Smile for the camera

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One thing we noticed as we went through all of the tourist attractions throughout Russia was the way in which the Russians suddenly lit up for the camera.  We went to Peterhoff, outside the city, for a day of site seeing (or statue seeing) in the enormous palace grounds.  Pretty cool to think that all of the fountains (and there were a lot) run off hydrolic water streams not pumps, and this was conceived hundreds of years ago.  But I digress…honestly, you have never seen anything like these posers.  Why?  Here’s a few theories we developed: 

a)      They are putting together a model portfolio

b)      They are putting together a portfolio for russianbride.com

c)      They love themselves – and so many are super beautiful women so that is easy to understand

d)      All of the above

So Waldu thought he’d demonstrate a few poses. 

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S-PAS-eba (thanks) Saint Petersburg

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Church of spilt blood

St Petersburg is the cultural heart of Russia so we were expecting something a bit different from the business centre of the capital, Moscow.  We weren’t disappointed.   It looks very European as are the food choices (and sometimes the prices).  Beautiful tall women walk down cobble stone paths in nine inch heels effortless (Nic is so pleased) and men drink a beer in the warm sun as they wander to the station after work (the sun sets about 11pm).  

We have never seen so many museums and palaces in one place before in our life.  It was all a bit of a blur after our first few hours (which started with a 5am arrival), but then we got our bearings and Nic worked out most of the Russian alphabet to decipher the street names.  The city looks even more beautiful by night both on the water and in the heart of the city. 

 We feasted on borsch (cold beetroot soup), pelmeni (dumplings cross ravioli without the sauce), chicken kiev and stroganoff (they both come from Russia apparently) at the Soviet Cafe and reflected on what it would have been like to live here in those days.  We have found the modern history (last 50 years) the most interesting.  A country with a lot going for it.  If only the Russians would smile a little.

Back in the USSR

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Waldu met a new vodka drinking buddy, an interesting old chap who lives in the vodka museum. 

He told us about how Russians used to need a vodka card to buy a bottle, and you could only buy two bottles a month.  Of course that law didn’t last too long.

Nic befriended him too, but it wasn’t long before a few too many vodkas made our new friend turn a bit wild. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good thing Waldu found a big gun and saved the day.  I promise, we aren’t bringing home the fur.

 

42 hours in Moscow

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So much to see, so little time.  First it was off to check out the sites and pose for some pics, orientating ourselves to the city (ok, truth is that we had a private guide for the first 3 hours!).

Stopped for some food at Moo Moos and a cold beer in the park.  Seriously they drink everywhere.  It is illegal to sell alcohol or cigarettes outside a school or uni though – why can’t we have this rule?  See the beer page for drinking pics and prices.

Nic mastered the metro and we toured the artwork at different stations.  We caught up with fellow travellers, saw the Kremlin and Lenin’s body, tacky souvenir market, vodka museum and a little taste, and picked up a new hat for Waldu.  Back to central Moscow and it was time to lock in our love, literally, before heading off to St Petersburg on our last train trip (thankfully).

and Nic threw away the key

Adding 25 years to our life!

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We have made it to Russia.  It took us 11 hours to get accross the border.  Lots of standing around on platforms, paying for toilets, waiting, waiting, waiting.  Nic found a tiny puppy and mothered it for 4 hours on the Mongolia border (trying desperately to get someone to take it or plotting to smuggle him) and then sadly left him behind for the next passenger train.  Then we got to witness a little cross border alcohol scam in the carriage near us as we crossed into Russia.  What did Vincent say “Corruption, universal language.”

We have spent the last three nights in Lake Baikal. This is were the Trans Siberian Railway first went, accross the lake.  But because it was a long process of putting carriages on a ship to take them over to the other side, and because the lake freezes at least 1.5m in winter, the government decided to build the rail around the south of the lake, near where we stayed.  Then a group of engineers designed a dam to create hydro electricity, but that saw the lake rise 2m and flood the tracks so a second version of the rail was built from Mongolia to Irkutsk, missing the lake altogether.

 

It’s the biggest and deepest fresh water lake in the world, and the local Siberians say that you can add 25 years to your life by taking a dip.  Catch is, it is 10 degrees at the moment, which is the warmest it gets.  So what do you think we did?  Yep, take a dip.  We do have the footage to proove it, but bikinis and bordies…don’t want to scare you off future posts. 

Overlooking Lake Baikal

 

 

A few things we forgot to mention…

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– The visit to our nomad neighbours in Mongolia wasn’t arranged/paid for.  You literally just drop in.  No one calls ahead to make plans and no one knocks on doors you just yell from a distance.  You just bring a gift for the host (perfume and Jagermeister in our case).  If you are met by barking dogs, as we were at the first neighbours house, quickly back away and move on as they aren’t home.

– At the time of his death Changgis Khan ruled an area 4 times the size of the Roman Empire (!).  Mongolia was a a major power of the time.  He motivated many with his words of action and inspiration…”You may want to be as high as a mountain, but remember that animals can climb mountains.”

– In Mongolia you can not only buy beer in the supermarket (like most places around the world), but you can actually order a 2L bottle of beer from the tap and walk around drinking it while you shop!  Or, if you prefer, you can sit outside in one of the many German beer halls and drink up a storm while your other half gets the groceries.

Our Nomad Life

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Our Nomad Home

We have left the heat and rush of China and arrived safely in Mongolia.  We spent our first 2 nights in a Ger (round nomad house), which was fantastic.  Address: No 8, Elstei Ger Lodge, Middle of Mongolia.  Waldu loved it as he got to light a fire inside.  We ate traditional Mongolian food, mainly Mutton and lots of berries, and met some great fellow Trans-Sub travellers from Oz.

We visited our nomad neighbours who treated us to tea (salty, milky tea), dried salty and sweet yoghurt biscuits with some sort or sour milk yoghurt cream on top, washed down with what looked and tasted like vodka (made also from yoghurt) and, wait for it…femented horse milk beer, which Waldu just loved (not).  “It tastes like salty, milky, runny yoghurt – everything you want a beer not to taste like.  He then made up for it with several local beers at the bar later that night, broke his thongs and had to resort to local Mongolian shoes (nice new look).

While we were out in the countryside we checked out Chinggis Khan (as you do), who stands towering above the land. 

Then we made our way back over the pot hole main highway (almost a single lane for BOTH directions) to the capital, Ulaanbattar, where we feasted on sirloin steak and dessert and local red wine (not bad) for a total sum of $30 AUD.  What a bargain.  Oh, Wendy we also found Wendy Bakery – lovely pastries.  Yes, we are now regaining the lost weight of China. 

We also meant some local Mothers celebrating a family reunion and an 80th anniversarry. Our local guide translated their well wishes for our travels. We have really enjoyed Mongolia and recommend it to fellow travellers.  The food is good, teh country side beautiful as are the people.  Oh, and they don’t eat their dogs here (just horses), so Waldu found a new pet to bring home.

Man's best friend

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