Written by 80 Ways Tim on 29 Jun, 2005
It’s raining in Moscow, and it’s putting a real downer on things. The Kremlin just isn’t as exciting as it should be, and our first impression of Russia is not what we’d hoped.
A quick piggy-back ride past St Basil’s Cathedral, and we marched off again…Read More
It’s raining in Moscow, and it’s putting a real downer on things. The Kremlin just isn’t as exciting as it should be, and our first impression of Russia is not what we’d hoped.
A quick piggy-back ride past St Basil’s Cathedral, and we marched off again through the rain. I decided to save weight by not bringing a waterproof (inspiration that Thom is no doubt thankful he didn’t receive), and thus my hoodie is getting damper by the minute. We’re heading south and decide our route would be far nicer if we could walk through some of gardens surrounding the Kremlin.
Lining the streets are some dodgy-looking military characters. Clothed in long, dark ponchos, with their hoods up and their heads down, they look like Ringwraiths from Tolkien novel. Two of them are guarding the entrance to the park, so we head in their direction to see if we can gain access.
Their English is not better than our Russian, but we manage to work out that they want 10 dollars for access. I figure this isn’t an official toll, so I decide to barter:
"I don’t have any dollars, I’m afraid, but I do have something better than money..."
What, you may be wondering, could I be offering?
"An exclusive 80 Ways badge!"
The guards instantly recognize the international currency of the 80 Ways badge and let us pass.
Inside the gardens, we suddenly realize that they are rather deserted. Deserted, that is, apart from a large procession of people dressed in pink frocks, suits, and brightly coloured umbrellas. Unsure of what exactly we should be doing, we decide to join the parade.
It was all fun and games for a while, until we reached the end of the park. Tickets were apparently required for us to proceed any further, which was a shame, because we could see a big carnival in the distance with fairground rides and giant inflatable clowns. For a moment, we considered trying to blag our way through with a combination of the 80 Ways badge and the top hat as a carnival prop but decided better of it.
Thus we headed back to our border guards, one of which I was pleased to see wearing our badge.
Came the reply once more. Now, I know there is no fee for getting onto the streets of Moscow, and I told the man as such. Suffice it to say that, with no common language, the message was not relayed, and he repeated his fee. "Ah," I thought, "this guy’s playing hardball." I offered him another badge, this time a blue one, which I explained was far superior to his friend’s red version. Again, "10 dollars" was the response, and he was looking quite serious.
It wasn’t funny anymore.
I told him that we weren’t going to pay and that we had to get out, but obviously the words were wasted (even if he had spoken English). He was staring at me rather intensely and grabbed my arm when I tried to walk past. He seemed quite stern, but I noticed his friend looked rather more hesitant. There was something about their half-hearted effort to charge us on the way in, and now this similar attempt on our return made me think these guys weren’t as serious as they made out, so I decided we should just push past. Thankfully, just as we were about to go for it, two partygoers from the parade approached. We took the chance and walked past as the guards were distracted.
Dubious policework, but it certainly added a bit of entertainment to our rainy day!
Written by marif on 23 May, 2005
Petrogradskaya Storona is the Russian name for the Petrograd side of St. Petersburg. Consisting of five islands joined by numerous bridges, this is St. Petersburg's oldest and most treasured historical area. The best way to come here is to take line 2 of the metro…Read More
Petrogradskaya Storona is the Russian name for the Petrograd side of St. Petersburg. Consisting of five islands joined by numerous bridges, this is St. Petersburg's oldest and most treasured historical area. The best way to come here is to take line 2 of the metro to Gorkovskaya Station, from where you can reach the main sights in a couple of minutes. For a good orientation of your whereabouts, take Bus 46 which crosses the Neva over the Troitsky Bridge and continues along Kamennoostrovsky prospekt.
Gorkovskaya adjoins Alexandrovsky Park, a medium-sized green area of walkways and streams shaded by old trees. If you walk west from the station, you'll reach the Planetarium and the Wax Museum; farther west, next to the children's fun park, you'll come across St. Petersburg's zoo, home to numerous animals, some of which are still living in poor conditions and neglected habitats. Gorkovskaya station leads south towards Ioannovsky Bridge, the footbridge that joins Alexandrovsky Park to Zayachy Island. While crossing the bridge, look towards the small adjacent beach and the boat rental stand nearby. In summer, it is not unusual to see local swimmers enjoying a swim in the heavily polluted waters of the Neva.
Just opposite the bridge, St.John's gate leads to the front courtyard of the Peter and Paul Fortress. There's nothing to see here but the ticket and Tourist Information Office next to the gate has free brochures and souvenirs for sale. You can wander as much as you like in the fort's courtyards but entry to the attractions requires separate tickets. From St.John's gate, walk straight to the opposite side. From here, St.Peter's gate leads to the heart of the fortress and its main attractions. The whole complex is ringed with bastions but Nevsky Gate, constructed along the south stretch of the bastions overlooking the Neva river offers a splendid view of the Winter Palace, St.Isaac's Cathedral and the Admiralty.
The big building you see on your left as you enter through St.Peter's gate is the engineer's building which houses an interesting museum about the town's architecture. The smaller building next to it is the senior officer's barracks, in front of which you can't miss seeing the statue of Peter the Great, an unusual out-of-proportion, bronze-cast statue depicting the ruler seated on the throne of Russia. The building on your right, opposite the statue is the Grand Ducal mausoleum which houses numerous exhibits about the reconstruction of the fortress. The highlight is without doubt the adjoining St.Peter and St.Paul Cathedral whose 122 metres high needle-thin spire is the city's highest building. Designed by D. Trezzini and recently restored to its original splendour and grandeur, the cathedral has an unusually plain exterior and a magnificent Baroque interior. Don't miss the redecorated gilded pulpit and the numerous burial vaults and marble tombstones with the remains of the Russian tsars, including those of Peter the Great.
The building south of the cathedral is the former Commandant's house, now occupied by the St.Petersburg Museum of History. The small building to the north is the house of the Russian Navy. Here, an exact copy of the boat used by Peter the Great is preserved. The huge building in front of the cathedral's entrance is the former Mint which has recently opened for visitors.
If you still have time after visiting the fortress, walk back along the footbridge, cross Kamennoostrovsky prospect and continue east along Petrovskaya naberezhnaya until you reach the little stone building that encloses and preserves the small log cabin from where Peter the Great supervised the construction of the city. If you continue farther east along the embankment, you'll reach the Cruiser Aurora, a unique ship museum that contains numerous interesting documents and photographs witnessing the ship's agitated history.
The most impressive of St. Petersburg's suburban parks, Petrodvorets, or Peterhof, is a spectacular park-palace complex with a unique array of fountains, gilded statues, wooden bridges, and well-manicured gardens. The best time to visit is in summer, when all the fountains are in operation and…Read More
The most impressive of St. Petersburg's suburban parks, Petrodvorets, or Peterhof, is a spectacular park-palace complex with a unique array of fountains, gilded statues, wooden bridges, and well-manicured gardens. The best time to visit is in summer, when all the fountains are in operation and live bands perform daily in front of the Grand Palace. The park is quite large, and the scattered attractions can only be reached on foot, so be prepared with adequate cover in case it rains. In summer, it often does.
Suburban trains to Petrodvorets leave from St. Petersburg's Baltic Station. Do not expect comfort, since pre-war carriages with wooden benches more suitable to shift industrial products than humans are still used. However, they always leave on time and cost next to nothing. They are always crowded with locals, so be at the station 10 minutes or so before departure time. After a 4-minute trip, get off at Novy Petrodvorets and follow the crowds towards the adjacent bus station. Take any bus from here (except bus no. 357) to the fifth stop on Sankt Peterburgsky prospect, where most people get off, and follow them towards the park. You'll soon reach the park's extensive upper garden, decorated with a huge fountain topped by a statue of Neptune. This garden leads to the park's main gate, where you must buy a ticket for admittance to the ground and gardens.
A short, pleasant walk from the ticket booth brings you right in front of the Grand Palace, a huge and magnificent building originally designed and supervised by Peter the Great himself. Enlarged and modified by architect Rastrelli for Empress Elizabeth and reconstructed after World War II, when it suffered complete devastation, it is now an outstanding monument of architecture inside and out. Its ornate interior, decorated with splendid chandeliers, is a vast museum of fine art and antique furniture. All rooms are equally impressive, but the study of Peter the Great stands out for its wonderfully detailed sculptured panels. Entry to the palace is on a guided tour only, so it's advisable to arrive early and join the queue for the next tour in English.
The splendid Grand Cascade facing the Grand Palace is the main reason why you should come here. Rows of terraced fountains, highlighted by splendid gilded statues, are the park's main attraction. More trick fountains and water spouts triggered by hidden switches complete the picture. Partly designed by Peter the Great himself, this wonderful conglomeration of fountains and water canals is the venue for numerous theatrical or musical performances. Stroll around the Grand Cascade and along the main water canal, which runs directly towards the sea terminal and the Gulf of Finland. From the wonderful bridge along Marlinskaya aleya, enjoy the picturesque view of the rising Grand Cascade, backdropped by the magnificent elevated exterior of the Grand Palace.
If you walk east along Marlinskaya aleya and take any path towards the sea, you'll reach Monplaisir, an elegant and cosy palace that was used by Peter the Great to entertain guests. The halls and rooms of the palace are much more splendid than the exterior suggests. The main hall has extravagant marble floors and a wonderful painted ceiling, while the small study overlooking the sea is furnished with a unique Chinese-style writing table and matching showcases. The building adjoining Monplaisir, called Catherine's Building, was used as the living quarters of Catherine the Great when her husband, Tsar Peter III, was arrested and subsequently murdered. Alexandria Park, a huge green area with overgrown trees east of Monplaisir, is the best place for a peaceful stroll away from the crowds. The only interesting building here is the English-style cottage, which has renovated rooms displaying an exhibition of Russian art.
The area west of Alexandria Park is known as Lower Park. Numerous large fountains, smaller trick fountains, and stone statues adorn the straight forested walkways and elegant wide staircases. If you walk west along Marlinskaya aleya, you'll reach Marly, a medium-sized palace built for Peter the Great to host special guests. From here, take any path towards the shore to reach the small two-storey pink-and-white Hermitage. The second floor of this palace houses an unusual dining area, equipped with special lifts capable of hoisting the table, complete with dishes, from downstairs without the need of waiters.
If you still have time before returning to St. Petersburg, walk back through the upper garden towards Sankt Peterburgsky prospekt. If you walk east for about 200m, you'll see the five-domed Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul on your right. It is a huge church with splendid exterior works in Russian Orthodox-style architecture. It's always closed, except in the evening after 5pm, when it opens for a couple of hours for an evening service. If you happen to be here during this time, do not miss its impressive interior.
Written by Ksu on 23 Jun, 2002
I’d like to tell you about the history of this place. In 1900, during a trip to Paris (it was Repin's 5th time in Europe; the first one was after his graduation from the Academy, when he won the Gold Medal and a six-year scholarship,…Read More
I’d like to tell you about the history of this place. In 1900, during a trip to Paris (it was Repin's 5th time in Europe; the first one was after his graduation from the Academy, when he won the Gold Medal and a six-year scholarship, which allowed him to travel abroad nearly three years), Repin met Natalya Borisovna Nordman (she was the "love of his life"), and then moved to her country estate "Penates" in Kuokkala (at that time this territory belonged to Finland). Natalya Borisovna and Ilya Efimovich Repin together organized the famous Wednesdays at the "Penates," which attracted the elite of Russia of those days. It was a bohemian place frequented by artists, musicians, and actors: A. Kuprin and V. Mayakovsky, Korney Tchukovsky and T. Kyi, F. Shaliapin and Koni – they all attended his house parties on Wednesdays. Nordman died in 1914. Before her death she left her estate to the Academy, and now it’s a filial branch of The Scientific Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Fine Art. Even after Nordman's death, Repin lived in "Penates" for 16 years. But the museum itself was founded only in 1940, and already in 1948 Finish Kuokkala was renamed Repino. The place for "Penates" wasn’t chosen accidentally; in those days, and even quite recently, it was the area of a health resort. Now you can see plenty of dachas there (it a quiet and pleasant land). In those days, less than 3 thousand people lived here (I mean, their permanent residence); though there were not many places of entertainment in this place, nevertheless twenty thousand people came here every summer – it was the highest density in the countryside, the most crowded place near St Petersburg. For city dwellers Kuokkala has been a magnet since it was founded as a summer residence area in the early 19th century. In the memoirs of Lydia Tchukovskaya (she was the daughter of one of the most famous Russian specialists in literature – Korney Tchukovsky), you find that, as children, they disliked all the summer residents who came to Kuokkala by the suburban train. "…And fresh air… and around only deep snow, and skies, and no one around, and pine-trees, -- sometimes I’m envious of my life there…» these are the words of Korney Tchukovsky, who was one of the neighbours of Repin. He also said once, already being in Peredelkino, that the people who lived in Kuokkala could count themselves among the most fortunate in Russia. Before the death, "handicapped by the atrophy of his right hand, Repin couldn’t produce works of the same quality". Nevertheless he trained himself to paint with his left hand, and he did his best to succeed in it. He was completely absorbed in what he was doing. During the last years of his life Repin lived under the pressure of financial strain. In 1926, a group of Bolsheviks sent by the Ministry of Education of the Soviet Union helped him financially to force him to return, but he didn’t do that. They greatly resented his refusal to leave Finland to Russia. Up until the last days of his life Repin didn’t leave his "Penates". Later, these country houses, like "Penates", turned into dachas; I mean the very notion of country house became outdated. This is why, now, we don’t have any country-houses; they were associated with wealth, luxury and dignity, and belonged to the richest families in this country. Our dachas are much smaller and cheaper. It’s interesting to note that the word "dacha" has become widespread in use. It was derived from Russian, as well as such words as "sputnik" and "perestroika" (there are few derivations from Russian into English but "dacha" is among them), a great number of famous Russian people of art had their dachas. Reading "Anna Karenina", or "War and Peace" by Tolstoi, you can see more clearly that heroes and heroines are very often shown at their country houses not far from Moscow and St Petersburg. It’s a pity but now there are few places where you can see more clearly what the notion "dacha" means, yet "Penates" absolutely justifies this name dacha.I would suggest that you walk in the picturesque surrounding area of coniferous forests, which stretch for miles. I suggest making a round in the Penates, starting from the cottage and back to it. No one would see you around; walking at a slow pace, only the squirrels will be your fellow travelers. Here every pond, path, bench, and even artesian well was made according by Repin's own hands and according to his own desire. There are four angles of the park. Begin from the house, and then move to the summer "Theatre of Osiers and Isis," where the performances took place. Vladimir Mayakovsky read here his verses. The way we take lay through the forest till we reach "The staircase of Sheherisada;" now the pine trees around are so high that even if you climb on its top, you wouldn’t see the Gulf of Finland. Nothing disturbs the silence of the grave of Repin (he died here on September 29, 1930), where are always fresh flowers. On the way back, we come to the above mentioned artesian well. Repin himself preferred this healthy cold water to the water-pipe and even now we can drink water from it.
If you are not in a hurry, you will be able to appreciate every detail of this "magnificent temple created by nature and man." Repin himself observed this area from the balcony "Aeroplane," which you can see on the pictures. In 1914 Repin wrote to Switzerland to N. B. Nordman, "My aeroplane gives me wonderful sunbathes... I have never seen anything like this, that is why now I am writing on it." He was absolutely sure that the air and his tendency not to close the windows in winter time let him live a long life. So...Breathes there a man with soul so dead,Who never to himself hath said,This is my own, my native land!Whose heart hath ne’er within him burnedAs home his footsteps he hath turned,From wandering on a foreign strand?By Sir Walter Scott
Written by Danner on 21 Jan, 2002
Travelling on the coach to St Petersburg made me feel as though I was travelling on a refugee bus, too many people, 7 or 8 year olds sleeping on their parents' laps and in the aisle, babies crying, bad smells most likely from the babies.…Read More
Travelling on the coach to St Petersburg made me feel as though I was travelling on a refugee bus, too many people, 7 or 8 year olds sleeping on their parents' laps and in the aisle, babies crying, bad smells most likely from the babies. I fell in and out of sleep and spent most of the journey with the child next to me's legs on my lap which I didn't mind because I put them there and it made it easier for the mother. It seemed as though the night never arrived as it was fairly light all the way through. After 3 or 4 hours travel we reached the border, where it was perfectly clear that you were going into another country.
As we walked along the Nevsky Prospect, the city’s central ‘vein’, the city was beginning to wake up and the cultural differences were beginning to show themselves. One contrasting scene that made for 'artistic' photography, was down a side street. There was this pale blue and white, clean church set right in the middle of these disused and rundown housing blocks with piles of debris and rubbish outside. It was either a visual metaphor for the church being an oasis in the desert of poverty, or a visual metaphor of how wealthy the church and how far removed from the people in poverty it has become.
Just off the prospect is 'The Church of The Bleeding Saviour', one of the places I wanted to see. Now to clarify, this church is not like a 'normal' church, this one is similar to the Kremlin. The church looks like an ice cream decorated with hundreds and thousands. It has gold plated,(signifying that it is Russian Orthodox) swirly domes at the top of its towers, this was enough to invoke awe, but a closer look at the exterior walls and you'll see that it's made up of square mosaics, like someone's vinyl collection with each cover being a story from the bible, there were at least 250 of these, placed next to the gold drapes and outlines it was a truly beautiful sight. The church was built upon the site where the Tsar Alexander II 'the liberator' was assassinated in 1881, which makes it all the more amazing given that it is only 120 years old. The interior makes this unbelievable as the entire inside is covered with different mosaics of different saints, disciples, and of course, Jesus. In the centre of the church there is a memorial to Alexander, I stood quietly, looked at his face and thought a little bit about the history.
Across the River Neva is the Peter And Paul Fortress. The main attraction of the fotress is the cathedral, whose spire shines with gold across to the main centre but it is only covered on one side, the side facing the city, to show the Tsar's people the wealth they had. Inside the cathedral the Tsars and their families eternally rest, gathered together in family groups. It was amazing at first to think the bones are inside the marble cases and so I went off to look for the 'famous' tsars only to find that the writing is, of course, in Russian so I didn't know who was who, so I just took pictures of them all. Peter The Great was obvious by the bust on the top of the coffin. Nicholas II, the last Tsars was there, he arrived in 1998 after the discovery of the bones outside of St. Petersburg at the place of execution, but I also think there was some politics associated with his transportation.
Walking back towards the centre we went via St Isaak’s Cathedral which has an amazing view at the top, well worth a look. We headed towards the Winter Palace and Palace Square. I was more interested in the Square and disappeared to take pictures of the place where the Marxist ideals were first applied in practice. I was definitely not bowing to any pressure to keep moving. I was going to stand and think about what happened in 1917. The Bolsheviks entered through the archway and gathered outside the Palace, which was home to the provisional government after the February Revolution in which the Tsar's dynasty had ended. The battleship 'Aurora' fired an empty shell over the palace which both scared the government and signalled the Bolsheviks to storm the palace. I could almost hear the shouting and the organised chaos of that day in October 1917. The square was also where Catherine II (the Great) was crowned Tsarina. The centre point is the Alexander Monument, a tall column created by De Monterrand again, to celebrate Russia's defeat of Napoleon in 1812. There is an angel carrying a cross at the top, it faces the palace and maybe if it had been facing the arch the Bolsheviks may not have succeeded, with it facing the palace it is symbolically supporting the actions of the revolution. However, I was slightly disappointed that the historical square was now home to beer tents and ice cream stalls but I suppose that is 'progress'. I had my 5 minutes of reflection time, whilst the others hurried to get inside the Winter Palace.
On the second day I set off by myself to investigate and explore the city by myself. I made for the Lenin Statue on the Fortress side of the River Neva. When I got there I sat underneath his outstretched arm and smoked a proletariat cigarette and then photographed it and paid my respect to the man with the right ideas which Stalin messed up.
While having a cigarette and a rest, I noticed that it's maybe not so much that there are a lot of immigrants in St. Petersburg, but rather that Russia is so big that it contains many different races of people, the Turkish Quarter may well have been the refugees from the Russian regions near to the Middle East. I reflected upon the past two days, I had seen just about everything, including a statue of the writer, Pushkin, who died in a dual with a French officer who was cracking onto his ballet dancer wife, Natalaya. One of my friends had commented on how I take a lot of photographs of statues but to me they're not just statues, they're living history and proof that these things happened and that these people were alive. Being here now, in this city is being in history. The history comes alive through the memorials, the buildings and the statues. The statues are the people who made history and changed the world, they're not just bronze or metal structures they're real, living history.
Its sad that for a city so steeped in wealth and history there are many forgotten people, gypsies, beggars, people with no legs and wheelchairs, and people with just no legs. It's so shocking and sad but maybe this is the history of these people and now they have progressed from the serfs and poverty to city dwellers and poverty. This was no more apparent than when we got on the bus that would take us back to the 'western world'. While my friends were sorting their bags out, a man on crutches was begging for money, pleading with us "please give me money, no one cares about me, no one looks after me." I wondered just how much truth was in that statement. The truth is that Russia has too many people and not enough money, I wonder how the country would have been had Stalin not messed with the ideas and plans of Lenin and Trotsky.
While my friends were filling in the customs form all I wanted to do was to say goodbye to the history, to this city, I think I'd become more attached to it because I knew its past and I'd spent more time amongst its baroque and neo-classical buildings, I'd soaked up the atmosphere and mingled with its people, I was an historian not a tourist.
Written by Lise on 10 Dec, 2001
To rent skis, or to go skiing, take trolleybus 2 or 5 (or marshrutka 21a) from the stop Prospyekt Lyenina (across the street from the state university) to "Prospyekt Alyeksandra Nyevskovo." Get off. Backtrack 100 meters to the first real road on your left (there…Read More
To rent skis, or to go skiing, take trolleybus 2 or 5 (or marshrutka 21a) from the stop Prospyekt Lyenina (across the street from the state university) to "Prospyekt Alyeksandra Nyevskovo." Get off. Backtrack 100 meters to the first real road on your left (there will be one mini-road and a couple driveways first), turn left, go to the end of the road (you'll pass a bank with a Western Union office), then turn right, go to the end of the road (you'll pass a dorm on your left and some ghettos on your right), cross the tiny bridge which I assure you will not fall apart although you might slip off, and turn left. By now you ought to see some ski tracks in the snow in front of you. Walk 50 meters to the cabin (on your right) with a sign and the words LYZHI NA PROKAT ("ski rental") on it. You should have to pay no more than one dollar to rent Russian skis for the whole day! Don't worry about attire- most Russians are just hobbyists and wear sporty layers.
Don't forget how early it gets dark in the north!!! Start heading back around three just in case. DO NOT HEAD BACK AFTER THREE. There are no lights on the trails and no patrols. Bring a powerful flashlight, some snacks, and regular hiking emergency stuff just in case; don't forget an extra pair of dry socks.
To get to Petrozavodsk, there are several night trains from Moscow (Lyeningradskiy Vokzal) and Saint Petersburg (Moskovskiy Vokzal). Yours truly recommends using the service centers in all train stations.
In Moscow: Leningradskiy Vokzal. The service center is upstairs from the main ticket hall.
In Petersburg: Moskovskiy Vokzal. You MUST use the Inturist office, which is near the end off the main hall (with Peter's head) furthest from the trains.
In Petrozavodsk (to leave): If you are standing in front of the ticket hall, facing the trains, go to your left about 50 meters. The service center, which has normal business hours with frequent "technical" breaks, has its door *facing the same way you are* and is on your left. It's before the bistro.
The Murmansk trains have not been privatized yet and are notoriously disgusting. Avoid them at all costs. Ask for a Karelia train.
Women travelling alone should request a place in a zhenskiy kupee if they have them, or to travel platzkart, which is a lower class in which there are no cabins. This can be safer because everybody can see if someone begins to bother you, and you aren't locked in a cabin with strangers all night! At LEAST insist that you be placed with another woman. [Ya odna(1 person)/ Mi odni(2 ppl). Ya khochu beet/Mi khotim beet sdrugoy zhenshchinoy, pozhaluysta. Sposibah bolshoyeh.=I/we are alone. I/We want to be with another woman, please. Thank you very much.]
Written by Amanda on 13 Sep, 2000
The Hermitage is incomparable. It is one of the best art museums in the world, and probably has the best building of any of the greats. It's set in the Tzar's winter quarters, known collectively as the Hermitage. It's made up of 5…Read More
The Hermitage is incomparable. It is one of the best art museums in the world, and probably has the best building of any of the greats. It's set in the Tzar's winter quarters, known collectively as the Hermitage. It's made up of 5 interlinked buildings - the main two are the Winter Palace and the Large Hermitage.
The building's wonderful collection was amassed in ways not possible in the West - the Communists just swiped everything they liked and stuck it here. A friend of my father's talked to us about the Hermitage, talking us through which paintings were his father's, his uncle's, and his cousins'!
There is such a lot to do here, that I can't possibly describe it all. I'll write about the two groups of rooms I liked most. Bear in mind that this museum has well over a thousand rooms, and more than a hundred staircases! You'll probably want to go several times, and plan your visits so you see the most without walking a marathon. There are good floor-plans and descriptions of the rooms available near the entrance, but supply is a bit intermittent, and sometimes only Russian ones are for sale. A good guidebook is therefore a very useful thing to have with you.
The first group of rooms I particularly enjoyed was in the Winter Palace, on the 3rd floor. Ther rooms between 314 and 331 are amazing, wonderful, and beautiful. I wander through there in a daze - I've been 3 times to this group and want to go again! You start with the impressionists, a couple of gorgeous Monets are among the collection. Then there is a small, narrow room of Rodin sculptures. I defy the hardest cynic in the world to look at the soft, flowing stone of the entwined couple, and not believe in love. It's impossible to believe that passion and emotion can dance around stone and brass in this way, until you've seen them. After the Rodin room are some great Gauguins from Tahiti, which provide a bold, vivid, colourful contrast, on your way through to the Van Gogh and Cezanne rooms.
The second group of paintings are also about love, but the religious and spiritual kind. The second floor of the Large Hermitage has a series of rooms, starting at 207, of medieval and early modern Italian art. The Fra Angelico is especially moving, particularly a wonderful Virgin and Child. Close
Written by mkrosin on 03 Aug, 2000
Eating on the transiberian can range from average to just plain awful! Here are a few suggestions to keep your palate from committing hari-kiri!
Before you board:
As there is somewhat of a limited selection on the train and at stops, I highly recommend some pre-departure…Read More
Eating on the transiberian can range from average to just plain awful! Here are a few suggestions to keep your palate from committing hari-kiri!
Before you board:
As there is somewhat of a limited selection on the train and at stops, I highly recommend some pre-departure shopping. Remember, only non-perishables. You will have access to hot water on the train but that's it.
First. Bring COLD water. There is only hot water on the train. I did not know this and spent several hours holding botttles of scalding water out the window to be cooled by the frigid siberian air.
Also, a cup for hot water drinks is advisable. This is to be kept inviolably separate from the 'vodka cup'
Buy a 'vodka' cup. You will use it. Also, buy something to chase the accursed vodka. I recommend chocolate. It is lightweight, and helps coat your throat after the gasoline quality swill has singed your esophagus.
On that note. Bring vodka. Lots of it. At least 3 bottles per person. It will be distributed liberally throughout the train. It will help you make friends with your train-mates. On many levels. You'd be amazed how well Mongolians and Americans communicate after 8 shots.
Bring aspirin/tylenol/motrin. But only take it in the mornings. Not good to mix with vodka drinking, which tends to begin around noon.
Food - What to bring. As you will be shopping in China or Russia pre-trip, don't expect American supermarket choices. Cup of soups, cookies, sausage, bread, cheese, chocolate, mixes for hot and cold drinks, candy, chips. These are staples. And you can find them in China.
On the train: Definitely, do your eating in the Chinese and Mongolian cars. Each country has a different dining car. The chinese food and delicious Mongolian lamb soup were the culinary highlights of the trip. The Russian car (and russian cuisine in general) is a different story. If you are going to eat in the Russian car, do so in the first few days, as the beef stroganoff turns to spam stroganoff and then to bread, cheese, and eggs, and, finally, bread and carrots. Make friends with the dining car staff. My 'waiter' was named valentin. He was six foot four, off-pink in color, hands as thick as baseball gloves, and wore strapping overalls. He could have crushed my with the wrinkles on his brow, but instead he just bellowed, yelled 'stroganoff', and forced vodka upon me. Good chap.
Whether or not you eat in the dining car, hang out there. It is, by far, the best place to befriend and, subsequently, be accused of being, a Chechnyan confederate on the entire train.
Written by mkrosin on 09 Aug, 2000
Backpacker constantly strapped for cash: here's a great way to earn a few extra nights out! Aside from a means of transportation, the Transiberian is a roving market, hauling cheap counterfeit Chinese goods to brand name-starved Siberians. Not only can you pull in…Read More
Backpacker constantly strapped for cash: here's a great way to earn a few extra nights out! Aside from a means of transportation, the Transiberian is a roving market, hauling cheap counterfeit Chinese goods to brand name-starved Siberians. Not only can you pull in a few hundred bucks over the course of a few days - selling off the train is fun and a great way to meet people!. Moreover, because of the exchange rate on the train (very unfavorable), here is a good way to save money by earning rubles without having to trade in dollars (you should always carry some greenbacks in these parts). Here's how to do it:
First, using your best fashion judgement and taking weather into account, go tho the main market in Beijing and load up. Be sure to drive a real hard bargain and buy in bulk (5-10). You can ask other travelers coming from Russia whats in fashion. I sold Fur hats and Levis. Levis sell well!. Buy enough that you can shove it in you and your trainmates packs and scattered about the compartment, but not too too too much that it is a flagrant customs violation.
Second, upon boarding the train, use good old socialist ideology to temporarily redistribute your goods to other passengers. Help out the Mongolians who board in Ulan Bataar because they're real good business partners and usually have the best food on the train (which they share liberally).
As you exit china and speed across the eerie lunar landscape of the Gobi desert, pause between shots of vodka to learn the value of a ruble, how to say numbers in Russian, and current siberian market values (the Mongolians, again, will teach you this!!! They speak english. Befriend them!)
Third, Russian customs. I don't remember this too well, as it was during a late night blackout, but from what I've been told, Russian customs knows whats going on and, within reason, lets it go on.
Learn to say 'Can I pay that tax right now in dollars directly to you?', pull out a ten, and you should be fine. Besides, this is half the fun. The Mongolians, with their crates of clothes, passed effortlessly, so I wouldn't worry too much.
So now you're in Russia. Congrats! Its time to sell sell sell. Start High and be flexible. As long as you make a profit, you win. The train will pull into a stop 3-4 times/day for about 10 minutes as hoards crowd outside the windows. You need not even exit the train - just sell from the window if you want. Hold you products out, and they will come. Spit out your price and the haggling begins. Its done in a minute! Remember, the train is only in the station for 10 minutes. Both you and the Siberian Buyers have lots of business to conduct in a short time (and these are the only 'western' products around for the week). Sell fast.
As the train pulls out, a wad of cash in your hand and the adrenalin pumping, proceed to the dining car and throw down for some spam stroganoff. You earned it!
Written by marcopolo on 11 Oct, 2000
Although most travelers to Russia know they must have a visa, they might not know how to go about getting one. Today the procedure is quite simple and the best way is to call the most efficient visa service that I have relied upon…Read More
Although most travelers to Russia know they must have a visa, they might not know how to go about getting one. Today the procedure is quite simple and the best way is to call the most efficient visa service that I have relied upon in the past.The company is: Visa Services Inc.1519 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300Washington DC 20036.The phone is 202-387-0300.The fax is 202-387-5650.The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.The owner, a charming man named Michel Allinquant, leaves no stones unturned in his quest to deliver visas on time. He can provide visa support which makes the visa possible in the first place, and he can handle any existing problems with an out-of-date passport by helping you receive a new American passport in a timely fashion.I am often confronted by Americans that resent having to pay the Russian government a fee for a visa. Please remember that it costs Russians an equally high amount to get an American visa to visit the United States. I look forward to the day when it will not be necessary to have a visa to visit Russia at all. Close