Ok, where was I? Moscow really truly has to be seen to be believed. It looks like Disneyland, for a start, with buildings painted in Technicolor and wide squares everywhere. We stayed in the Gamma/Delta Hotel (it possibly has another name). The hotel was gigantic, 23 floors or something, with two buildings connected by a lobby. The lobby and central area included an internet cafe, three restaurants, a pharmacy, bowling alley....it was a little crazy. After dumping our bags in the giant hotel, we caught the Metro to Red Square. The sun had just set, and the hazy glow made the buildings look alive instead of stone. Hundreds and hundreds of pictures were taken.
The next morning we came face to face with Lenin. Lenin is kinda waxy, and more well-guarded than the Queen. There were guards in pairs at every corner, and we were hustled through with only a glimpse of the body.
After the rather surreal experience of Lenin, we were glad to entre the Kremlin for a tour. Our guide Marina knew everything there is to know about the Kremlin and Russian history, and wasn't at all politically biased, which was great. After the Kremlin grounds we entered the Armoury, where beautiful gowns, weapons and table decorations are kept. The highlight of this tour was the Imperial Faberge eggs. Wow.
At the conclusion of our tour of the Armoury we went in search of pies. I tagged along despite my dislike of pies. The pie hunt was eventually successful, although the service was horrible. We then found a metro, where I left the group to investigate tickets for the ballet at Bolshoi Theatre. Unfortunately, the theatre is currently undergoing renovations, and nothing was showing.
So I went shopping.
After shopping I was exhausted, and everyone else was drained from sightseeing, so we just went to bed. The next day was free for sightseeing as well, and I took the opportunity to explore the Metro system. Moscow has one of the most elaborate Metros in the world. It has 11 different lines. The stations themselves are called the "People's Palaces", built and named so in the time of Soviet rule. The marble staircases, chandeliers and stained glass windows are beautiful, and contrast sharply with the masses of people rushing everywhere. Two hours of touring the Metro and I was ready for more retail therapy, so I headed for GUM. GUM is THE shopping centre in Moscow, right along one wall of Red Square. It's also very very expensive, so I just bought icecream. I met Scott at 3 in front of Red Square, where a group of elderly protesters were singing and waving Soviet flags. The militia seemed more amused than threatening, fortunately. We went to a cafe to warm up, and then met Lauren for an early tea before returning to the hotel to collect our bags for the evening train.
Which brings me to the worst part of the trip so far. The train from Moscow to Kyiv left at 7:40 on Sunday night. At 1:30pm we were woken up by Russian customs, upon leaving the country. The train stopped for about 20 minutes, after which our passports were returned and we went back to sleep. At a quarter to 4, we stopped again at the Ukrainian border. This customs officer was not nice, did not appreciate that we couldn't speak Russian, seemed to think our Australian passports were fake, and did not like my year-long visa at all. Katie came to my rescue (and I will love her forever for it), but it was horrible and unnerving and made me want to go straight back to Russia, regardless of how rude everyone was there. Anyway, we got to Kyiv at about 8:00 in the morning, and that's when things got much, much worse for me.
The metro in Kyiv at 8:30 on a Monday morning made the Moscow Metro look as busy as the Moranbah bus depot in comparision. It was horrible. Our group got separated, and even though we all met up again almost immediately, I was horribly traumatised by the whole experience. We checked in to our hotel, and then had a walking trip to the three main churches in Kyiv-St Michaels, St Sophias and St Alexandrov's (i think). By this stage it was snowing very heavily. A group continued on to the monastery to look at the caves, and I went back to the hotel (which is rumoured to be the Ukrainian mafia headquarters) and tried to sleep off my hysterics.
Yesterday morning we checked out of the hotel after a very cabbage-oriented breakfast, and visited the Chernobyl Museum. Even though some of the exhibitions upset me, I'm really glad I went. It was a bit of a jolt hearing the tour guide reading out significant dates after the disaster, because the first one she said was the day I was born. The exhibition dealing with the children born just after Chernobyl affected me the most. Seeing the Australian flag among the flags of countries who had offered assistance made me remember the children who came to Moranbah.
After the Chernobyl Museum we walked up the biggest hill in the world to some souvenier shops. Although the snow had stopped falling, it was very icy still. Back down the hill Jen and I found an underground shopping centre. We had lunch at a cafe and then I explored the post office-and it's internet cafe-whilst Jen and Jenny hunted for shorts to wear on the boiling hot trains.
The metro ride back to the long-distance train station was not nearly as stressful-I even got a seat! The train ride was the nicest one yet, although I'm really really missing the silk sleeping bag liner that I left behind in Moscow. At 7:00 this morning (Wednesday) we got off the train and onto a very bumpy bus to Kolomyya. We were greeted by Viltaly, who is awesome, has perfect English, and insists on serving six cups of tea a day. He's great. His wife Anna took us to the centre of town, and into two museums. My favourite was the painted egg museum. It was crazy! There was so many beautiful eggs. We took a minibus to a restaurant for lunch. The food was apparently quite good, although unfortunately my stomach was not feeling great. We returned to our guesthouse for a cooking lesson with Irinya, Vitaly's mother. After making vareniki (potato ravioli things) for tea, we chilled for a bit. The guesthouse is the most perfect spot in the world for just chilling. The vareniki were pretty yummy, and then for dessert we had a gigantic chocolate cake, as it is Rachel's birthday today. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
After dinner we painted our own eggs, using hot wax and dyes. Mine depicted a raptor breathing fire and chasing a stick figure. Everyone else had beautiful patterns, I got some great pictures.
And guess what?-this blog is now completely up to date.