A Travellerspoint blog

A more relaxed day... (updated slightly)

with no problems

My day started with change of plans... again! I will fly to Volgograd on May 10 instead of going back to Moscow and then to Smolensk by train. It willl be easier to work my way back to Moscow from Volgograd for May 22 without double tracking that way.

The train from St-Petersburg to Smolensk initially looked simple enough... until you see the detailed map of the route. The track goes through Bellarussia for about 20-30 Km => I would need a transit visa for Bellarussia (which I could get) and a multi-entry visa for Russia (which I did not get!).

I asked the Hostel for a travel agency that would have English speaking staff to make sure that the transaction was smooth and easy... But of course, this is Russia. There were no English speaking staff. Much to my surprise, I was able to write a note (without the hepl of my books) and got what I wanted in short order. OK Jen, you can hate me now (but I still love you Snooky Wompums of Love). This gave me a bit more confidence for when I go to the deep south... hopefully its' not a false sense of confindence.

No Pick-Pockets today = Yeah! Spent the day at the Russian National Museum. I was very impressed by their Impressionists (including Levitan) and "Group of Seven" style stuff. I wonder who came first? The Russian claim that Levitan developed his impressionist style completely independantly from other Euaropean painters... he also happened to develop it during the same time period. They also had exhibits on Folk Art, Icons and religious painting, and stuff suitable for a palace = boring portraits of the rulers that confirm they are important because the paintings were done by famous artists.

My goal for tomorrow is to make it out to the booney's in the East where the remianing trenchwork from the seige of Lennigrad are located. I will probably have to use the private bus system for the first time... I love transit! NOT. May 8 will be spent at the Hermitage (closed Monday's). May 9 = Biggest Party in Russia = Defeat of the Facist Hitlerites! Party on Communist Brother Dude! May 10 Volgograd, probably the most important city on my trip.... the place the world changed!!!

Happiness and Joy

Marc Rejeanovich

Let the Doom and Gloom Tour Continue!

Posted by TeflonCDN 11:05 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Introduction to Petty Crime in Russia

oh, and a river cruise followd by a trip to the Piskaryovskoe Cemetery

-17 °C

I spent the morning with Nicole, a Swiss pocess engineer who works in Krasnodar. We were going to hangout together for the day but we had a change of plans shortly after lunch... or at least, that is when we found out Nicole had to go fill out a police report.

The first plan was to go to Peterhof, about 30 km out of town, via a river cruise. However, the cruises don't start until May 9. Oh well, change of plans => We went on a canal cruise which was very nice.

After the cuise it was time for lunch and we walked down main street (Nevsky Prospect) and were approached by two very eager young gentlemen who at first offerd free magazines and then black caviar. It was the standard shove the magazines in the face approach while the hand hidden underneath the magazine went searching. They seemed to be focused on me and Nicole avoided them by zipping around. I was keeping enough distance between us but they didn't give up until I shoved one hand in my pocket and my other hand the bad guys hand (the one under the paper preventing it from doing its magic trick). He was very surprised and they left us alone = Yeah, we won!

After lunch, Nicole discoved that her IPOD was missing and probably spent the rest of the afternoon filing a Police Report.

I decided to go to the War Cemetery in the afternoon. The one where residents were buried during the siege of Lenningrad, ... and there 200 mounds.

It was fairly far away so I decided use the Metro. When I arrived there was still some room on the wagon and there was a group of 6 undecided people standing by the door. Yeah, if they are not going in, there will be plenty of room for me. The trouble is they all came on immediately after me and the doors closed. I then realized that I was facing the classic crush approach to picking pocket.

We were jammed in with about 1-2 inches to move and then the fingers started to wander. I was watching one guy attentively and tapped his fingers away from me a few times before the next stop came up. Yeah, I won! The main crush happened as I exited. They somehow unzippered an outside pocket on my inside jacket and stole my BanK Card. It could have been much worse, my Passport and Visa were also in that pocket.

Well, I think I may want to avoid this type of situation in the future by waiting for the next train to avoid the full ones!

Here are some pics of Piskaryovskoe Cemetery... And yes, the obligatory wedding party did show up!

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The wedding party

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The access ramp... In communist times this would not have been here as society was only made up of "perfect" people.

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A rare marker with some detail about the victims. The markers on other mounds only contain the year that it was filled.

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Happiness and Joy

Marc Rejeanovich

Posted by TeflonCDN 12:04 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Day 1 in St-Pete's

Peter and Paul Fortress

-17 °C

I did not sleep very well on the night train... but I did meet a Guy from Mali (spoke French) who has been living in St-Pete's, or Pete, as it is known to the locals, for 10 years. My first impression of St-Pete's is cleaner and quieter than Moscow... or it could that I arrived at 6:40 am instead of the middle of the afternoon.

My first in lesson in Pete was that the floor cleaners in the train station don't slow down just because there is a crowd in the way. My second lesson is St-Pete's is that the street cleaning trucks don't turn off the water jets when they get close to you. THE CITY WILL BE CLEAN!

And now a note on the most miserable people in the world => the older ladies who work in museums. They were the same in Moscow but I have not bothered mentioning it unitl now. 80% of them are ogres, with 10% indifferent and 10% helpfull. I was going around the Commander House at the Peter and Paul Fortress and found out that the Museum ladies play zone defence. Once you are in their zone you can not go backwards to see something you missed. The museum is effectively a one way. I did seek help from a Russian Lady who spoke some English and was told I had to exit the Museum and re-enter again to see the part I had missed. I did so but the troll at the entry did not let me back in because my ticket had already been ripped.

Here is a list of what not to do in the Fortress

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These rules don't apply outside the walls

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Tradional Russian Stove inside the Commander's House at the Fortress

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Inside the Peter and Paul Catherdral

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A note on tickets - All pieces of paper you get ina commercial transaction are torn or cut in some way... everything! I wonder if it ever served an actual puprose?

The rest of the day was spent in a Laudramat and shopping for food. I am staying tonight and having a few beers with the boys. One of them is actually a writer for "Lonely Planet".

First Major Change of Plan

I will be in St-Pete's for May 9 instead of Smolensk. My original plan had me travelling on May 7 and 8 but all the tickets are sold.

Posted by TeflonCDN 11:18 Comments (0)

Random Observations and Experiences in Moscow

Observations

Less than 1-2% of the population of downtown Moscow are fat

Russian women of every age walk arm-in-arm down the street

Young Russian women spend to much time thinking about their looks

Beer is more easily available than in Germany

The Porta-Potty business is booming

Many men pee in the bushes in parks

Parking is precious

Proffessional driver's spend alot of time standing outside their employer's car

The number of drunks on the street increases exponentially with the distance from the centre

Babushkas sleeping/begging besides luxury cars

Hostel's are full of spoiled rich kids ( like Sarah, hi hi hi)

It is hard to argue with someone who has short-changed you when you don't know the language (usually about 10-20 Roubles). Pay in small bills!

Experiences

Not everyone who runs up behind you is out to get you. This group of 3 younger folks chased me down at the exit of a metro. They were very animated. I put my back to the wall while keeping my hands in my pockets and my eyes on the 2 that have flanked me. I kept saying I don't understand. Well, I understood everything about 10 minutes later when I got to the Hostel. It turns out I dropped about 850 R after paying for my high quality Russian street food.

In a related story, I bought more Imodium today. Thank God the word is the same in Russian! Brand Power! Let's hear it for Big Pharma!

The Metro can be confusing. All announcements are in Russian only, including the "everyone get off now" command. This occured on my way to Victory Park yesterday, but I was lucky enough to have a fellow passenger come back to get me off. This happened again today, but this time I was watching... a little. Everyone got off the subway car and no one was getting on... I looked into the other cars and they were all empty..... Jump! I managed to jam an arm and a leg into the closing doors and pryed them open. The doors would make a good gillotine! I made it out and waited for the next to train = no one was getting on. After a few more trains I asked someone nearby if "Metro Zakrut" (closed) = YES. Yeah, learning basic Russian. Time to find an alternate route.

Marc Rejeanovich

PS - Rejeanovich is my patrionic name in Russian. It means "Son of Rejean". I may be the only Rejeanovich in Russia.

Posted by TeflonCDN 06:45 Comments (0)

Victory Park - Moscow

The beginning of the Gloom and Doom Tour

Victory Park

Victory Park is located at the furthest point of advance of the German Army on the Western side of the city. These Russians sure know how to build a grand plaza! Fountains, statues, and open spaces, with a huge spire before you get to the entrance. There is a statue at the base. At first I thought it must be the " horseman cruching a eagle" thing again, turned out to be Saint George killing the Dragon. Not surprising as St-George is very popular in the church/catherdral frescoes as well.

I was there at 10:00 for the opening and had the place to myself until after lunch. I probably had my ticket and photo permit checked 5-6 times... I guess the security never ends!

The first exhibit is... you guessed it. The Hall of Sorrow. The old Soviet regime was good at doing that whole sad thing. I sat there taking it all in for about 30 minutes. 2 other visitors came in during that time.

The concours surrouding the Hall of Sorrow contained a number of diaramas, starting with the Battle for Moscow and ending at the Reichstag in Berlin. The signs in this area were in Russian and English and proved to be a very intersesting read.

It turns out that the massive early losses were actually part of a brilliantly executed strategic retreat! The isolated pockets that fought for weeks and months were vital to the defence of Moscow. Our version of history totally missunderstood this phase of the War.

Our version goes something like, German Tanks Div by-passed strongpoints and left them to the infantry to mop up. Not as glorious for the brave defenders of the Motherland.

The next floor of the museum was a chronological history of WWII... starting in 1941. But, to their credit, the war didn't end with the fall of Berlin. It ended when Russia defeated the Japanese. There is no mention of those little mushroom clouds.

To my surprise, there were a few exibits for

Lend Lease (UK and America)
D-Day
British Infantry

When translations for exhibites were available, they obvisously didn't waste and money on extra words for the UK and US contributions. They kept all the expensive adjectives and adverbs for the Heroic Defenders of the Motherland. Not too surprisingly, some bad words are also said about the unjust Facists and Hitlerites.

Although the alternate view of history was very interesting, the best part of the exihibit was at the entrance of the Hall of Glory. Portraits of the veterans taken for the 60th Anniversary. All portraits were done in full military regalia with Medals galore. The faces were very interesting, full of strenght, dignity, pride and sorrow.

The Hall of Glory contains the names of all the Heroes of the Soviet Union, over 10 000. It is a Grand Doomed structure. The top of the dome contains carved stone reliefs for each of the 12 Soviet Hero Cities.

Infantry Weapons Outdoor Museum (at Victory Park)

An impressive collection of artillery, AA Guns, Tank, fighters and tactical bombers and examples of fortifiactions. The sleet arrived on cue... I was walking around in the trenches. What a miserable experience that must have been. The section on railway bridge repair and railway destruction was a very nice surprise. I had never seen those machines before.

As an added bonus, there was also a display of Soviet Jet Fighter Aircraft and Helicopters... Hmmm, don't remember them in WWII.

The Soviet collection of artillery and Armour was complete. They even had rare IS-2 and IS-3 tanks = the most powerfull tanks of the war (some people may need to google these). However, they only a turret for a Panzer IV, no Panther or Tiger Tanks... surprising ommissions. They did however do a good job getting examples of all the weak and insignificant early light and medium tanks, like the P III. Hmmm, was that part of the plan?

Today (May 3)

| will go to the train station to buy train tickets fot this evening's night train to St-Petersburg. Then off to Gorky Park, the one made famous in NA because of the movie. I'm not sure what I will do this afternoon and evening yet.

Happiness and Joy

Marc Rejeanovich

Posted by TeflonCDN 21:00 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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