, and came right out to say she is an agent of the Poultry Production Authority (a euphemism for the Egg Marketing Board), and was responsible for the transportation of chooks (fowls) in the western region. At this point Boris and Timofei started to panic. Had they been found out? Had Katyushka been placed in the compartment to spy on them? After a little polite conversation, our heroes made a tactical move to the restaurant wagon. There they dined on bitter soup and rye bread, and hatched a plan.They would be retired kangaroo farmers on a fact finding mission to the Soviet Union, traveling across Russia and China. (Not too bright! The SU has long gone.). Upon return to the compartment the stories began. They related the story of the huge drought of 2007 where stock were depleted to a new low, and had it not been for weeds growing around a place called The Lodge, their stocks would have been eradicated. Also they told of the menace of drop bears.  At this time Grigory had assessed that this was all a load of compost and to the surprise of Boris and Timofei he contributed tales of his own. Was he trying to prove there could be bigger liars in Russia than in Australia?After a discussion of current news events between all, it was agreed that the works of fiction could be ascribed to both sides. While Grigory had a tactical victory, Katyushka was pleased to be invested with the Order of the Koala (and they gave one to Grigory too). After dropping off to sleep, with dreams of kangaroos chasing sheep, all too soon the conductor was banging on the door to advise of impending arrival at Moscow Leningradsky Vokzal. With cups of tea, this event closed. And all said farewell at the station.

Pskov 8-9 Sep & more

The bus from St Petersburg

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

arrived in Pskov by simply becoming part of the traffic on the main street, where the flow was not very heavy but it was Constant. Before our heroes realised the situation the bus had gone well past where they should have alighted. The driver agreed to drop them at a place where it was convenient to find a taxi. They crossed the main road to a parking area where two taxis were waiting.  The driver of the first grabbed their bags and shoved them in the front seat. He indicated that both should get in the back seat from the right side. Boris slid across, but had to climb over a large 12 volt battery to get seated. The driver went about trying to start the vehicle. Boris had illusions of him getting out and hitting the engine in strategic places with a large hammer or an oversized shifting spanner. Finally the engine farted and all were on their way.

While Boris has illusions of speaking Russian, the driver could not comprehend any description of the hotel or the street. It is strange that the hotel name is only in English – The Old Estate Hotel & Spa.

Hotel at Pskov

Hotel at Pskov

Finally the driver was shown the phone number and he rang the hotel for instructions. Soon he was a happy fellow and switched from confused taxist to a tourism salesman selling the virtues and talking endlessly about the sights of Pskov.  The fare was 150 rubles. Boris and Timofei were surprised they had not been ripped off.

At dinner that night our heroes were the only patrons in the hotel restaurant. Perhaps all of Pskov had known Timofei and Boris would be present and it was wise to stay away. The meal ended with a grand cheese platter. It consisted of an aged cheddar, something like an edam, a camembert and a blue brie – it was definitely blue and definitely soft. Some were skewered with plastic toothpicks. With the cheeses were nuts and fruits. The waiter, Denis, explained an exotic fruit, appearing to be an orange gooseberry, was a physalis. (
Denis tried his best in all things. He was a pleasant fellow. And he
struggled a little with Timofei’s English and marginally less with Boris’

After breakfast (there were two other people in the restaurant) on the
following, the duo checked out of the hotel and proceeded to find the
landmarks in the town of Pskov. The Mirozhsky Monastery was illusive and according to Timofei would be just around the next corner. Alas it was not. His compass was broken. (It was at the other end of town, in the
opposite direction).

Ian on the parapet

Ian on the parapet

Thankfully the Krom (old kremlin in Pskov) was obvious and easier to find. It is situated in a manicured park, across a creek, and beside the Velikaya (Great) River. It provided good defences in the past, especially against the Teutonic Knights. Restoration works had commenced in 1952 and are continuing. Timofei

It was 1952

It was 1952

had to tell Boris that 1952 was the year, not the hour. Boris remarked that they had not done much. Some people!

The duo made their way around the grounds of the Krom and up onto the battlements. At the kremlin office, Boris made enquiries about a toilet, and was pointed to the kino theatre next door.

For the sum of 20 rubles, he could make use of a half-height cubicle, affording no privacy, nor protection from Timofei’s camera.
Upon completion of their duties, they made their way to a cafe, where tea could be bought for 40 rubles.
After the comfort of the pause, and being entertained by an Italian movie dubbed into Russian, and without need of dialog, they left to explore the town further, especially across the River Velikaya. They saw shopping centres, specialty shops, strangely decorated cafes, churches and more churches, and a post office where it was not possible to get any service.  They had roamed far and needed to get a bus back.
Boris alarmed an old woman when he asked which bus they could catch to Ploshad Lenina. Finally a No. 17 arrived, an everyone with the aid of elbows got on the bus. The woman ticket collector advised that Ploshad Lenina would be three stops, and the fare was 18 rubles each. When the bus lurched to a halt at the next stop, the ticket collector advised that it was two further.  A Russian paratroop sergeant, dressed in camouflage uniform but displaying all insignia as well as wearing a tightly fitting powder blue beret, standing at the back, observed Boris and Timofei with suspicion. Little did he know that his suspicions were well-founded.

At the bridge over the Velikaya, the bus waited for sometime. However, the paratrooper has made his way through the crowd, and he was adjacent to the exit door. The ticket collector advised that is was next stop. The bus came to a stop opposite Ploshad Lenina. The paratrooper was first off and then waited at the pedestrian crossing for the lights to change, and then made it to the bus stop with more time to wait.
Boris and Timofei leisurely returned to the hotel, stopping occasionally to look at archeological digs or burned out buildings.

Dog found in Perm

Dog found in Perm

They had time to kill.


Nice hotel here in Pskov,

Ian catching up

Ian catching up

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

have the opportunity to complete the drying off  the washing that missed out last night in Peters. Seems to be a general lack of touristy information down at the lobby – even unable to tell us the time to get to the railway station for tomorrow. Had some fresh vegetables with dinner last night and that was a very pleasant change – they do seem hard to find. We have noticed that toilets are just impossible to find so that always keeps us on our toes – very different to back home where we have lots of vegetables AND toilets

... And when you find one, you might have company!!!

… And when you find one, you might have company!!!


Went to try and find the monastery just down the road from the hotel- it had a good write up and was very old. It was all locked up when we arrived so headed off to the Kremlin which

Pskov Kremlin

Pskov Kremlin

was really quite spectacular.

River beside Pskov Kremlin

River beside Pskov Kremlin


River beside Kremlin at Pskov

River beside Kremlin at Pskov

off to Pskov station for the night train (Taxi with tip thrown in, $5 for a 10 minute ride – not quite sure how they live on that although many things are quite cheap). Town & people are pleasant and quite helpful when trying to catch buses.


Day 2 in Peters

Washing – needed to be done and could not locate a laundromat so back to the hotel and used the bath and basin. Left the clothes hanging in the room with the fan turned on and hoping. Luba came by and we headed off to Kronstadt which used to be a used to be a naval facility where l outsiders were not allowed.2014-09-07 16.39.42  2014-09-07 16.42.25Basically you could not have access unless you worked there or had family in the town. Since the introduction of satellite access, we can get in. Huge church and there was a parade of old cars copied from many from the west – they are all Volga (like zephyr) and Ladas (like fiat).2014-09-07 16.54.39 2014-09-07 17.01.10 2014-09-07 16.52.36 2014-09-07 16.59.10 It is an all year round naval port still with access during winter. It was great that there was a lot going on. When we returned to Peters we had dinner on a roof restaurant ‘Macaroni’. Nice risotto and pizza with many cheese varieties on the one pizza 2014-09-07 21.17.37 2014-09-07 20.46.23 They even provided blankets for those that were getting cold on the breeze. 2014-09-07 20.14.24

Clothes still damp when we returned to the hotel.


St Petersburg – 1st full day

Took the Red bus (which was grey)

The Red Bus

The Red Bus

and had an excellent tour round the city. Went to check out Gosting Dvor, it was a reverse shop compared to home, few doors to enter the centre and the different shops are in the alcoves as you walk through. Obviously the locals know exactly where to come to do their shopping, the visitors just walk until they find. Benefit – toilets are free. Luba arrived and we went off to St Isaacs church and then Peter & Paul fort and the local beach, sand quite dirty but reasonably fine gained. We followed  this with a quite economical song and dance night show and dinner at Troika. There seemed to be about 60% Turkish in the audience and when the show was over we were entertained by some excellent signers by the Turlish audience.


Cafe Suliko

St Petersburg – Кафе «Сулико»Agent Romanova lured our unsuspecting heroes from Nevsky Prospekt into Nabezhnaya Kanala Griboyedova and then into the less lit Pereulok Sergeya Tyulenina.Following instructions to the letter, the party descended stairs into a basement and entered Cafe Suliko.  A Georgian waitress acknowledged Romanova, but hardly gave mention to Boris and Timofei.  They were led to a dimly-lit table at the side of the restaurant.The menus were shoved in front of all.  None were in English, so Timofei struggled to find borshch.  It wasn’t on the menu.Romanova suggested a cheese pizza.

Georgian restaurant

Georgian restaurant

That seemed a bit simple, so some good Georgian dishes were found. Timofei opted for a beetroot soup (sound too much like his favourite borshch) and Boris had a lamb casserole.  This was all served with a tasty Georgian red wine, reminiscent of an old claret.After many jokes and some banter with the официантки, it was time to leave.  A plan had been hatched for tomorrow. The food was good. The wine was fine. The atmosphere was interesting.The owner of the establishment emerged and gave Romanova a huge embrace.  Timofei demanded likewise, so the owner (a great bear of a man) gave Timofei an embrace too.  (The owner seemed a little embarrassed).  Out on the street, Boris and Timofei headed for the bright lights of Nevsky Prospekt.  Romanova dissolved into the shadows.

Sapsan – Moscow to St Petersburg

Comrades!Be alert. It has been reported Boris and Timofei have been seen in the vicinity of Leningradsky Vokzal.These photos were taken on platform 7 adjacent to the Sapsan train 758 destined for St Petersburg.

Tim getting on the Sapsan

Tim getting on the Sapsan

Ian about to get on the Sapsan

Ian about to get on the Sapsan

It is further reported that our duo boarded the train, carriage (wagon) 4 and occupied seats 55 and 56.During the journey Timofei had to restrain Boris. He had a great desire to do harm to the child in the seat behind. It is believed physical violence is not appropriate even when the child has been determined to be a little shit. Kicking the seat, throwing tantrums and abusing his mother may even make him John McEnroe. However, his arm lacked the skill of a tennis player.

Timofei observed the train travelling at great speed. The train arrived on-time at the Moscovsky Vokzal in St Petersburg. All is well. No horrid children were hurt in the making of this film.

Moscow to St Petersburg – 5 September

Quiet morning this morning. After a good sleep we got up and packed our gear ready for the trip north on the Sapsan. Out of the hotel with the aim of dropping our stuff at Leningradsky Vokzal and then wandering off to check out Red Square. A few glitches with trying to get out and back into the station and we just decided to skip Red Square as we still have 6 hours spare when we return later in the week. Traveled north reaching 226 kph at times passed some dachas and over the Volga River,

through some luesh green countryside with plenty of trees which looked similar to birch. At 1435 we arrived at Tver but have been asked not to alight unless we are getting off (for our safety).

Train speed details etc.

Train speed details etc.

Finally got to St Petersburg right on time at 6 pm and were met by Luba who escorted us to our hotel where we had a coffee and went across town to check out the beautiful church built where Alexander II jumped out of his carriage to help one of his guards who had been shot. Alexander was apparently a really nice Tsar who had done a lot for his people but that did not stop him being shot and killed as well. The church was built on the spot. We returned to the hotel for a sleep before a big day tomorrow.

Park Pobedy in Moscow

The Great Patriotic War – Великая Отечественная Война
Sometime things are too serious for Boris and Timofei to be seen or with which to be related.
Tim and Ian went to the war memorial in Moscow – Park Pobedy – Парк Победы
While it commemorates more than one war, the emphasis is on the Great Patriotic War 1941-45.
It is a moving tribute to the contribution of the Soviet Union to the Second World War.


Remembering Borodino

4 Sep 2014: Moscow, Thursday: Borodino Panorama  

The Battle of Borodino, 7 September 1812, was perhaps second only in importance to Waterloo during the Napoleonic War. As many as 80,000 in total lost their lives in a single day at Borodino, a field near Mozhaisk, west of Moscow. Fili, now a suburb of Moscow, was a farming community in 1812. Kutuzov and his council met in a farmer’s hut there to determine the fate of Moscow and the course of the war.
(The farmer, nor Boris nor Timofei were invited to attend).
The Borodino Panorama is a memorial and museum, located at Fili.It is set on Kutuzov Boulevard, a busy arterial road in modern Moscow.At the entrance is an equestrian statue, honouring Kutuzov. It is fitting that it also represents soldiers and peasants, who contributed to the Russian war effort.

After passing through the ever-present security screening, our travellers were directed to the Kassa. They parted with 200 rubles each and were permitted entry. On the first floor there were extensive displays of memorabilia, uniforms, equipment, maps and battle plans. On the second floor is the panorama of the battlefield.
And it is spectacular. After returning to the first floor, our travellers departed.
(And they voiced the belief that they could have helped. Such delusion!)

Park Pobedy in Moscow.

The Great Patriotic War – Великая Отечественная Война
Sometime things are too serious for Boris and Timofei to be seen or with which to be related.
Tim and Ian went to the war memorial in Moscow – Park Pobedy – Парк Победы
While it commemorates more than one war, the emphasis is on the Great Patriotic War 1941-45.
It is a moving tribute to the contribution of the Soviet Union to the Second World War.

Space program


This gallery contains 8 photos.

Moscow, Wednesday: Мемориальный музей космонавтики The Russian Space Program has suffered a huge set-back. Our incompetent heroes have sought to provide their expertise to the program.Sergei Korolev, from his deathbed, strenuously advised against seeking assistance from these fools. His last words … Continue reading

Moscow Kremlin

The traffic in central Moscow is constant. Whether it be on the seven lanes across Okhotny Ryad or in the narrow streets behind Lubyanka, pedestrians cannot let their attention lapse. Boris and Timofei made their way through cars and traffic control bollards to the Biblio Globus bookshop. What had once been a bright sign on the facade was now a faded almost illegible announcement. It was a mark of red against a grey background. With the rain, the sky was grey, the building always will be grey, and the faces have no sunny disposition. Inside the store they hoped to make contact. At the information desk. Timofei pushed Boris forward. He asked the code question, “Can I ask you a question in English?” To which he got a very forceful “No!” That was not the coded answer he had expected. In Russian he asked for directions to the English books, and on the second floor he found a Russian book instructing the reader on the English language. Upon return to the first floor they paid 103 rubles for the book and left the store without further contact. They rushed to Tsum department store, as Irina had shown them where to find a free toilet. Time was important, so they also hurried to Kutafiya Tower at the Kremlin. It was raining again so they pressed themselves against the Kremlin gate, only to be jostled by people leaving the Kremlin. After 2:00 pm Irina arrived, but she was accompanied by an unknown man and woman. They introduced themselves as Igor and Nataliya (not their real names) from Crimea. (He told Boris he is a jurist and she is a housewife) They were very happy that Crimea had now been incorporated into the Russian Federation. Boris and Timofei acknowledged the comment, but said no more. After Irina paid them a large sum, they departed.



Irina then led our heroes to the Kremlin office in Alexander Garden where they were met by the Kremlin official, Vera.  Both

Tim, Irina and Vera

Tim, Irina and Vera

Boris and Timofei misinterpreted Vera’s role and expected to be arrested. It was not to happen. The group walked through the Trinity Tower gate to the Arsenal. However

Cannons left behind by Napoleon in 1812

Cannons left behind by Napoleon in 1812

their attention was drawn to the glass and concrete Kremlin State Palace. After seeing the flag on the Senate building (home and offices of the president) they realized he was not at home. Again they had missed an opportunity. Timofei was greatly interested in the Tsar’s Cannon and the Tsar’s Bell. Irina

The bell with 11chopped

The bell with 11ton chip

said she likes big things. The cannon has been fired once, but never in anger. The

Ian and that little cannon

Ian and that little cannon

bell always has been silent, probably because of an eleven-ton piece that broke away when it was made. After inspecting some churches, the team left the Kremlin grounds. Timofei2014-09-02 13.12.21 and Boris headed for a restaurant in the Alexander Gardens where they had pizza. Borshch was not on the menu. During the day, they had passed through Red Square, but it was not really visiting the place. That will wait until tomorrow.

Order of the Koala

Moscow: Paveletsky Vokzal

Every morning in Moscow, Boris and Timofei have made a practice of having a coffee at Costa Coffee shop in the lounge. They have used a spatula to apply the charm to Valya, the unsuspecting barista. The poor girl didn’t see it coming. She was presented with the Order of the Koala for services to our servants abroad in RussiaOrder of the Koala

Moscow Parking

Russia is the largest country, but it impossible to find a parking space in Moscow. According to Boris there are 3.5 cars owned by residents, per authorised and marked parking bay. However, all know that his statistics are totally unreliable.

Relocating a parked car at the shopping centre

Relocating a parked car at the shopping centre

Despite the statistics, Timofei and Boris supervised the stacking of cars at VDNX. When there is no marked bay, a truck arrives to put the target car in a place above the ground. All works well until the owner returns and asks how he is supposed to drive to the shops. Boris and Timofei were silent on this question.

(Author’s note:

Parking is a severe problem in Moscow. Some people have taken to parking on footpaths for a lengthy period.

Consequently the city administration has started impounding cars. Under the supervision of a city parking official a “tow-truck” operator lifts the car onto a flat-bed truck and the vehicle is taken to an impoundment.

According to a local resident, the recovery fee is 8000 rubles ($230), and this amount has to be considered in comparison with average earnings.

With further consideration and observations, the actions of the city parking officials have not provided a sufficient deterent. Perhaps it will take time.)

Tuesday in Moscow – plus Kremlin

Met up with Irina, the nice young tour guide who guided us through the Railway Stations and the Communist Walk yesterday. She only does tours for groups that speak English and she is excellent.

Ian &

Ian & largish cannon

Entrance to the Kremlin

Entrance to the Kremlin

Ian and I were the only two on the 2 hour tour.  There are 5 churches inside the Kremlin that were all very ornate but typically Russian Orthodox. We got to see 3 of them, Necropolis of the Archangel, the Dormition Cathedral and the Anunciation Cathedral.

Outside the Kremlin

Outside the Kremlin

2014-09-01 16.45.56

Bolshoi Theater

Plenty of gold leaf on the domes not solid gold as the west believe. Many old Napoleonic cannons which he left behind in 1812 because there was no food for his troops and he had to kill the horses to feed them.The railway station tour has certainly got to be the best.

Inside the Kremlin

Inside the Kremlin

Tomorrow we will probably take the Red Bus around the city and just have a slight relax rather than walk all day. May also go back for a better look at Red Square but we will just see what pans out.

Plenty of guards around Moscow, police everywhere as one would expect but they do look bored, some will give you directions when asked but there are always those that don’t.

These people do look like they have a hard life, probably the weather and maybe the drink but it all has been very pleasant for us.