Monday, October 23, 2006

Resuming Transmission

Okay, I am determined to finish this off...

Since my last post I have experienced a lifetime of changes and half a world of places. Briefly summarise it went a bit like this:

When I entered Russia I had a rushed trip in St. Petersburg and Moscow followed by the mother of all train journeys. At no point during this did I manage to get on the internet for longer than ten minutes at a time. After that came a stint in Siberia and Mongolia (with even less internet exposure) followed by a few weeks in China. For the time in China I have no excuses other than the fact the so much had happened in Russia and Mongolia that sitting in front of a computer for hours recollecting this would have deprived me of time spent exploring. Now, however, it is all over and life has slowed to strolling pace. I am behind a desk, fulfilling my role as part of the corporate machine and intend to use that time both recollecting my last little adventure, and planning the next one...

Of course, it would be too much to try and fit this all into one post, so over the next few entries I will be trying to put together an accurate reconstruction of the second half of my trip from memory, before they too fade and I forget where I even went. I realise that few people are probably interested in this anymore (if they ever were in the first place) but I think this blog has become more of a journal for myself than anyone else.

Well, here goes....

After some wobbly Scooby Doo-esque time-travel transition I found myself at Helsinki station at some ludicrously early hour of the morning. Despite the early hour, I was still late for my bloody train but managed to negotiate the station with European efficiency (possibly the last station on this trip that will be easy to navigate what with Russia, Mongolia and China ahead of me). I proceeded to fall asleep almost instantly, and it wasn't until I was rudely awoken that I got to enjoy my first ever experience in Russia. I must admit my first Russian experience was rather hairy one (in both senses of the word) being awoken by a classic James Bond style border official armed with all sorts of scary weaponry and his equally scary dog. After pondering for a while what they do if the dog decides it need to 'go' mid interrogation I opened up my Trans-Siberian Lonely Planet guide, for this was the first stage of my trip where it would come in handy. The train pulled into Finland station, St. Petersburg, and armed with a few handy phrases and a rough idea of where my hostel was I stepped onto the platform to a rousing patriotic anthem and felt Russia concrete beneath my feet for the first time.

My stay in St. Petersburg was rather uneventful to be honest and I recall my arriving my more vividly than the actual stay. The weather was good to me, the city was beautiful and the people surprisingly friendly. I saw the main tourist’s sites as usual, but you should all know by now that I never really spend much time writing about those things as any guide can give more information than myself on the matter and in most cases the actual visit to the sites in pretty standard. However, no account of St. Petersburg would be complete without a little about the Hermitage, one of the largest collections of art and historical artifacts on this fair earth. However, as intriguing as the contents of the buildings is the buildings themselves. The complex is enormous and many of the rooms within the building are so lavishly decorated they border on tacky. The best example of this being the doorknobs. I know it may seem odd to visit the Hermitage and comment only on the door handles, but the inner metal-head in me couldn't help but love the fact that they are all dragons’ claws holding onto massive plastic 'rubies'. There is also so much gold paint/leafing on the ceilings, walls, doors and even floors of the place that Gaby (a lovely German girl who fancied a trip to the museum) and I developed a new categorisation process for the rooms.

After rating the rooms anything from 'too much gold' to 'distinctly lacking gold' we headed off for a night out in town. Successfully avoiding the mental Russian who lived at our hostel we had a nice night out on the town with some other English girls we met and wound up outside some monumental club disputing whether or not to go in and witness the greased up Russian bodybuilders in g-strings dancing to techno. Despite being assured this wasn't a gay club and there were many 'beautiful women' inside, I decided against it as I had a night train to catch and I didn't fancy navigating my way to and through Russian train stations completely destroyed.

Of course, all this time I got pictures, so go check them out:

For now I will leave it at this, but expect another update soon with details of my stay in Moscow and onto the Trans-Siberian railway!


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