The last one (for now)
05.09.2008 - 12.09.2008 5 °C
Final two cities and last few days before the adventure is over . Plus a day of birthday excitement too
So last time we were still in Irkusk and spent the morning seeing the sights before catching the train. Again there wasn't an awful lot to see (unless you like churches, which we used to but have seen alot of them now...). We set off armed with our stunning map (road names in english actual street signs in Russian brilliant) to see the Decemberists house, we weren't really sure who they were but it was a marked highlight. We may have found the first one but it didn't look much like a museum so we took a sneaky picture before trying to find the other one.
Behind a heavy gate saying beware of the dogs (smally yappy thing was on the loose) we found a museum, "yes we will learn who they were" we thought, or as it turned out maybe not as it was all in Russian. But it was a nice old wooden house with some plants and photos of some people in it. We were the only people except for the millions of ladies working there.
So none the wiser we kept on going with our make it up as you go along city tour. There were some really old wooden houses that were pretty good. Sort of falling down, at funny angles and looking slightly rotten but amazing they have lasted so long without catching fire.
We walked on to the river where we then found some churches, all very lovely
I then decided that as we were riding the trans siberian railway we should go and see the obelisk built in its honour. So we found the spot and there was a statue of a man. I went hunting for and obelisk but I couldn't find one. It was only later I found out it had been taken down and the statue had replaced it!
I was beginning to dislike Irkust. But then we had only seen it in the rain (in fact it seems it only rains in Russia, never any sun). Thankfully it was time to leave so back on the train. This time for two whole days. The time went surprisingly quickly. We shared a cabin with a Russian lady whose daughter was travelling 3rd class (but spent the entire trip in our cabin, thankfully there were only the three of us). We played cards, read, caught up with diary writing and talked to the two Australian sisters in the cabin next door. We even ventured to the restaurant car!! It was kinda fancy and well the sauce of much amusement and the hang out for the drunken somewhat scary Russian men. The men have really red eyes, probably due to the fact they seem to start drinking as soon as they get up.
At one such meal time the 4 of us headed off to eat together, thankfully we filled a booth, when three drunk Russians came to talk (only one of them spoke English and he was most upset we didn't speak Russian "its a beautiful language why you no know?"). They wanted us to join them for vodka shots, but we said no, so they bought us wine (which we don't think they could afford), but we didn't really want to drink with them and much to the amusement of the waitresses legged it. Oops they really will dislike the English and Australians now!!
We stopped at various points along the way, some stops were for 2 minutes, others long enough to go for a bit of a walk. One such stop somewhere in Russia
So in glorious sunshine we arrived in Yekateringburg. Many people in Cambridge say there is nothing higher between the hills there and the Ural mountains. Well the ural mountains aren't exactly high here. In fact it was very flat and it was only after climbing a tall building could we see the slight mounds in the distance. Yadia a Russian girl with a strong american accent gave us a tour of the city, from the old dam (built of larch trees in 1735 and is still standing) to a new church that had been built on the site of several old churches that were blown up during the communist era. Finally we visited the Romanov church built of the site where the Romanovs were killed.
The next day we went on the rafting trip in the Ural mountains (small hills). Amazingly there were other people on the trip, 6 of us in fact. An english australian couple, Jodi a canadian and Bryce an american. So we headed west and 17km out of town we crossed back into Europe. (Pictures on Brendas camera so will have to wait to see them). So on my birthday I stood with 1 foot in europe and 1 in asia. Most exciting! We headed out to the country and walked a short way to a stream and floated down it a short distance. It wasn't deep and the rapids were pretty non existant. However due to all the rain lately it was apparently flowing quite fast. We then hiked out to some caves, which I went down into. It was pitch black and freezing, but the hike there and back was fun. Our guide produced a bottle of Vodka for lunch. After toasting my birthday he toasted the weather. Obviously at that point the heavens opened and we found ourselves hiking back to the car in the rain again. Not sure we will dry out till we get home.
We arrived back in town to meet two English guys James and Michael (we met on the train) for dinner. It had rained so much the water in the streets was faster and deeper than the river we had rafted down!
Over dinner with Jodi, Bryce, James and Michael Jodi had asked if it was ture the British didn't tip. We looked at each other and said we hadn't tipped in China, in fact if taxis were a bit over they rounded down. No one on our trains (east to west) had left money for the carriage attendents so we'd never thought to tip, and so hadn't tipped the guides (we'd figured they'd been paid by Russia Experience). Jodi was shocked and said we were meant to. Oh well we weren't going to change now so continued not tipping.
Another 28 hours on a train and we arrived in a rainy Moscow. We saw red square, the outside of the Kremlin, and the armoury as well as more stautes of Pushkin and a supermarket that I think he started
And st Basils cathedral. It was stunning on the outside, but inside wasn't so well decorated, some of the chapels only contained tat stalls, which seemed a bit wong for a cathedral.
The following day it rained so we spent much of the day touring the subway stations (cause we hadn't spent enough time on trains in the last 3 weeks). A lot of work had gone into them, they were quite stunning. I did feel a bit of a twit taking pictures but never mind.