Monday, August 28, 2006

Omsk - Омск

25th - 26th August

We arrived in Omsk at dawn and quickly found our way to our hotel, Hotel Omsk. Stanley Kubrick must have had soviet hotels in mind when he made The Shining. Stepping inside was like a strange time warp. Nothing had obviously been changed or upgraded or renewed for at least 40 years. It was beautiful. Complete with long desolate corridors, discolored wool upholstery and wallpaper print that makes you cry "nostalgia".

Omsk offers its tourists a ferry ride down the Irtysh River. "Come take the river air and see our beautiful city across the water." With nothing but time on a lovely breezy day we said, "Okay!" While not exactly scenic we did manage to have a jolly time.

Here's a river side view of our fantastic hotel.....

....and luxury riverside apartments....

Here are the cranes. The first thing that comes into view when arriving by train.

Next stop: Tomsk. The "Oxford of Siberia."

Yekaterinburg (a.k.a. Sverdlovsk) - Екатеринбург

22nd - 24th August

We arrived at our first stop in Asia completely exhausted. If you're over 5'8, you can forget about getting any decent sleep on the 3rd class russian carriage (Rule Book on How to Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway is soon to follow-stay tuned!). And let's not fail to mention Knig, a burly fellow with purple slippers who chose to chew our ears off declaring that a new Ghengis Khan would emerge from China to devastate Russia and Europe within the next 20 years. He was sober.

This is the town where the Romanovs were murdered and although the original building was destroyed (on Yeltsin's orders), they have since built "The Church of the Blood" on the site.

Religion is back in a big way. New churches are everywhere (because Stalin blew most of them up) and the Romanovs are now all saints. Even Putin is kissing religious icons on public TV. Meanwhile, Russian soviet past still seems to be celebrated (Lenin's monument proudly stands in city centres and buildings and street names claim his name). It's all very confusing.

Yekaterinburg is a fairly ugly town; a concrete mess of old and new. And between the grand new monuments celebrating pre-soviet Tsarist achievements and the old decaying soviet ones, we're left to believe the whole thing is full of crap.

On the plus side, our hotel was pretty good and offered a sweeping sunset view of the Russian industry complex.

Zhenia found an old childhood favorite...pitushok lollipop made of maple syrup.

We discovered an enormous 720 kg crystal in the Ural Geological Museum.

And if you were in any doubt-yes. that's right, the Peruvians are here too.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Nizhny Novgorod - Нижний Новгород

August 18th - 21st

Nizhny Novgorod, formally known as Gorky (during soviet times) after it's most famous writer, is located south east of Moscow on the banks of the Volga.

This town is also well known (within Zhenia's family circle) for being the home of the Bochova family of which Alla "the boss", had offered to give us a bed while we were in town.

From left to right, a very excited Zhenia, Alla, Sveta and Pasha.

Our first day was spent, in order, sleeping, sightseeing, drinking and eating. Here is a picture from inside the Kremlin's (yes, this town has one too) barricades. The pic above is the view from the Kremlin walls.

Here Zhenia wrestles for a beardy kiss above the banks of the Volga.

Alla, Zhenia and err, Zhenia (Sveta's flatmate) overlooking the......Volga!

Pasha, the handsome devil, carries home an enormous watermelon for dessert. Needless to say, we've eaten very well here.

Saturday afternoon was spent at the strangely named Central Switzerland Amusement Park. We strolled around the forest of Silver Birch, ate roasted chicken and had a hoot. Alla revealed some hidden skills with a rifle!

Moscow - Москва

August 15th - 17th

We were both nervous wrecks on the train to Moscow from Kyiv, not many "westerners" come this way into Russia and we prepared for a rough 3am immigration/customs interview on the border. As usual, however, we had little to worry about and they only disappeared with our passports for ten minutes before returning them with a "Хорошо" (okay).

Thankfully, Sasha Metraphanoff met us from the train station and took us back to his place in a highrise inner-suburb. This was the view from our room.

Not the least excited to be in Moscow at this point; knackered from the train journey we slept for most of the day. Sasha later returned from work, fed us his superb Borshch and took us out on a short tour of the centre. Here's an evening shot of St. Basil's Cathedral.

Here are some pictures of me (for once) outside the Kremlin in the Red Square.

The next day was spent aquiring train tickets east - not an easy task by any means and inquiring how on earth we get our visa registered since we're staying at a private address and not a hotel. All tourists must register themselves within three days of arrival in every town/city they visit in Russia - hotels usually do this service for free. This turns out to be a royal pain in the arse and very difficult to do.....legally. To cut a long story short we resolved to cut our stay short and leave before the 3 day time limit ran out and booked tickets on the overnight train to Nizhny Novgorod on the next day.

Time was now quickly running out, so Sasha again very kindly took us on two more walking tours of Moscow.

Pictured here is a small section of the massive Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Sasha and I listen for the Nutcracker with the man himself, Tchaikovski.

Big thanks for Sasha for not only putting us up for two nights, being our personal tour guide and train ticket agent but also for cooking the best Borshch in Moscow.

The last look on Kiev through WC Window

Monday, August 14, 2006

The New Look

14th August

We have given ourselves a fashion overhaul in time for our arrival in Moscow tomorrow morning.

Here Zhenia wears a new cropped do with a sophisticated white T for an easy get-out-with-style look. Tom sports a farmers tan with a red neck shirt design, a 3 week vintage beard, topped off with his signiture faux-panama hat.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cruising The Dnipro

9th August

Volodya took a day off work to accompany us on our last excursion around Kyiv. A boat trip down the Dnipro river.

River view of the Pechersky Lavra (Cave Monastery).
Living it up mafia-style with cheap beer, ciggies and sunshine.
Sun worshippers on the river bank. This beach is packed on weekends with speedos for everyone.

Three grandads

6th August

The elder Nagorny family decided to have a get-together. From left to right sits Tamara (my father's first cousin), Dedushka Andrey, Anton (my cousin and the youngest of the Nagorny clan), Dedushka Alyosha (my grandfather's youngest brother who travelled 300 km to see us) and Dedushka Vacily (my grandfather's younger brother), Z & T.

Here are the three brothers in their sunday best.

Dedushka Andrey downs a shot, this time for his own health.