Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
13Trip End Jan 12, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Home for the next 6 weeks No 32, 6A-Sovyetskaya Street, apartment 23
But the admiration wasn't all one way. Australia's firsttrue Russo-phile appears to have been Governor Macquarie. He always laid out the red carpet, but more interestingly, took his own trip through Russia on his way back to England (don't know the dates)
Anyway, the ferry trip was the perfect chance to try out the new camera, so gratuitous pic of Neutral Bay included.
Anyway, on with the trip rant, I mean blog:
Sydney Airport Rant
Dubai has it, Abu Dhabi has it, and Sheremetova has it, Blody Adelaide has it. But noooooo, Sydney airport doesn't have free wireless internet.
Also, had it stuck in my head that LAGS allowed a litre of liquid, so had a botle of Osmolite with me when going through customs (for dinner later that evening). Now Osmolite is nice, but it's not all that fun to skull.
Well....there isn't one
Dubai Airport Rant
First 20 minutes in the airport was shaping up to be a megarant. Little sleep on the Bangkok-Dubai leg meant I was a grumpy little camper, then when we got off the plane we had to go through a screening point, which was slower than an IDC on a Friday afternoon when you should really be in the pub. anyway, with about 10 metres of the line to go a helpful attendant came up and told our group that there was a third screening point we could go through. It was about a 500m walk, and when we arrived the line was three times longer than the one we had just left. It's safe to say I wasn't all sweetness and light. While waiting in line, there was a cry of "Help", and I looked up to see some guy getting stuffed into a room, and us the door swung shut, glimpses of punches being thrown. I actually thought it was two cleaners or some such. Anyway, time went buy, and although the line was noisy, it was possible to imagine that you could hear screams and thuds, as of a fight being wll and truly enjoyed by both participants. Occasionally a security guard would walk into the room and there would be further glimpses of fisticuffs. After about five minutes, it spilled back out to the screening point and it was some young British kid who was shouting "I want a legal representative! I want a legal representative!". More security guards rushed in and the kid was bundled back into the room. At this point the whole thing didn't appear sinister. Based on the way the kid was acting I'm guessing he was young and rich, possibly well connected, and drugged up to his eyeballs, and they'd possibly found some party drugs in his bags or something. His solution was to try to punch his way out of it. That's the story I've invented anyway, but it passed the time.
Dubai airport is awesome though. Really comfortable and passenger friendly. Long banana lounge-y type seats abound so you can strecth out and have a kip. Mobile phone/laptop recharging stations abound, and are conveniently located next to the banana lounge-y type seats. And of course, free wireless broadband.
Breakfast was McDonalds though. And I hated msyelf for it.
Arrival in Moscow and getting to St Petersburg
This was the part of the trip that I was a bit anxious about. I had four bags to carry, totalling about 38kgs (weight was mostly due to Russian language textbooks) and I had to get from Domodedovo airport to Leningradsky Station (about 50km's) for the train to St Petersburg, and I hadn't booked my overnight sleeper to St Pete's yet. Taxi's are problematic because they are both expensive, and there's still a risk of fraud (there are signs all over the airport). There's a train from the airport but it only goes to Paveletsky Station which is still 6km's from Leningradsky, and although there's a direct metro line, it's more or less an impossibility with 38kgs of luggage.
So I had steeled myself to take the financial blow that would be a cab, and my friend in St Petersburg had offered to organise one for me. After watching the rest of the passengers dwindle at the luggage carousel while waiting for my bags, I tottered out to the main hall wondering how I was going to find this cab-driver. Of all the transport waiting for passengers at the airport, none of the said Ben James, or even Bendzhamin Dzheimc, which is how the Russian spell my name phoetically.
Tucked at the back though there was a sign for Unilever (huge multi-national food company). My friend works for Unilever. So, not believing I could possibly be that lucky I wondered over, he looked at me, smiled and barked 'Ben Dzheimc?' questioningly. WOOHOO!!!
He took me all the way to Leningradsky, and it was all a bit Bourne Ultimatum (final car chase) as we ducked and weaved our way through Moscow traffic. He was the nicest guy, and he just wanted to chat, to practice his english, and to find out as much about Australia as he could (Australia is his favourite country, even better than all of Europe, which means alot as Russians seem to have a fawning admiration for anything and everything European.
His english was pretty bad, so we had fun with my broken Russian. I found out that it was the hottest December day on record, at a blistering 8 degrees.
Lucked out and got a train to St Petersburg earlier rather than later in the evening. Was going to treat myself to first class (you share with one other person) but they only had second class going (you share with three other people). It turned out to be not so bad as the only other occupant was a rather pretty girl of indeterminate age (you know, could be early 20's, could very well be early 30's) who didn't speak english at all. So while she could understand my Russian, I couldn't understand her answers. We didn't talk.
It was dark in Moscow by 4:30pm, and I arrived in St Petersurg at 5am, where surprise of surprises, my friend Marina met me at the station. It was a little colder now. Getting on for 3 degrees or thereabouts. I couldn't get to my flat so we holed up in a Coffee House to wait. (Gratuitous picture of Marina). Now coffee in Russia is a horrible, horrible affair. But what can you do if you're addicted. I ordered a latte, and while the coffee itself was fine it was made with UHT, which is a very disturbing experience, not entirely unpleasant, but wrong, very, very wrong.
Toddled off to the flat at 9am (courtesy of another Unilever car - I guess the private sector has something going for it) which was better than expected. Flat screen tv, unlimited ADSL and a piano, that also doubles as a harpsichord. Smolniy is a nice area and the building I'm in has been renovated and looks pretty spruce, as do alot of the streets and other buildings. There's a mix of 18th century and soviet buildings, though even the soviet buildings look like they at least tried to fit in with the surrounding architecture and aren't monstrous. Pictures to follow. Have spent the last couple of days pretending I've not been jet-lagged. Like now for instance, I'm blogging, not jet-lagged.