juliet: (round the world)
I am now rather looking forward to the 3 days on a train that is upcoming (heading off to Irkutsk tonight), as my feet are bloody knackered from hiking round Moscow for the last 3 days. I like seeing a city on foot, because you get to potter round random bits of it, but my feet do not necessarily agree.

Yesterday morning I queued up to see the Dead Communist, thus completing some kind of matched pair with the Dead Pope that [livejournal.com profile] dogrando and I saw in Rome a few years back. Lenin is looking rather better on it than John Paul I was, though - that's what a monthly dip in chemical-infused paraffin wax will do for you. The mausoleum is very dimly-lit and all in black & red marble; then a spotlight of some sort on Lenin himself. He is quite shiny. It was all most impressive, anyway. It's also about the only thing in Red Square that's free entry; maybe they're worried he might start revolving. Outside the mausoleum there's a stack of Prominent Soviet Graves - saw Stalin et al; also located Yuri Gagarin.

This afternoon I finished off the Red Square stuff, with St Basil's & the State History Museum. St Basil's is very odd inside - lots of little rooms, very labyrinthine. Either they don't have big services in there, or they keep the tourist hoi polloi out of that part. It did however have a large quantity of murals, icons, icon screens, etc etc - but less impressive than the Kremlin cathedrals.

The State History Museum, on the other hand, was fab. The highlight was an enormous globe (about my height) from about 1700, brought back from Amsterdam by Peter the Great after King Charles of Sweden commissioned it then wouldn't pay up once it was completed. (So Peter got it on the cheap from the makers.) There's only a tiny patch of New Zealand shown, and large lumps missing from N America/Canada and Australia. Having as I do a slight map obsession, I spent some time peering at it (sadly you can't spin it round). Many other maps, as well, including a 1900-ish one that shows the Trans-Siberian line, and two tiny bowls with little street plans of Moscow & St Petersburg in the bottom.

They also had a great many coats. Russians are good on coats, unsurprisingly[0]. I particularly liked the army coat with a giant rip from neck to cuff, presumably from someone putting a sword in the owner. And lots of other bits & bobs of various sorts. I couldn't read any of the labels, but it is possible that this if anything improved the experience.

I spent yesterday afternoon at the VDGKh park, which is where Stalin had a set of vast pavilions built, sometime in the 50s, I think, to celebrate Soviet Economic (& All Other Sorts Of) Success. The pavilions really are enormous, and very imposing. Presumably at one point they had Exhibitions of Success in them. Now, they've all been turned into shopping centres, of the "slightly tacky with lots of makeshift corridors & knockoff T-shirt/electronics stalls" variety. I think capitalism won that round. Many of them also seem to be for rent, or possibly for sale, so bear that in mind if you're after a Moscow pied-a-terre.

And this morning I HIRED A WHOLE BOAT. Well: I didn't (although at 400R tourist rate I felt I should have been able to), but as no one else got on for the entire hour's journey up the river, the effect was the same. I think the season must be over; it is also used for actual transport, but probably not at 11am.

The other reason I'm looking forward to getting on the boat is that one of the people in the dorm for the last two nights snores louder than anyone I have ever heard before. Earplugs do nothing to solve this problem. I am hoping very hard that no one in the compartment tonight is similarly afflicted.


[0] Today it became cold. I bought gloves and a scarf. This was not in the budget, but no matter; now I am warm. Knowing my luck they'll probably be having some unseasonal heatwave in Siberia & Mongolia & I won't have to use them at all, but I guess better that than cold.
juliet: (round the world)
I am now rather looking forward to the 3 days on a train that is upcoming (heading off to Irkutsk tonight), as my feet are bloody knackered from hiking round Moscow for the last 3 days. I like seeing a city on foot, because you get to potter round random bits of it, but my feet do not necessarily agree.

Yesterday morning I queued up to see the Dead Communist, thus completing some kind of matched pair with the Dead Pope that [livejournal.com profile] dogrando and I saw in Rome a few years back. Lenin is looking rather better on it than John Paul I was, though - that's what a monthly dip in chemical-infused paraffin wax will do for you. The mausoleum is very dimly-lit and all in black & red marble; then a spotlight of some sort on Lenin himself. He is quite shiny. It was all most impressive, anyway. It's also about the only thing in Red Square that's free entry; maybe they're worried he might start revolving. Outside the mausoleum there's a stack of Prominent Soviet Graves - saw Stalin et al; also located Yuri Gagarin.

This afternoon I finished off the Red Square stuff, with St Basil's & the State History Museum. St Basil's is very odd inside - lots of little rooms, very labyrinthine. Either they don't have big services in there, or they keep the tourist hoi polloi out of that part. It did however have a large quantity of murals, icons, icon screens, etc etc - but less impressive than the Kremlin cathedrals.

The State History Museum, on the other hand, was fab. The highlight was an enormous globe (about my height) from about 1700, brought back from Amsterdam by Peter the Great after King Charles of Sweden commissioned it then wouldn't pay up once it was completed. (So Peter got it on the cheap from the makers.) There's only a tiny patch of New Zealand shown, and large lumps missing from N America/Canada and Australia. Having as I do a slight map obsession, I spent some time peering at it (sadly you can't spin it round). Many other maps, as well, including a 1900-ish one that shows the Trans-Siberian line, and two tiny bowls with little street plans of Moscow & St Petersburg in the bottom.

They also had a great many coats. Russians are good on coats, unsurprisingly[0]. I particularly liked the army coat with a giant rip from neck to cuff, presumably from someone putting a sword in the owner. And lots of other bits & bobs of various sorts. I couldn't read any of the labels, but it is possible that this if anything improved the experience.

I spent yesterday afternoon at the VDGKh park, which is where Stalin had a set of vast pavilions built, sometime in the 50s, I think, to celebrate Soviet Economic (& All Other Sorts Of) Success. The pavilions really are enormous, and very imposing. Presumably at one point they had Exhibitions of Success in them. Now, they've all been turned into shopping centres, of the "slightly tacky with lots of makeshift corridors & knockoff T-shirt/electronics stalls" variety. I think capitalism won that round. Many of them also seem to be for rent, or possibly for sale, so bear that in mind if you're after a Moscow pied-a-terre.

And this morning I HIRED A WHOLE BOAT. Well: I didn't (although at 400R tourist rate I felt I should have been able to), but as no one else got on for the entire hour's journey up the river, the effect was the same. I think the season must be over; it is also used for actual transport, but probably not at 11am.

The other reason I'm looking forward to getting on the boat is that one of the people in the dorm for the last two nights snores louder than anyone I have ever heard before. Earplugs do nothing to solve this problem. I am hoping very hard that no one in the compartment tonight is similarly afflicted.


[0] Today it became cold. I bought gloves and a scarf. This was not in the budget, but no matter; now I am warm. Knowing my luck they'll probably be having some unseasonal heatwave in Siberia & Mongolia & I won't have to use them at all, but I guess better that than cold.

In Moscow

Sep. 24th, 2008 06:23 pm
juliet: (round the world)
I have reached Moscow! Moscow is city-like, but I can't read anything due to lack of familiarity with Cyrillic; this (the not being able to read things) is quite odd. I am getting better, though - I can very slowly transliterate most things, & I can recognise some words that I see a lot of. (like restaurant, I know that one now!).

The train journey went fine - was on the Eurostar that meant I made my connection at Brussels (where I bought water from the ROBOSHOP), thence to Cologne (& dinner, due to a 2 hr wait), & then the Moscow train. I was sharing with some random chap for the first night (apparently they don't honour the gender segregation thing that is on the tickets), but got a compartment to myself for most of yesterday & then last night. Which was all v luxurious. The whole thing, in fact, is v comfortable - there are 3 berths per compartment, which fold up/down to turn into v comfy seats in the daytime, and a little sink/table in the corner. Also you get linen (the blankets are a bit scratchy but v warm). And since this counted as a Russian train, there's a samovar down in the end of the carriage where the attendants live, which you can get unlimited hot water from. So me & my tin mug & my big bag of teabags were happy.

I also discovered that an eyemask is a Good Thing: you can bring the window-cover down but then there's *no* light at all, which I dislike; but there are too many lights without it. Eyemask is a good compromise

Also yesterday I got to watch (albeit only from my window) the train having its bogies changed! (Russian rail system is wider than European). They disconnect all the carriages, winch them up on big screws, shove the old bogies out, & put the new ones in. As well as sitting in the carriage while this was being done, I got to watch the same thing happening to the train next door in the shed. Which was all most exciting. This was just after the border crossing to Belarus, which occasioned much scrutiny of passports & so on. I was a bit worried on waking up this morning to discover that we'd crossed the Russian border & no one had looked at my passport or anything, but on examination of my White Entry Form it transpires that it does for both Belarus & the Russian Federation.

Anyway, I got in this morning, & then spent 40 min bouncing around the Moscow metro system like a rather overladen ping-pong ball while I worked out how it functions. Happily, from Moscow Belarus station, of the 4 available directions, 3 of them have a change to the line I wanted after 3 stops. So I got off then, discovered where I was, & then worked out how to tell in future. (They only have the station name on the side of the wall next to the train, rather than next to the platform, & I couldn't read any Useful Signs.)

This afternoon I went & pottered round the Kremlin. Managed to leave both camera & guidebook in bag (which had to be left in the cloakroom), so was pottering mostly quite ignorantly, but no matter (& some stuff was available there in English). It's a gorgeous sunny day today, so all the golden domes of the cathedrals were in particularly shiny mode. I also saw many icons. Notes on icons:
* they are frequently quite shiny.
* they were a bit rub at persepective etc, but quite good at eyes.
* EITHER no one could draw babies, OR Baby Jesus is supposed to look like a grown up because not a proper baby etc etc.
* they are v impressive especially en masse, but about 2 cathedrals' worth appears to be my lot.

Also there was an icon in the museum of St Jonas Metropolitan, which I found an amusing epithet.

Right, shortly will run out of time; am in Moscow for another couple of days so will doubtless have more to report later.

In Moscow

Sep. 24th, 2008 06:23 pm
juliet: (round the world)
I have reached Moscow! Moscow is city-like, but I can't read anything due to lack of familiarity with Cyrillic; this (the not being able to read things) is quite odd. I am getting better, though - I can very slowly transliterate most things, & I can recognise some words that I see a lot of. (like restaurant, I know that one now!).

The train journey went fine - was on the Eurostar that meant I made my connection at Brussels (where I bought water from the ROBOSHOP), thence to Cologne (& dinner, due to a 2 hr wait), & then the Moscow train. I was sharing with some random chap for the first night (apparently they don't honour the gender segregation thing that is on the tickets), but got a compartment to myself for most of yesterday & then last night. Which was all v luxurious. The whole thing, in fact, is v comfortable - there are 3 berths per compartment, which fold up/down to turn into v comfy seats in the daytime, and a little sink/table in the corner. Also you get linen (the blankets are a bit scratchy but v warm). And since this counted as a Russian train, there's a samovar down in the end of the carriage where the attendants live, which you can get unlimited hot water from. So me & my tin mug & my big bag of teabags were happy.

I also discovered that an eyemask is a Good Thing: you can bring the window-cover down but then there's *no* light at all, which I dislike; but there are too many lights without it. Eyemask is a good compromise

Also yesterday I got to watch (albeit only from my window) the train having its bogies changed! (Russian rail system is wider than European). They disconnect all the carriages, winch them up on big screws, shove the old bogies out, & put the new ones in. As well as sitting in the carriage while this was being done, I got to watch the same thing happening to the train next door in the shed. Which was all most exciting. This was just after the border crossing to Belarus, which occasioned much scrutiny of passports & so on. I was a bit worried on waking up this morning to discover that we'd crossed the Russian border & no one had looked at my passport or anything, but on examination of my White Entry Form it transpires that it does for both Belarus & the Russian Federation.

Anyway, I got in this morning, & then spent 40 min bouncing around the Moscow metro system like a rather overladen ping-pong ball while I worked out how it functions. Happily, from Moscow Belarus station, of the 4 available directions, 3 of them have a change to the line I wanted after 3 stops. So I got off then, discovered where I was, & then worked out how to tell in future. (They only have the station name on the side of the wall next to the train, rather than next to the platform, & I couldn't read any Useful Signs.)

This afternoon I went & pottered round the Kremlin. Managed to leave both camera & guidebook in bag (which had to be left in the cloakroom), so was pottering mostly quite ignorantly, but no matter (& some stuff was available there in English). It's a gorgeous sunny day today, so all the golden domes of the cathedrals were in particularly shiny mode. I also saw many icons. Notes on icons:
* they are frequently quite shiny.
* they were a bit rub at persepective etc, but quite good at eyes.
* EITHER no one could draw babies, OR Baby Jesus is supposed to look like a grown up because not a proper baby etc etc.
* they are v impressive especially en masse, but about 2 cathedrals' worth appears to be my lot.

Also there was an icon in the museum of St Jonas Metropolitan, which I found an amusing epithet.

Right, shortly will run out of time; am in Moscow for another couple of days so will doubtless have more to report later.

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