A Travellerspoint blog

The Golden Ring

In the beginning....

As you may remember, the tour started at 7:00 on Sunday morning..., I woke-up at 7:05..., and the departure point was 25 minutes away by Metro.

Yes Jen, I still have that horseshoe up my butt! For some reason, I had insisted on getting the tour guide's cellphone number when I paid for the tour the previous Friday. Found the cell number then borrowed a cell phone from one of the Hostel Staff to call the tour guide (in my underwear.

The 10 minute discussion that followed taught me a bit about the finer points of Russian customer service traditions and ended with the tour bus/van picking me up at the local metro station about 10 minutes later = The 10 700 (non-refundable) Rouble fee was saved. I'm glad I talk to stressed people for a living!


The Group

The expats = Engineers from BP (+escort) and Nissan (Steve), an accountant from Shell (+ chicky pooh), the wife and daughter of the Dutch Embassador and an American prof at Moscow U.

The tourists = A family of four from New Zealand and me.

Somehow, I was able to get over my natural inhibitions and have great conversations with all of them except the Kiwi's who tended to keep to themselves.

The Tour

The small Provincial towns are a very nice change from Moscow (dirty, noisy, etc.). I was lucky enough to get my fill of Cathedrals and Icons in one tour. I will probably not have to see any more for the rest of the trip? These places are truly amazing... but you do get saturated.

The Russian Orthodox Church really knew how to play with the Tsars' and the Merchants' sense of pride and self-importance. It seems that every story involves competition between villages to have the biggest Church! Guess who benifits...?

The 3 words that were said most often by our great guide were, Catherdral, Volgariver, and the toilets (not in order of importance). A word on Russian bathrooms outside of Moscow = What a crap shoot! Paper/no paper and, more surprising, seat/no seat (even in toilets you had to pay for!).

The rural areas were very similar to Canada. I think I would feel right at home in these woods. Dachas are very prominent in the rural areas... but they are much like some commercial campgrounds back home => right beside the highway only a few minutes out of town, and sometimes, literally down the hill from the large appartment complexes where the owners live.

Overall the tour was great => Very good food and hotel (Kostroma). Good company. Great sights.

Travel Advice

I met up with a guy from the UN... one of the very few who carry weopons. An ex-marine who specializes in extractions = very interestng conversations. He is on duty for 6 months followed by 9 months vacation............. but the stuff you see and do might not be worth it! He has been to 180 countries, i.e., missing only 3.

He gave me advice on how to travel in the provincial towns... I think I will follow it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On the doggie side of things

Alot of Russians have dogs for protection, I saw some Pitbulls, Dogue de Bordeaux, and 1 Middle Asian Ovtharka (Snooky wompums, can I get one... please, please, please, I promise it won't eat the children unless they deserve it!).

Tomorrow

I will spend the entire day at Victory Park, the museum dedicated to the Great Patriotic War Museum that is on the western side of Moscow. It is located at the furthest point of advance of the German Army = My first full day of WWII Memorials. If there is time, I will also visit the nearby Napoleonic War Memorial Let the Gloom and Doom Tour begin! Yeah!

Note: I encourage everyone to stop complaining about the roads in Quebec. In comparison to Russian road, the roads in Quebec are a soft a goose down!

Happiness and Joy

Marc Rejeanaovich

Posted by TeflonCDN 11:00 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Still in a bit of a haze

But the amazing sights help with the focus!

It is lunch time on Saturday (Apr 28). Here is what I did yesterday.

I walked around the Kremlin and surrounding neighbouhoods for about 9 hrs yesterday. The tour of the Kremlin was interesting... but the highlight so far is the Armoury -> WOW! I will go back to the Armoury at the end of my trip and spend 4-5 hours there alone. The Tour was only inside the armoury for about 1 hour = not enough.

The collection consists of:

Tsars' and Tsarinas' clothing (starting with Ivan the Terrible)

Crown jewels and thrones (one made of pure Ivory)

a collection of weopons

a collection of Royal Carriages

a room full of gifts given by foreign governments and

10 of the famous Faberge Eggs.

Some of these eggs were kids playthings. 1 of those eggs was probably worth more than the entire output of a province. There lifestyle was more faboulous than Lord Black's = Revolution brothers.

The best part of the Armoury was the collection of the Tsars carriages. The first models were hard Tails, i.e., no suspension with Soft Tails appearring later. The woodwork and guidling + gems make them very impracticle but certainly one cool ride. Pimp my carriage!

I watched the changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier = good show and took my first picture of a statue, a towering Gregory Zukov mounted on a horse crushing and eagle (German) under it's hooves. Great Stuff.

Had supper at the Boar House (CDN Expat Bar) and started to watch some of the World Championship Hockey when, at about 10:00 the place filled up with lots of Russian women who were looking for dates... and money. Oh well, after 2 hits it was time to move on. The hostel had recommended Bar Tema, about .7kms from the Hostel. It is a cocktail bar. A very freindly neighbourhood place with real people. I was able to hook up with 3 different groups for 45 min -> 1.5 hrs. Fun stuff.

I seems that drunk people all like to tell you over and over about the small village they come from. Over and Over... People all over the world are very proud of their home town. Its part of who they are. Sadly, we all have to leave for school, work, etc. Seems that young people around the world want to leave the small towns only to discover a several years later that these were not bad places afterall.

Today I will go the markets and visit several of the subway stations... they all have a different theme and the art is supposed to be worthy of museums. I have to go to bed early tonight because my Golden Ring Tour starts at 7:00. I will probably get up abit before 6:00??? Hey, I'm supposed to be on vacation!

PS. I get the impression that all of Moscow's drivers dream of being cab drivers in NY... They are constantly on the horn, even when the traffic jam is at least 5km long!

Posted by TeflonCDN 01:43 Comments (0)

People watching while in the haze of Jetlag

Flight was great and I actually got a few hours sleep!

OK Dad, you can start worrying now that I am actually in Moscow.

Met up with a guy on the plane who already had a ride downtown... that led me straight to my first experience with the subway and the funky alphabet. I waisted a good 15 minutes figuring out the subway system but I should be in fine shape tomorrow.

I went for a walk around after checking in to my hostel. My first impression of Moscow is busy, dirty, and full of cops. Bought a beer from a street cart for 35 R = 1:50 CDN for 500 ml, then sat down in the park to do some some people watching.

The bottom line is people are people. The were groups of men hanging around chatting/laughing after work, young women walking arm-in-arm (it was very common), a mother/dauther scene where mom forced her daughter to accept some saussages from her shopping bag.

I can read the sign OK but I will need alot of work on my language skills... it seems easy in the books but it is different at full speed in real life, especially when your not sure what the general area of conversation is.

OK, time for bed to start dealing with the jetlag

Posted by TeflonCDN 12:15 Archived in Russia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

All is well

Time to go surfing!

Everything is packed into a 20 lbs carry-on and I'm ready to go!

This trip has been in the works for a few years but sometimes real life gets in the way.

The original plan (Spring 2006) called for 1 week in Poland and 2 weeks in Russia with a friend who has a similar interest in WWII history... but now he's in China for 2-3 years.

I then planned for 3 weeks alone in Russia in the of Fall 2006. I started by learning the funky alphabet then hired a tutor to pick up a bit of basic Russian. The biggest surprise with Russian was that alot the nouns are very similar to the corresponding French nouns.

A note on the alphabet. The first tutor I found told me it would take 70hrs just to learn the alphabet... Reality = 2.5 hrs on my own. Just try it folks, it is not that hard and it should pay off, especially outside of Moscow and St-Pete's. This trip was put off because of illness in the family...

And now, for what its worth, here is the plan...

Arrive in Moscow on April 26
Moscow (3)
Golden Ring Tour (3) - (Jet Lag over by the end of this tour?)
Moscow (1-2)
St-Petersburg (4-5)
Smolensk (2-3) - (May 9 Celebrations)
Orel (2-3)
Kursk (1-2)
Volgograd (3-4) - (Dogs Show on May 19)
Samara and Saratov (3-4)
Moscow (1-3)
Leave on May 25

Those who know me will probably be surprised that I even have a travel plan. I normally like to decide what to do next day the night before. However, the Russian visa application seemed to require a detailed itinerary. The reality? I obtained a business visa, and since I planned on visiting more than 5 cities, no cities are actually listed on my visa. Russia is my oyster!... caviar?

Enough with the plan, time to surf the wave of uncertainty!

Marc Rejeanovich

(Thanks Snooky Wompums. I'll miss you Twerpalumps)

Posted by TeflonCDN 06:11 Archived in Russia Tagged preparation Comments (1)

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