Siberia, here we come!!


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Europe » Russia » Siberia
July 23rd 2018
Published: July 23rd 2018
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View from our window on the 17th floor
On Saturday morning we were up early and down to breakfast at 7am.We surprised the staff who weren’t quite ready for us. We checked out and left the hotel about 7-45am and followed signs to Heathrow and eventually to the Rental Car return place.

We dropped off the car at Avis and then took the shuttle to Terminal 4 at Heathrow. We were early so had a coffee while we waited for the check in to open and then dropped our bags and headed for security and Passport control. All of this moved pretty swiftly so we had a couple of hours to wait for our flight. We connected to the WiFi and caught up on emails etc,

Our Aeroflot flight was due to leave at 11-50am and we boarded early . It was packed with no spare seats. However, there was a delay in the queuing for take-off and we were over half an hour late getting airborne. The 3 and a half hour flight went smoothly and the food and service were pretty good but no inflight entertainment was offered. Having landed, we went quickly through passport control, very different from when we were here in 1980,
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Same view after dark
and then waited for our bags. As we emerged into the Arrivals Hall we could see our names and we were met by Dennis, a member of the train staff who summoned a car and driver and took us into the city. The airport is a fair distance away so it was nearly 8pm when we arrived at the Hilton Hotel Leningradskaya. It was funny returning here to see it all modernised though retaining some of its original charm.. This had been our home for 2 weeks in 1980 and we recognised the lobby though were glad that the lifts now worked and our room was very modern with a great bathroom. We met our English- speaking guide, a young woman named Olga, who is very personable and fluent in several languages.

After we dropped our luggage in our room on the 17th floor and admired the view over Komsoalskaya Square, we returned to the dining room to meet our fellow passengers. The train has about 200 people aboard, in several different linguistic groups. Our English one consists only of 7: ourselves, a Canadian grandfather, Kalim and his 18 year- old grandson, Matthew, a Serbian couple, Alexander and Briggala
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Kremlin gates
and another Australian, Elizabeth. We immediately connected to her and as she is travelling alone, I am sure we will spend quite some time together. We had a great buffet dinner and chatted happily.

The next morning, we had our breakfast at 7-30 and took our bags to the lobby at 8-30am. The large suitcases were to be taken straight to our carriage on the train while we retained our hand luggage and took it with us for our day tour of Moscow. We had thought of opting out of this as we had seen most of the places we were going, but it was too hard, so we tagged along. Our first stop was the Kremlin. As usual the lines were long, even for a Sunday, but we tagged onto the Italian contingent of our group and skipped some of the waiting time. We saw the usual sights, the Palace of Congress, Cathedral Square, the great bell and cannon and went inside both the Cathedrals of the Archangel and of the Assumption. Olga was an informative guide, but we had heard it all before. Nevertheless, the beauty of the churches was worth admiring all over again. We left
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Guard at the Kremlin gates
by the Spassky gate and walked into Red Square. It is always an inspiring sight and St Basil’s was as spectacular as always. Olga gave us some free time, so we took Elizabeth into the GUM department store and rested our weary legs by having a coffee there. Then it was a short walk to an upstairs café for lunch. All our meals from now on are included in the ticket price so we only have to pay for drinks. We had a great lunch, starting with Russian salad, then a clear soup containing meatballs and potato, a chicken breast with mashed potato and a small cake for dessert. If I continue to eat like this, I will be rolling home.

Our final stop was at St Saviour’s church which has been rebuilt after being destroyed in the 60s by the Communist government and the site used for a swimming pool. The land has been now given back to the Orthodox Church and they rebuilt this massive structure from 1992 to 2000 so it is only 18 years old. However, it follows the plan of the original. We went inside, which was new for us, and we marvelled at
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Palace of Congress inside the Kremlin
the frescoes, the gilding and the size of what Is now the main church for the Russian Orthodox religion.

Outside it was raining lightly but we walked out onto the bridge over the Moscow river and took in the views back to the Kremlin and to the statue of Peter the Great on the other side. Then it was time to head for the Railway Station. This was back opposite the Leningradskaya, Yaroslavsky station. We were early by 20 minutes so had a beer in the café while waiting to board. When the time came we were greeted on the platform by a band playing to farewell us and glasses of champagne for Bon Voyage. The crew were decked out in their smart grey and red uniforms and as we mingled with the Italian contingent. I was greeted by one of them, Roberto, who spoke good English. We were shown to our cabin, No.2 in carriage 6 and found that Elizabeth was right next door. Then at 4-55pm we were off. Our cabin is small but comfortable and we can stow our large suitcases under the seat. We are in Banquet car 4 and we went there at 7pm
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Church of the Assumption inside the Kremlin
for a welcome dinner. The menu included caviar and smoked salmon with lovely medallions of beef to follow. In our cabins we had a bottle of free champagne and chocolate, so we feel very spoilt. At the dinner, we were introduced to the Train Manager and many other staff and our waiters, Irina and Sergey. A lovely time ensued with several wines being drunk and conversation flowing freely. We then retired for our first night aboard and to sleep with the swaying of the train and the background noise. I eventually succumbed to what had been a busy and interesting day.


Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


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Another view St Basil's
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At St Basil's
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Inside Gum Department Store
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Lunch platter
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St Saviour's Church
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On the bridge looking back at the Kremlin
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The band farewelling us
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Fletcher by the train
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Elizabeth, Kalim, Fletcher and Matthew ready to board
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Dining car on the train
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some of our amazing food on board the train


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