Wednesday, May 25, 2011

26 April: Moscow to Trans-Mongolian Train

Okay, so let me just start by saying that it sucks a lot more than I ever realised being miles away from anyone who even knows it is your birthday. But thanks to the free hotel wifi, I felt lots of love via Facebook, Twitter and BBM and I got plenty of smses too. So I didn't feel completely neglected ;) In fact I was completely amazed at all the wishes I received and repeatedly surprised at who all they came from. It really did make my day :)

And what a day it was. I had to repeatedly remind my feet that they have 7 days of just about no walking coming up, but they are still absolutely killing me!

I was up at 8am, showered and had repacked my bag before breakfast. I left the hotel around 10am after checking out. Off I headed back to Red Square (via a few more ornate metro stations) to queue to see Lenin's Mausoleum.

To say it was weird, even for me, would be an understatement. I'm not really sure why no photo's are allowed but, whatever. There he lies looking an awful lot like a Madame Tussaud wax figure. It did make me wonder who else in the last 100yrs they're preserved on purpose (I found out in China, that they've done the same to Mao. And apparently Ho Chi Minh too ... anyone else?). What a weird thought. I also saw Yuri Gargarin's memorial stone in the Kremlin wall.

After that I went to the Archaeological Museum which wasn't at all quite what I was expecting. It's more like a museum built underground around some ancient walls they discovered right there. Pretty cool, but I could've given it a skip. Most interesting to me were the money hoards that were found randomly hidden away so many years later. How awesome! (Oh, and to say my currency collection got a boost after this trip would be quite an understatement ;) )

Then, I figured since I am in Russia, I really should make the effort and go inside the Kremlin to check out the Faberge Egg exhibition because, where else am I likely to see that anyway?

The inside of The Kremlin complex was pretty cool. Lots of ornate churches. The Faberge Egg exhibition was a little disappointing - only 6 of the actual eggs on display. But they were pretty awesome to see. The rest was other gem-stuffs, which was nice enough to see, but didn't enthrall me all that much.

I stopped and had lunch in the gardens outside the Kremlin. I bought a sausage in a roll from a little stall. Street-food! Oh, and I saw the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier too.

Since it was still quite early in the afternoon, I decided why not go to the Moscow Zoo as well. Well, the Moscow Zoo is an experience. The place was far more packed with people than I could really understand. It was like going back in time! The enclosures are like old-style concrete floored cages. Truly surreal. It reminded me of what I expect the Old Zoo below Rhodes Memorial must've been like (I once had the opportunity to wander the overgrown remains as a child, it was awesome!). I kinda rushed thru it because the bizarre enclosures held a morbid fascination for me and I just felt sorry for the poor animals :(

Oh, and did I mention that it's pretty much in the middle of the city? You even have to cross over a bridge above heavy traffic to get from one half of the zoo to another. Truly a surreal experience. I wouldn't recommend it at all.

And then I really had to head back to the hotel to rest my weary feet. They got about an hour's break before I headed out again.

Next on my list was the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. I think this was the highlight of my Moscow visit (and I'm not even that into space at all!). Even tho I could barely understand any of it (it was all in Russian), it is fantastically done with so many interesting bits of space-history. It is kinda awesome being there in the month of the 50th anniversay of Yuri Gargarin's Space Flight. The even have the first 2 dogs in space (stuffed), Mark Shuttleworth's space suit (that little piece of home definitely brought a smile to my face! And I've just found out, thanks Wikipedia, that yesterday, 25 April, marked 9 years since his space flight launched!) and a life sized model of the MIR space station which I got to go into.

After that, I dragged myself off to do a little grocery shopping before the train trip. Have bought myself 2 packets of novelty flavoured Lays to try: Crab and Caviar!

I got collected at the hotel by Tatyana and she took me to the station to wait for my train and then saw me onto it. I'm on carriage 6, berth 5. Luckily I'm only sharing with one other person, a UK/Australian girl, Rat. Yay, the relief was awesome (for us both, I think!). I have no idea how they fit 4 people in here usually!

The train left the station at 21h35 and we were on our way. We had a quiet night, just figuring out our cabin. We made our beds and chatted and read our books. There was not much to see in the dark thru the dirty windows.

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