Caught the midnight train to Moscow (a song title in there somewhere?). In a 4 berth compartment, met Anna from St Petersburg who confessed to being a Russian spy (at least she was on her way to Moscow to check out what a competitor company is doing and pinch a few ideas), and a business gent. Both Anna, who spoke good English (had lived there for a while) and the gent were very jolly and good company. Just as well, because the gent took it in good part when Eric locked him out of the compartment in the middle of the night thinking he was a stranger/robber/murderer trying to get in. First experience of Russian sleeper (both the for snoozing in and dormant spy kind!). Very comfortable and arrived bang on time.
Our accommodation (G&R Hostel Asia) is about 12 km from the centre. Not really a hostel proper, but a room in a 15 storey hotel. Room a bit run down but clean, but the rest of the building is being done up from the ground floor up. As our room is on the 14th floor don't think it will be renovated before we leave on Saturday!! The surrounding area is good with a local market, park and the metro on the doortstep. We've got very good at riding the metro and finding our way around. It's cheap, fast and efficient, but today I (Margaret) had a run-in with a ticket baboushka. We bought a ticket for two journeys, put it through the machine and walked throguh. She appeared from nowhere, barred my way and started shouting at me in fluent Russian, grabbed the ticket out my hand and chucked it in the bin! She clearly hadn't encountered anyone from the Inch before. Quick as a flash I was in the bin after it, grabbed it back and forced my way back to the barrier and down the escalator. The moral of the story is we now know how to composter Moscow metro tickets. (Didn't have this problem in St Petersburg where they use tokens.)
Came into Moscow relatively early today to go round the Kremlin only to find that it and Red Square were totally closed! We'll have to wait until Saturday, our final day in Moscow, because we're off to Suzdal tomorrow. Still, had a good day going round St Basil's Cathedral (haven't come across a 'St Murphy's') yet, and a boat trip down the Moscow River. Moscow is a vast city with great wide streets with mad drivers (it's a challenge to cross them!) and huge buildings. Initially we felt it wasn't too impressive though (apart from Red Square etc) but have changed our mind after the boat trip. It's really majestic from the river. Only negative so far is the chained bears and monkeys in the street, ostensibly for entertainment. Hope this practice doesn't carry on much longer.
My turn! Well, our first hurdle and we've clattered into it. We'd planned to visit Suzdal today (a small Golden Ring town about 100 miles from Moscow). However, although up nice and early, our plans for catching the train to Vladimir and then bus to Suzdal were knocked on the head when we had real difficulty getting details of the train and then found that the only direct service to Vladimir would have meant arriving at Suzdal about 6 - 7 pm. With no idea of the return journey tomorrow (Friday) we might have travelled all that way, stayed overnight and seen little. So - sorry to the old ladies of Linoninsky Dom for not taking up our reservation. But one of the things we've agreed is to take positives from disappontments and we spent the useful time doing a reccy of the area & station we leave from on Saturday. We've also spent a little time doing some homework etc. As we are on the 14th floor of the hotel building, and look out over towards the centre of Moscow - with the sun shining - it is quite pleasurable.
We're going to head off into the centre for an evening stroll, beers and a meal. We're really doing well by the way. Margaret has mastered the cyrillic alphabet and can now negotiate our way around the metro stations. I on the other hand have a more important role - I can order 2 peevas (beers)!
It's now Friday (22/9) and we've been to the Kremlin. It was very busy but much more pleasant a place than one might imagine. Lots of churches and green spaces and very interesting (photos may not appear for some time as we move into uncharted territory tomorrow).
Earlier we spoke about how much Moscow is costing us because now we're unemployed we've to watch the pennies! All in all it's expensive but probably no more than London and the beer is cheaper and transport is very cheap. Our accommodation and transport into the centre costs us only £15 each day. So don't be put off by stories that it's too dear. However, last night we had a really good meal at Noah's Ark - an Armenian restaurant in the centre. It cost more but the food was excellent.
By the way if the photos give the impression we're wearing the same clothes all the time - we are! But we do wask them from time to time (overnight. So we're not too smelly!!!
Meant to mention that yesterday M went all excited when she saw a British Council Education UK poster on the Moscow metro! Mind you it wasn't very prominent and it was the only one we've seen. But at least she saw a poster about her (former) work - I haven't seen a poster about City Academies!!
We're looking forward to the Trans siberian as it will be an experience but also because it will give us much needed rest. Travellers we've met have confirmed that days off are needed from time to time and after these first few weeks with little rest we'll put our feet up and enjoy the journey. Next stop Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.
Must go because we're a bit pasty faced because we're spending so much time in internet cafes (or DVD shops looking for a dodgy Da Vinci Code DVD).