Published: July 4th 2008July 4th 2008
Am sat in a little cafe in the middle of Irkutsk, which would definately not have found had it not been for our guide Kostya, who has been brilliant. But back to that a bit later.
Have done so much since arriving in Russia that really can't believe I have been here 12 days already. Its been non-stop the whole time, even 3 days on a train with enforced relaxation was anything but boring.
St Petersburg was beautiful, I have never seen architecture like it, with such a mixture of influences from western europe, but the most stunning is the classic baroque style of The Church on Spilled Blood.
For me St Petersburg was better than Moscow, where, although very impressive and magnificent it didn't have the charm of St Petersburg. Maybe it was because it was the first city visited on my trip, or maybe it was that the weather was nicer, and everywhare seems better when the sun is shining, I don't know, but St P. will hold a special place in my heart, I will definately go back again, I feel like I could get so much more if I could stay longer than 4 days.
The Vodkatrain group
Family name the "Evian-Winks" due to the fact alcohol is decanted into evian bottles as it is lighter to carry, hence the question"would you like some Evian?" - wink
I can't say I would go back to the hostel either, there were fleas and the beds were uncomfortable. There was no real communal space and no kitchen, but at least it was somewhere to stay, and it was close to the city centre.
Godzillas hostel in Moscow was better, although a bit of a building site as it was being renovated, it had good showers and decent clean kitchens, cooking was fabulous and after our first dose of veg in a week, we no longer felt we may get scurvy whist travelling.
Surprisingly, our train cabin was like luxury, and having unpacked for our 4 nights out of Moscow and into Siberia we were comfortable, well fed on instant mash and instant noodles (fast becoming the staple diet of the vodkatrain traveller) we had cracked open the Vod and were having a party, much to the annoyance of our Russian neighbour, so we consideratlely put the guitar away, moved to our centre cabin and closed the door. It was to be the first experience of self heating Sauna. And it was great fun. Travelling across to Irkutsk you cross 5 time zones, yet the train always runs to
Moscow time. Which becomes a very strange experience whist drunk and constantly moving. On our second night we had been drinking, listening to music and singing until we had run out of drink and batteries for the i-station, and what according to our watches was 5am, so some of the group decided to jump off at the next stop to buy more supplies, desperately trying to make themselves understood to the babushka that they wanted to buy Vodka, with numerous locals laughing at them, we realised it was actually 8am and everyone was on their way to work, and it appears that officially it should be beer drunk with breakfast. We decided possibly it was bed time!
Irkutsk is a completely different city, not at all as developed as St P. or Moscow, however we had no time to stop as we were headed for a small town on the shore of Lake BAikal. It was stunning. Lake Baikal is the largest and deepest fresh water lake in the world, and the water is so clear you can see the as deep as 42 metres. It is said that if you jump in you can add 5 years to
The most common vehicle in Russia!
This one is especially for you Petey! The first car I saw as I got off the Plane was a Lada too!
your life. So off we went for a boat trip, swimmers in hand and went for it. It was so cold it was unbelievable, but I'm glad I didn't miss out. I just am now developing a cold. We also discovered the russian sauna. A complete contrast to the frrezing to death experience, it is the bake to death experience and then be between by a sweaty russian with beech twigs. Wonderful! No really!
Unfortunately I have to wrap this up, as the rest of the group is ready to leave, and as I can't read here I need to go too. So I will sign off and update again soon.
There are more photos below