Russian cities and trains

Well, where to begin! The last time i wrote was 4 days ago and as you might know by now. We don’t sit still!

The day in Moscow (25th july) went fast – we saw alot of monuments, took a free walking tour, ate some russian food, met some other tourists and even decided to meet up with one of them in Irkutsk as he (a german) also arrived when we did.

two of the nice people we met. Philip and Anke. There was also a german called mirko
two of the nice people we met. Philip and Anke. There was also a nice german called mirko

There is one thing i would like to mention from Moscow though – we visited the oldest banya (bath house) in Moscow and it was great!

From the outside it looks like a restaurant and it even says pectorah (restaurant) on the outside… which is kinda true. You then go in and people in towels are walking around. We were met by an english speaking russian who told us about the classes of the bath from highest to lowest and we opted for middle (1800 rubles each). When we got in, I for one was quite surprised. It actuallyt was a restaurant! We got a seat each and we were assigned a waiter. Everybody could order food and drinks and all kinds of massages and leaf treatments and whatnot. All while sitting naked in your towel. You then interrupt your food to go in the sauna to warm up and then go straight into some colder pools (20c) to cool down. Go back to the restaurant part, eat, drink, repeat.

We spent an hour there as we were in a hurry and quickly decided to try this again! Inside I believe that russian mob gangsters and rich businessmen were doing business. There were private cabins and lots of servers – even on second class. Finally we also bought a hat.. mostly as a souvenir but everyone wore one inside.

casual sightseeing
casual sightseeing
casual sightseeing
casual sightseeing

At 00:35 we boarded train 100 to Vladivostock!

in front of the sign saying "moscow staying" displaying train 100 going across the country
in front of the sign saying “moscow station” displaying train 100 going across the country to vladivostock

We were riding third class. which meant 60 people crammed in small space. We knew nothing and noone spoke English. It was great! There is loads to speak of here, even though nothing really happened. Except for the evening where we met some crazy russians that gave us food and vodka in full excess. Read more about this ย on my travel companions travel diary:

http://www.mobilytrip.com/journals/92xzPJ8yK9FBhKEvjpVqpGSs9

Let me instead just show you some pictures we snapped:

russians, food and vodka
russians, food and vodka
me and the restaurant staff
me and the restaurant staff
at one of the "stations" with everybody outside and babushkas selling stuff
at one of the “stations” with everybody outside and babushkas selling stuff
train living
train living

 

the toilet
the toilet
the samovar. always containing hot water
the samovar. always containing hot water

 

view from the train
view from the train
more crazy russians. this guy on the right was in the army fighting in ukraine. I borrowed his hat
more crazy russians. this guy on the right was in the army fighting in ukraine. I borrowed his hat
sign at the station in moscow (it says 100 - vladivostock)
sign at the station in moscow (it says 100 – vladivostock)
the train in moscow
the train in moscow

Well there you have it. A picture explains more than a thousand words! ๐Ÿ™‚

We met some russians on the train. They were all going from moscow (where they live) on the trans-siberian railroad to several russian cities and the first of them being yekaterinburg. At the same time as us ๐Ÿ™‚

First arriving in Yekaterinburg it was a very weird feeling. Dear reader i don’t know if you’ve tried to be in a city where you understand nothing and know nothing and noone speaks your language. It’s a strange yet somehow appealing feeling. You find yourself out of your comfort zone and you succumb to basic communication. Pointing and general miming. We read from our guide book that the station is about 2km from the city centre and also that a hostel named Omnomnom was ย a good place to go. We also had a map of the city centre.

We went to a tram/bus station and quickly discovered that a map or a plan of the public transportation was nowhere to be found – let alone in english and decided to go with plan b. Find a nice looking babushka and point at the map saying your best russian “lenina” (for lenina street). Luckily she understood us and helped us get on the right tram. Things went smooth from there and with the help of our map and a couple of friendly strangers we found our hostel AND it wasnt booked! Although well hidden in a residential complex. We then dropped our bags and started wandering the city.

A side note is that they where 3 women working on the tram: 1 to drive, 1 to speak in the loudspeaker system and 1 to sell you tickets… and the tickets were about half a euro a pop. I can’t believe they get paid very well with such cheap tickets and 3 people working just one tram but thats another story.

With us wandering the city of yekaterinburg (more detailed descriptions in my travel companions before ย mentioned travel log) we noticed a few things. For example: they have starCUPS not bucks – although the logos look similar

stracups?
stracups?

And had some coffee at a great place called travellers coffee

funny sign
funny sign

We saw some race thing that was going on in town that day:

race show in yekaterinburg
race show in yekaterinburg

We also tried to go to something called “the amazing maze” but never managed to do so and generally looked at signs all day trying to read russian.

This all took maybe half the day (until 6 pm).

At 6pm we ran into the russians i talked about earlier that we met on the train. Two sisters and their boyfriends ๐Ÿ™‚ย They were going to see some “tent rocks” in a forrest somewhere and we decided to join. When we got there the rocks were nice and we snapped some pictures (well I didn’t as my phone was dead). We then continued deeper into the forrest by a huge lake where alot of partying were going on since it was offical navy celebration day. After that we went to a bar called Ben Halls pub which had live music and loots of pretty people – especially the girls:) All in all a very plesant evening with the russians. We enjoyed their company very much and hope it didn’t feel like we leeched in on their party ๐Ÿ™‚

The next day i slept for like 10 hours and at the time of this writing we dont know what to do for the rest of the day – but a good bet is to go with one of the other russians staying here to another banya (bathroom) outside town. This time with local help to tell us what you’re supposed to do ๐Ÿ™‚

4 days crammed into one post. I could easily spend 4 times as much. For example I haven’t told you about the soviet demonstration that met us in yekateringburg or the hostel and the people living there who apparently likes to sing ๐Ÿ™‚

Tomorrow morning begins the longest leg of our journey. 54 hours on the train from Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk.

Hello Moscow – good to see you again!

As we left we felt pretty happy and contend. Things were looking good and we believed that after our visas were in order everything was in control. we didnt see anything troublesome. We felt like this peacock – happy and carefree

Peacock in a large park in warsaw

Peacock in a large park in warsaw

That changed though. In warsaw we managed to get to the right track, platform and sector although the only number they seemed to use was platform. We were a little worried when the train didnt show on the track monitor 2 minutes before departure… were we on the right track (!?) 5 minutes earlier some polish message was spoken in the loadspeakers which made 9/10 leave the tracks and move somewhere else so that had us a little worried. A quick ask around ensured us that everyone else was also waiting for the train to moscow. 10 minutes later (it was delayed), the train rolled in and we got on.

We were worried that the tickets for this 20 hour train ride was only for seating, not beds but when we got to our numbers we got very happy – it was beds and we had the room to ourselves! We quickly praised lady luck again and took some picture

view from the train (and a smiley face?)

view from the train (and a smiley face?)

nikolaj in our 2 (3) bed bedroom. pretty nice and with power :)
nikolaj in our 2 (3) bed bedroom. pretty nice and with power ๐Ÿ™‚

Then the troubles started rolling in. We were met by the conductor and after inspecting our “tickets” he wasnt happy. they were not valid. We later found out that apparently they were russian train system vouchers that had to be changed to real tickets first… and here’s the kicker – it has to be in russia! basically that means that tickets going from warsaw to russia are useless as you first have to be in russia to validate them – crazy russian train system.

We tried asking if there was a way to stay in the room but he said no – even after we starting waving some roubles. He was nice enough to let us ride on 2nd class (normal seats) instead of kicking us out. Then we could get to terespol (by the border where the train holds still for 45 minutes). This should be enough for us to buy new tickets. Luckily he didnt simply kick us out!!

We got there and quickly got in a heated argument with a polish train ticket saleswoman that didnt know what to do with the (in the polish eyes) worthless vouchers, a random nice polish/english speaking woman and us. After some swearing and aggitated voices we were told to follow another (calmer) ticket lady to the platform. We had to wait a little away since it was practically a border we were standing on but the ticket lady was allowed to go there and she talked to the conductors. She then came back with the information that were only valid in russia. Meanwhile I snapped a picture of the border while noone was looking

passport control in terespol
passport control in terespol
passport control in terespol
passport control in terespol

Well to make a long story short, we had to buy new tickets and then we got on the train and had to get our tickets and visa checked (it ran us 220 eur for two tickets to moscow but maybe its not so bad as we might get our old tickets refunded)

The visa check took about 1hour by a beatiful border patrol woman and after asking us what was in our bags (private stuff and vodka) she accepted our passports and walked away. We got them back about half an hour later.

We thought that we now could relax (we had gotten new tickets with a room similar to the old room so still the nice comfort) but there was one more surprise waiting for us.

When we arrived in Brest, hordes of babushkas, boarded the train with pivo (beer), sok(juice) and all kinds of bread and chicken. They competed intensely with each other, talking hectically and a haggle between what we wanted, how much it should be, and which of the ladies we should buy from started. At the same time we had to move room (the conductor asked us) and I was extremely tired.

After a whirlwind of russian and absolutely no english we had a beer, some peanuts, some juice, some deep fried chicken and some bread. Actually a lot of it. we ended up paying about 1500 RUB, which is approximately 225 DKK (30EUR). Not very cheap relative to what it was but okay compared to the situation and that we were very hungry ๐Ÿ™‚

We ate the food and looked out the window. It was pretty nice that we could open the windows and stick our head out without anyone minding. Everyone seemed pretty content with us doing whatever so that was nice.

We waited about two hours for our train underwagon to change as the tracks are different in belarus. They basically lifted up the entire train on huge jacks and rolled these things in under us while we were all in the train. During this time (visa check + train change) of approximately 3 hours, we couldnt go the restroom. Which was pretty much the only thing the conductor DID mind… which is understandable as the feces would have fallen straight down in the workshop ๐Ÿ™‚

in brest (belarus) the tracks were different so here the entire bottom part of the train was changed as the train was lifted by huge jacks
in brest (belarus) the tracks were different so here the entire bottom part of the train was changed as the train was lifted by huge jacks

We then went to bed (Nikolaj wasnt done partying and went looking for someone to party but there was noone to be found). The night passed as we rolled by Minsk and left Belarus behind us. Arriving in Moscow at 11:45 in the day.

We are now checked in at our hostel, the weather is good and the hostel seems nice. Although – apparently hot water is “en by i rusland” as there is only cold water. It’s a saying in Danish that means “a city in russia”. You say that when it’s very unlikely you’ll get it – as unlikely as finding yourself in that exact city somewhere in all of russia. Which is kinda ironic as we are in fact in a city in russia ๐Ÿ™‚

As one should always end on a stong joke – this will be the end of this post!

Tomorrow is day 1 of the actual trans-siberian railroad. Exciting stuff

Warsaw, vodka and visas

As always. There is loads of information to be gotten by checking our travel log:
http://www.mobilytrip.com/journals/92xzPJ8yK9FBhKEvjpVqpGSs9

To sum it up so you wont have to read twice: We ended up couchsurfing at a sweet polish girl named kasia and her boyfriend and her roommate Pawel. We also met up with a friend of mine from earlier, Anna, and finally we did very little sightseeing and… drumroll: WE GOT OUR VISAS and passports back from the belarussian embassy.

kasia and her boyfriend
kasia and her boyfriend

There is so much to tell in so few days its impossible to get it all down in writing. Many vodkas were drunk and many laughs were made!

I’ll just dive into one detail that concerned us the most: our visas.

Still a little hungover from the night before we entered the belarussian embassy at 1pm . We saw from the polish track and trace that our letter is not delivered and that it had been sent out for delivery again the same morning.

Our heats pounced as we went to the teller to see if she knew anything. we didnt stay at the counter for long before she knew who we were. “are you the danish people?”.Reluctantly we answered yes to which she continued “first of all.we are not a post office!, and second of all ,visa application is between 9-12. come back tomorrow”. Well apparently they have the visas but also apparently she wasnt happy!

Afraid to hear the answer we asked if the visas could be done before tuesday evening (one day after) as we had to catch a train… Still not fully convinced we left the embasssy after a short “DA” (russian for yes). She wasnt happy but after all itwas good news.They had all the docments and we could get them in time.

That night we celebrated

Tuesday morning we got up at 7am and were at the embassy at 8:30.After 1,5 hours we got in and got in line at the “english” counter. Another guy from Slovenia was there and we asked him how hard it was to which he replied : “you have no idea!!!”.He promptly got rejected for the third time for him and now it was our turn.

We got up to the counter and didnt say a word as she just looked at us : ah,you. She recognized us from the day before and knew what to do. She got back with our applications and asked for two signatures. we gave them and she gave us our 80 euros back… we didnt know why but we soon found out. we couldnt pay cash. she gave us a note and told us to go a nearby bank and transfer the money so we did.

the note and money
the note and money

Not too thrilled to look into another 1,5 line of waiting to deliver the receipt we walked to the front of the line and i asked the guard to let us in (i didnt say anything i just waved the receipt) and luckily (!) he let us in! 5minutes later i was out and we got the magic stamp. We could pick them up at3 the same day

 

line outside embassy
line outside embassy

 

After a nice day in the park

the park
the park

we got our passports!!

9836a974-d075-4718-96a5-11953145b3ff

we couldnt believe how lucky we were.

Tonight we will celebrate

tomorrow we will continue our journey towards moscow!

 

NOTE: during this whole time we had alot of back up plans. flying to minsk as you can get instant visa there, flying to moscow, flying home to get the passports if the package was returned home, and of course bribing our way across the border .. but luckily we didnt have to!

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