So it's been a few days...
We arrived safely in the Russian capital on Sun 10th after another good night's sleep on the train and, luckily, no further dealings with border guards.
Moscow is such a great city. We had originally only thought of it as the departure point for our trans-Siberian journey, but it was a highlight in itself and really surprised us both. Not only did it feel much safer than we'd expected, there's also a great buzz to the place which seems to last well into the early hours...
A lot of money has being invested in the city (even Governor Schwarzenegger was impressed) and if you're wealthy enough, there are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy it. From over-the-top shopping arcades to fancy Uzbekh restaurants and cocktail bars on the 20th floor, Moscow feels like any other major Western city.
The skyline is full of golden domes and spires, as well as more imposing, Communist structures such as Stalin's Seven Sisters. We were staying near one of them and I couldn't believe that the scary government-style building at the end our street was just an apartment block.
St Basil's cathedral is as impressive as it appears, both inside and out. Named after St Basil the simpleton, a local peasant/Robin Hood-like character who shoplifted to give to the poor and was known for reprimanding people in and around the church - including Ivan the Terrible himself (who was later a pall bearer at Basil's funeral).
Other great sights/experiences included: changing of the guards outside the Kremlin (see goose-stepping photos); the Kremlin complex itself (I've never seen so many religious icons in one place); bill boards of Russian celebrities (usually with comedy moustache); metro stations, the space shuttle and Eurostar on the banks of the Moscow River; "face checks" in bars and clubs (don't ask how we got in); ordering food in pigeon Russian and wondering what you're going to end up with etc etc...
I think the funniest moment of our stay was the experiment with the so-called 'taxi system'. There are very few official taxis in the city and they all charge silly prices. So, after a few drinks with an old friend from FCO it was suggested that we should use the locals' way of getting home - that is, flagging down a car in the road (any car), negotiating a price for the destination, and then hopping in. It's crazy! We'd never have tried it without the assurance that this is how women and children get around the city, but can you imagine this happening in London?! Mum - we were quite safe, I promise!
I also have to mention the women's fashion as even Charlie noticed it (and commented on it regularly!) Short skirts, spray on jeans and scary stilettos seem to be compulsory uniform here, even as the temperature starts to get nearer to freezing and it's threatening snow. Sadly, my outfit didn't make it past the Charlie Rucksack Selection Process...
Although i was a bit sceptical at the beginning, learning the Cyrillic alphabet was the best thing we could have done - I'm not sure how we'd have survived the city without it.
So as we sit at Yaroslavsky station waiting for our 4-night train to Irkutsk (Lake Baikal), we're actually quite sad to be leaving. But then we see the hoards of people swarming across our platform with their luggage, boxes of goods for sale, and food supplies for the journey and we can't wait to board!
Love to everyone and we'll write again when we get to Irkutsk (Oct 17th). Ladies, wish me luck with the bathroom facilities and the falling temperatures... x x x
Funniest moment - getting into a Lada at 1am with a random stranger and giggling all the way back to the hostel
Scariest moment - crossing 8-lane traffic when the green man only lasts five seconds
Nicest walk - strolling along the south of the river from Sparrow Hill to Gorky Park
Best tourist attraction - St Basil's Cathedral, it's just stunning
Favourite food - Blinchikis (pancakes filled with minced beef and onion with sour cream - yum!)
Lasting memory - Moscow sunset on the golden cupolas, tied equally with high heels, mini-skirts and spray-on jeans (charlie's vote)