Hello from Mockba! or so it is called in Russia. Arrived from beautiful St. Petersburg after a party on the train (didn't think it was possible to fit so many people into basically a bunk bed) expecting bleak, grey Soviet chic but it is just as pretty a city. The Kremlin and Red Square are amazing. It is like being stuck in the middle of a fairy tale land... with a lot of loud Americans milling around. Went to see Lenin's tomb, which I thought was, you know, a tomb but it was was actually Lenin himself! Apparently they have been embalming him for the past 50 years! he looks quite fresh, too. our Russian guides are pretty hot 22 year old twin girls which has gone down well with the male cohort in particular the two single English guys who are teachers pets of the tour. We ate in an old Soviet cafe, pretty much fromCommunist times except we could buy as much as we wanted without having to queue in the snow for hours. Went tothe Vodka museum and got a free shot of siberian pinenut vodka which set the mood for the day at 11 am or even more impressively 8am Dublin time.
went toa great Ukrainian restaurant where James and Paddy tried to outdo each other with every sort of meat innard soup on offer (veal lung, anyone?) and as today is Paddy's birthday we will be hitting a nightclub after dinner.No, not the famous Moscow nightclubs with a 'face recognition' door policy (i.e. no dogs allowed) and queues round the block. Incidentally we were shown the first McDonalds to be opened in Moscow - in the 90's! - and apparently people queued for miles to try the food. totally different world here not so long ago.
two nice stories we learned:
the iron bridges by the riverside are all decorated with coloured padlocks. newlyweds come to the bridge after their wedding, write their names and the date on the padlock and lock it to the bridge and throw the key in the water. you can only break up by retrieving the key. ahhh. only good swimmers can get divorced apparently.
also, when Russians want a drink or are indicating that they are drunk they flick their fingers under their chin. this comes from an old story where the Tsar wanted an angel statue perched high on a steeple mended/. nobody could do it so the Tsar offered unlimited rewards for the hero who could step up to the plate and fix the angel. some regular Joe Russian came along and managed to fix it and the Tsar gave him a voucher for unlimited vodka in any drinking house in Moscow. He went off and got so hammered he lost his voucher after a week and the Tsar so was pissed off with him that he branded him with a hot iron under the chin, thus making a permanent 'voucher' for the local publicans. Deadly. would nearly do it myself for the perks.
off to Irkutsk, Siberia tomorrow which we are promised is the Courtown of Russia. Hurrah! It is near the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Baikal, where we are advised to de-tick delouse and de-leech our clothing after leisurely swims / nice.
4 days on a train beckons - off to the supermarket to buy crates of pot noodle, and, of course, Vodka. one week on the Vodkatrain so far - wrecked but having a blast.
we may not have internet for a while!