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Entries about moscow

Is Russia Really that Bad???

all seasons in one day
View Overland debacle on beatski's travel map.

Are Russians really bad? – 5th October 2011

I have always been really quite anxious about visiting Russia, I have read about the frequent muggings, often violent, tending to target men on their own at night. I have heard about the inherent racism within Russia, towards immigrants, people with a darker complexion, non-Russians, and tourists, I mean that just about covers everybody right? I am not saying that these things don’t go on, but my view is that although these people do exist, they only really represent 1% of the population, as the Hells Angels are famously referred to, the 1%ers. I am not wishing to count my chickens yet, but for those people that I had spoken to before I left for Russia I had more or less convinced myself that at some point in Russia I would have been either beaten or mugged, more likely both. My rational was that if I had I expected it, then at least when it does happen it was just one of those travelling hazards I couldn’t have avoided…..

However, now that I have more or less completed my time in Russia I have a totally different view to the country and to the people as a whole. The country has had 80 years of Soviet Socialism where the people have been seriously oppressed, propaganda material has been mocking the West and telling that our greed is evil and that Capitalism will never work (there is probably an element of truth in that though, look at the state of the Capitalist countries’ fledging economies?!!), and of course they have been promoting the Soviet Machine that was the USSR. And the reverse of course is true, and I guess that that was just one element of the huge pissing contest we all called the Cold War.

So to now turn around and bring free commerce into Russia and encourage trade and Capitalism, then you would expect that these people are probably a little bit pissed off. The wealth divide is greater than ever and those that are struggling are selling everything they have to survive.
Over the last 20 years or so Russia has gone through a massive transformation, so therefore you need to allow for that when judging people and particularly how they react to foreigners who are all smiles, taking pictures and generally not knowing a word of Russian.

So to carry on with my top ten lists theme here is another one showing the good experiences I had Vs the bad experiences I have had:

Good:

1. Waiting in line to buy some goods for the train trip to Yekaterinburg, Vincent and Ali were paying for their goods, I was stuck behind two customers who had shopping trolleys, content but also rather miffed that I would have to wait, I was offered by both of those in front to pass in front. Sweet
2. Trying to make my way to a hostel in Moscow to drop my bags off I was armed with a small map on the iTouch and was without my sense of direction. When asking a lady at a market for help, she went completely out of her way to help, taking about 15 minutes out of her time to assist and get help from others. Eternally grateful for that.
3. Numerous times being stood at train information counters and although the stern woman at the counter cannot help, there is often somebody in the area whether it be a customer or assistant who is willing to help, perhaps it is that look of absolute desperation I have had in my eyes at times, but great, I love it.
4. The Journey from Yekaterinburg to Irkutzk, an amazing experience with an older Russian couple. We spoke in broken Russian, broken English, equipped with only a small pocket phrase book and hand gestures we managed to enjoy each other’s company for the entire journey. They shared all of their food and they were great travelling companions. I could not have asked for a more enjoyable trip.
5. The Russian Army, they gave me a ride in an Cannon Fodder carrier to the centre of Irkutsk to flag down a “proper” taxi for me, see separate blog post which I will have to do at some point, quite an experience.
6. Random people coming up to me and asking questions, genuinely interested in who I was, why I was in Russia and what I thought of their country. Their younger population have massive ambitions but are massively restricted.

Bad:

1. Stood patiently waiting to go through the metal detector for Lenins tomb in Moscow and some ‘Lady’ barges through me and goes straight through the barrier. Good thing about this one is that she had not dropped off her phone at left luggage which is a requirement so she had to go back, but also the guard made a point of letting her know that she had barged past this ‘Young Gentleman’ (I had a translator at hand)
2. I got stared out by some young woman whos face was very hostile after I spoke to the driver of the bus and asked in Russian “Afta-vag-zal?” which means Bus Station. She stared straight through me, all I could muster to say to her was “Afta-vag-zal?” and then will balls of Britain I said straight to her, “Come on love, crack a smile will ya!!” said all the while smiling bearing my teeth to her. I am overly nice to those who are particularly hostile to see if they will soften!!
3. General Hostility in the Service industry for anything, but I experienced this less than others.
4. Generally the amount of drunks, but that wasn’t such a real problem for me, perhaps more of an issue for the Russian NHS (if they have one)

I think the weight of this is definitely in the favour of the positive, though some guys I have briefly been travelling with cant wait to get out of this country, but I think Russia is like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. Next time I will try not to judge a nation based on factual evidence, books I have read and newspaper clippings. I should try and be a bit more positive from now on and not try to assume the worst.

So I've just bought my tickets to now go to Ulan Bator in Mongolia but between me and you, I've heard that the Mongolians are all wankers……

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Hoolabools dream dish........
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Dogs or Cats for dinner or domestics
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Mr Lenin
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Irkutsk - Capital of Siberia
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Home for som poor cold Siberian Family

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 01:31 Archived in Russia Tagged moscow trip russia planning irkutsk concerns checklist hostility Comments (6)

The Red Arrow

St Petersburg to Moscow

sunny 18 °C

St Petersburg to Moscow – on the Red Arrow – 22nd September

I had been looking forward to my first overnight train trip for a while, all of my journeys so far had been during the day. The journey from St Petersburg to Moscow can of course be done during the day time and recently can be done in around 4 hours on the fast train. However, the traditional way of doing it is by overnight train. The Red Arrow is the most prestigious of the overnight trains, it is a Russian Institution, each night travelling from one city to the next from midnight to 08:00 each morning. If I was going to travel overnight then I was going to do the Red Arrow. I had thought about booking it in the UK and paying agency fees but in the end I had managed to purchase all of my tickets in Russia for Russian prices which was a real bonus.

As the train departs music of the Russian national anthem plays on the speaker system, you are shown to your cabin by the courteous staff and you are given your bedding. I was not totally accustomed to the practice but watched others and followed suit. A big surly German guy came in smelling of Vodka, he broke the ice immediately in the cabin by shaking everybodies hands vigorously before crashing out in a drunken stupor. I spoke briefly to a Belgian guy but then insisted that he get off my bed because I was fooking knackered. I had been waiting around for the whole day to get this damn train, I had had to check out of my room at 11am and had been essentially homeless for all of that time, naturally I wanted to sleep.

Anyhow, Rio, a Japanese guy who was in St Petersburg on business waited for me to depart, and whilst he was there I asked him to take a photo of me by the train……

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If you look hard, i am behind all of those people.....Thanks Rio, it’s a keeper that one…..

Arriving at St Petersburg, the Russian anthem played again, I had had a good sleep and was ready to tackle Moscow and the Moscovites…..Bring it on!!

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A Smiling Russian???? Never!!!

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Inside the Cabin....

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Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 05:02 Archived in Russia Tagged moscow the train red petersburg rio st arrow anthem Comments (1)

Boring Post, please move on.....

overcast 10 °C
View Overland debacle on beatski's travel map.

Yekaterinburg – 26th September

This is a boring post, so move on or skim read. So in this dull narrative I’ll give you an idea of how I started out, how I fumble my way around and also where I have been so far. The blog I had never intended on being a chronology of what I have done that day, I got up this morning, farted, scratched my arse and went to the toilet before I had breakfast….. Big Wow, don’t bother, I don’t want to know!!

So currently I am in Yekaterinburg which is the official capital of the Urals region of Russia and Russias fourth biggest City, quite industrialised and polluted but it is a city where Mr Boris Yeltsin was born and where Nicholas II was executed. I will then be taking the train to Irkutsk where I will be there for a period (maybe a week??) travelling to Lake Baikal to do some mountain biking, before I get a train somehow to get to Mongolia where I hope to arrange a 10 day tour of the Gobi Desert where I hope to stay in local Gers with Mongolian families. At this point in time I have only booked my train tickets to Irkutsk and only the accommodation, I have a vague idea what I want to do, but I tend to leave it open so that I can change things around if I need to. I have been a little more disciplined in Russia because of the Visa restrictions and the time I am allowed in the Country so I have had to plan more than what I would expect to do once I have left Russia.

So very briefly from the beginning, once I had put my notice in I started the preparation of my trip which was not so much of a lot in reality, I applied for my Russian, Mongolian and Chinese Visa and made an outline plan of what dates I would be visiting each country. Getting the Visa was not such a big deal, I had to fill out few forms where l had to tell the embassy some ridiculous information such as:

a) What countries have you visited in the last 10 years?? - China
b) Where are you staying for your entire trip? – China/Russia
c) What provinces do you plan to visit? – China

Filling a form in isn’t difficult. However, I had to tell a few white lies when filling them in of course, as I had no idea where I was going to be in any of these places. I knew that once I had the visa I was pretty much free to do what I wanted and go where I wanted, with the notable exception of Tibet. There are some certain requirements to register your Visa once you are in Russia but in reality it reads worse than it actually is. The difficulty for the people who I have met whilst travelling has been obtaining the Visas whilst they have been abroad and they have had to visit embassies etc. I did it from the comfort of my home so there was no real inconvenience.

Whilst I was in the UK the only thing I had booked was the train out of Middlesbrough to London and from London to Cologne. This is because you can get cheaper deals when you book in advance in the UK. On the continent that’s not necessarily the case. I didn’t need to book any accommodation because in London I was staying with Mr and Mrs Kenty, and in Cologne I stayed with Sick Boy and his brother Stick Boy (aka Mark and Peter). The rest then I pretty much just made up on the run. Hostelworld.com and seat61.com have been my main sources of information, hostel world naturally to find somewhere to lay my head, and seat61 is a great website to use for how to travel in Russia and Europe by train.
Although I am pretty much planning most days on the hoof, I still have to have a vague itinerary that I am working towards, I wouldn’t need this if I didn’t have Visa restrictions, but I think once I am out of China then I will be a bit more free and may not need this anal chart.

So the chart I am using is shown below, its more comprehensive than the extract below, it helps me forecast timings and manage my budget (which I haven’t really set, I just want to be sensible). Yes, I am a weirdo, and most people I have met don’t have ‘useful’ tools like this, I guess I just like spread sheets. But as well as the blog, the spread sheet is helping me document my travels.
My Anal Chart, which actually doesnt view well on HTML,

Trains Day Date Stopover Cost (£)
Boro:London Friday 02-Sep-11 1 £65.00
London:Cologne Saturday 03-Sep-11 3 £92.50
Cologne:Berlin Tuesday 06-Sep-11 3 £26.85
Berlin:Warsaw Friday 09-Sep-11 1 £36.11
Warsaw:Vilnius Saturday 10-Sep-11 3 £24.63
Vilnius:Riga Tuesday 13-Sep-11 2
Riga:Tallinn Thursday 15-Sep-11 2 £10.00
Tallinn:St Petersberg Saturday 17-Sep-11 5 £26.85
St Petersberg:Moscow Thursday 22-Sep-11 4 £53.00
Moscow:Yekaterinburg Monday 26-Sep-11 1
Yekaterinburg Tuesday 27-Sep-11 2
Yekaterinburg:Irkutz Thursday 29-Sep-11 2
Irkutz Saturday 01-Oct-11 5
Irkutz:Ulaanbaatar Thursday 06-Oct-11 1
Ulaanbaatar Friday 07-Oct-11 14
Ulaanbaatar:Beijing Friday 21-Oct-11 1
Beijing Saturday 22-Oct-11 5
Beijing:Shanghai Thursday 27-Oct-11 14
Shanghai:Hong Kong Thursday 10-Nov-11 7
Hong Kong:Japan Thursday 17-Nov-11 21

Once I arrive at a place it is always tempting to plonk yourself in a taxi and say drive, well that is the easy way out if you know the language but since I am a REAL foreigner then I have to plan this out by using google maps, directions from the hostel website, and public transport. Being able to get your bearings in a city that you have just arrived in is difficult and I often realise how much of a vulnerable, helpless soul I am whilst I am carrying my entire 12 month existence on my back. So these of course are the times that I think I carry some risk. But I have managed so far….

When I find my accommodation then of course I want to see the city, meet new people and find out more about the place. It’s not difficult to find out information on a place and I am often surprised by how friendly people are. No sooner have I absorbed a city then I am preparing to leave and have somewhere else to go. It seems unrelenting at the moment and I feel like I have aged 5 years already!!

Being able to take breaks from travelling is important, and having the relative comfort of a home helps me recover from the manic hostel living. I have managed to take a well needed break from hostelling it by being invited to stay with Vincent, a former work friends’ son who is living out in Moscow. It has been a blessing to be with people of some familiarity and a bloody comfy couch. Vincent, Ali and Dasha have been great hosts and I owe them a lot. Ali showed me around the Kremlin, Dasha taught me what to drink to recover from acute alcohol poisoning, and Vincent taught me that tough Scots get sensitive when watching museum films about the Cold War.

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But I need another holiday and break from this relentless movement across the globe.

So in warmer climates, i.e. not Siberia or Mongolia, I will find a place preferably by the beach and stay there for a while. It tough, but I’ll be damned if Michael Palin is going to have all the fun.

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me with a gun!!

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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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A not so stoney faced Russian woman...

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The Red Arrow, train from St Petersburg to Moscow

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My Catalogue Pose by St Basils nr the Kremiln

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 09:45 Archived in Russia Tagged moscow red trip st russia planning arrow concerns checklist basils Comments (2)

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