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The Red Arrow

St Petersburg to Moscow

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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)

Middlesbrough Ultra's??? Pah....

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View Overland debacle on beatski's travel map.

Middlesbrough Ultras pah?

I have been to the Riverside Stadium where I have been mixing it with the Middlesbrough FC Ultras in the South East Corner. Man, those guys are mental, jumping up and down, flying the flag for Middlesbrough. Adding a bit of that electric atmosphere to what would have been a dull midweek game at the Riverside. The fact that there are only 27 of them makes no odds. They are a threatening bunch of kids. I saw them once all do the conga and then turn their backs from the pitch. The stewards can’t control the volume of people standing and shouting they are totally outnumbered. It is completely crazy, of course I felt slightly intimidated when I was there that one time, but knowing I was a Boro faithful I figured I was in their camp and that I would be safe enough. Phillip, the 15 year old ringleader from Nunthorpe School was giving orders to his contingent of school disciples and they did as they were told. He started the chanting, he would instigate the dancing and the chanting. My favourite was when they all started to play tigs off ground. Man those guys really know how to tear a stadium up.

So I figured that I have been there and done it, I have mixed it with one set of ultras, so what is the big deal, bigger numbers equals a bigger game of tigs off ground ey?

The Riga match I went to was strange, no tigs, no dancing. A total of nine away supporters holding a banner up “Noone likes us but we don’t care”. There were no police or stewards on duty, the 100 or so home supporters had paid the ridiculous fee of about £1 for their ticket. Beer was being sold for £1.20 and a programme was 20p. Most of the home supporters didn’t have their own teeth, I'm not sure if that guaranteed you free entry to the game or some sort of concession. It was an embarrassing episode. The game finished 1-0 to the home side, there was some applause, but I just wish my mate Phillip was there to tear this place up and show them what real supporters get up to.

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a quiet game of football at Riga Vs FK Ventspils...
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Check out the away fans, try and count them...

In St Petersburg, it was a different story.

5 times I was frisked going into the ground. The first were the riot police, they were fully kitted up with the helmets, batons, body armour and in the numbers like you wouldn’t believe. Then there was the second layer, the police, don’t trust the police I have been told. He grabbed my nuts to see that I wasn’t carrying anything there, he wasn’t impressed, I was nervous wasn’t i? Then there were guards, then there were Army, and then finally there were the gates, you had to pass through a metal detector and get frisked one more time before you were allowed in.

Poor Phillip, I pictured him stood there trying to do the jovial conga trying to convince the Zenith fans that he was a proper Ultra, yeah honest man, My Mother says I'm crackers… “Watch this boys” dancing the jig, being all jovial and that. What would these boys make of his antics?

I had gone with Jack, a guy who was doing the Trans-Siberian from East to West and had been teaching English in Taiwan. We blended in, we had our hoodies up, scarves on wrapped round our head and watched the proceedings. The chanting was incredible, big TV screens around the stadium orchestrated songs by scrolling the words of the home sides anthems. For the illiterates at the match, their job was just to look menacing, and that was probably about 95% of them. We tried to look menacing, but I was brought up in Boro and our Ultras are A* pupils from the local comprehensive from nice neighbourhoods.

Jack and I got cocky, we had a conversation out aloud about football. We got sussed; some men turned around and spoke to us in Russian… Shit….. “Nyet Ruski”…. “Where you from?” he asked in English, it always surprises me how these illiterate unemployable Vodka guzzling, “I've got no forehead” Russians can speak English. A conversation went on about Roman Abramovich and Arshavin, loose connections with Russia and Zenit St Petersburg. Ruski started conversing with his friends, more of them arrived and then at half time they all left and then arrived with more. I started panicking; I needed silly Phillip to start dancing to create a distraction so that Jack and I could get the hell out of here. Silly Phillip had got me in this mess, thinking I was all hard-core.

Flares went up in the stand opposite, flags got torched the noise escalated. The naked away fans made a run for the home supporters, the riot police waded in with their batons, a few got over the fence but were kicked senseless by some guy with a brolley.

“What do you reckon Jack, we should make a beeline for the exit on 80 minutes ey?” It was a rhetorical question.

On 80, we both made a dart for the exit; the away supporters were doing a fine job of creating a distraction for us to get out of there. We shot out of there pushing past anyone in the way, head down and hands in our pockets.

We got out of the ground, away from the stadium, through the barriers of police and into the Metro, no sign of a waiting party to greet us which was nice. Back to the hostel, give me a beer I need the toilet!!!

Wait till I see Silly Phillips Parents.

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Riot Police
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More of them!!

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Away Fans
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Prematch

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 10:37 Archived in Russia Tagged football petersburg st Comments (2)

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