Wednesday, 16 August 2017

So What is Next?

Perhaps you think I will now want to conquer India, or China ,or Africa or go West.  No I've fallen in love with Russia in a big way and I'm already formulating plans to go there again.  I've done the tourist thing and I'm glad I did, but now I want to get to know real Russians and live as family.  In Britain we have a marvelous invention known as a Twinning Association.  It all started many years ago where towns from Britain were twinned with towns from France, and then Germany and so it spread.  Then one day the university of Exeter, near me became twinned with the university of Yaroslavl.  Next the cities decided to be twinned.  I heard about this last year and joined the Association.  Every year the Russians come to us for a week and we return to them for a week.  I couldn't go last Spring as I had already booked the cruise, but next year I shall be ready and waiting. Meanwhile I email Ludmilla and try out my Russian on her.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Jet lag?

No, I don't think you can have jet lag when the country you have visited is only two hours ahead of your home country.  The day we returned home we were up at seven Moscow time and didn't sleep until 3 a.m. U.K. time.  That was because we were excited still by the whole experience and didn't sleep on the plane.  I do have a bit of a problem with sleep loss and I become sensitized to various things.  For at least four days I was dogged by the motion of the boat even though I was on Terra Firma.  It didn't really interfere with life but I was glad when the sensation went away.  We brought home all the usual souvenirs.  I said I would not get a load of stuff to clutter up my shelves, but I couldn't resist a matryouska doll and an amber bracelet and a fur hat, and a pendant and a shawl.  After all those Russians have to make a living!

Coping with Air ports

Before this adventure I had only flown in Britain, to Glasgow and back and Norwich to and from Exeter.  My friend had never flown before.  Our worst experience was in Heathrow.  We had booked airport assistance because of various health issues. This meant we were separated from the rest of our party.  An airport worker was pushing a lady in a wheel chair and we were asked of we could walk for two minutes.  We said "Yes." but ended up following the wheelchair all the way to where we would join the plane.  We had asked for seats together but were allocated tickets several rows apart but were able to sit together, but not after some alarm. Once away from Heathrow things improved.  We were on a Swiss Air flight to Zurich.  We really liked Swiss Air and the service they gave and the tasty food supplied.  The change at Zurich for a flight to St Petersburg went smoothly and assistance was given. Again in Russia assistance was prompt.  It seems Heathrow needs to get its act together.The return flights eleven days later went well until we arrived at Heathrow.  We must have waited at least twenty minutes before our fellow passengers decided to walk to the place where there would be a buggy.  As they were seasoned traveller's we went with them and eventually found the buggy which took us to the carousel. After that we had a four hour car ride to home, which was all part of the service and in the cost of the holiday. We did get value for money and would go with Titan again.

More fun on the boat

There were plenty of times when we were sailing from one place to another and the time needed filling.  The first lock was a distraction but after that we needed other things to do.  We had a few gentle lessons in Russian and then went on to sing in Russian.  Inevitably we sang Kalinka but it was good to do it authentically.  Also we sang Katouska. Ksenia in the picture taught us and Yvgeny played the accordion. Near the end of our time on board there was a talent evening.  Somehow our Tour Guide and forgotten to tell us about this, but at the last minute two of us decided to sing something.  We were placed at the end of the evening and listened to the other groups of various nationalities singing slavic melodies with great fervour and angst.  Then it was our turn and we sang "There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza." Not quite what was expected but we put everything into it and received good applause from the non-plussed audience. Of course if if anyone said they had a hole in their bucket today, they would not be told to mend it, but to buy another one, but that would spoil the fun.

On the boat between St Petersburg and Moscow

We were well fed on the boat.  We had breakfast, lunch and dinner there.  That was one of the things that made the trip value for money.  Most other holidays on land in Russia were bed and breakfast only in a hotel.  Also you got to see Peter and Moscow only and none of the out of the way places we visited. Breakfast was a buffet which included toast, fruit, boiled eggs and porridge and pancakes(bliny).  One strange item on offer at breakfast was brussel sprouts!! Lunch and dinner were very similar meals but always different.  The four course meal began with a salad.  The Russian word for salad is salat and this is also the word for lettuce, but lettuce was rarely included in the course. After this came a soup.  We much preferred the thick soups.  The thin soups were like our chicken noodle soup. There seemed to be a certain oiliness about the courses and we did get upset stomachs at one point.  I hasten to add that these were not due to bacteria but just to not being used to the oils used.  The third course was usually meat such as , beef,chicken, pork and duck with potato of some kind and one other vegetable.  The sweet was things like sponge pudding with jam, or a chocolate eclair.  I don't think we ever had a repeat of a course. As the time progressed I felt the meals were improving more and more.  This was simply due to becoming used to the food.  We had beetroot occasionally and cabbage soup once.  We had a Russian night where we did our best to dress up Russian style and that night we were given vodka and caviar.  My friend and I preferred the vodka! Another night we had to dress up as pirates and we Brits went into dinner singing "What shall we do with the drunken sailor?" My family at home would have cringed to think of doing this but I have always loved a bit of theatre.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Red Square

Our guide told us a few things about Red Square and then we were free to wander.  We always felt totally safe in Russia.  Although there was some talk of pick pockets we never experienced this. I guess there is greater danger of those in London. My friend took lots of pictures, some of the "Christmas" trees against the red walls of the Kremlin, some of St Basil's and some of the museum next to Gym(goom) the big expensive shop in a corner of Red Square.  We browsed here noting Versace and Armani.  But all we bought was a box of chocolates to share with our friends back home. Later when we were home again in Britain we saw a programme about the super rich in Russia and included was the lady who is CEO for Gym.  It's another life but I suspect I am the happier, with my one adventure in foreign travel. I appreciate it highly and have no sense of being jaded by a surfeit of experiences.

The Kremlin

The late night did start to have an effect on me.  Generally what happens is that I become more sensitive to my situation.  I had had no trouble adjusting to being on the boat.  Of course, being a river cruise the motion was very gentle, but now on land in Moscow I began to feel as if everything was gently moving.  I hadn't properly got my land legs.  It wasn't a great problem.  As leaping around the Metro had strained the muscles in one hip I took to using my stick and of course this helped with the motion problem.  We went to the Kremlin.  As we were a  pre-booked party we didn't have to queue for very long. It was raining but not badly. The word Kremlin means a fortress, an enclosed area. Inside is the President's residence and place of work.  There was the clock tower which I recognized from watching President Putin's New Year address, which he gave after the clock struck midnight. I am an  unashamed fan of President Putin and watch his broadcasts regularly on Russian T.V. via the internet and then as my Russian is not very good I watch again on Youtube with subtitles. We in the West could learn a lot from him and should look to our own misdemeanours before we criticize him. There are various gold domed churches within the Kremlin.  There is a huge bell with a piece fallen out of it.  There are cannons large and small. The President was away.  At the G20 I think.