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Russia

Curious what backpackers do in Russia? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • A short busy six days with Anya. Added this this leg to attend the wedding of Ira and Sasha. And now I can say I've been to a Russian wedding. Was a great experience that I will always remember. Ceremony was an official one like Sandra and Marc's wedding. With vows and sighning of the marriage contact, completely different from the religious ceremonies in the Americas. Did get to hit Jamie's Italien, duck at Asia and The Caviar Bar at The Eupora for champagne and Armenian caviar. Then it was off to the airport at 3.00 in the morning to head to Paris.Read more

  • Traveling in slow motion
    After two nights on the russian train we arrived in Moscow safe and sound.
    We have visited the most interesting places in this wonderful city.
    Tomorrow we will take the onward train to Irkutsk (Siberia). The temperature will drop down to minus 10°C.....ggggrrrr

  • Moscow Central Mosque.

    I was trying to buy some jeans and turned around a corner to see a massive golden dome atop a turquoise mosque, not something I expected in Moscow. It shouldn't be too surprising, apparently 6 of the 15 republics within the USSR had a Muslim majority and Moscow's a major destination for (economic) migrants from the former Soviet Union. I'm not sure what the rules are but in my head it seems similar to migrants from the former British Empire migrating to the UK/London.

    This migration, and I imagine movement during the Soviet Period and before, makes Moscow pretty multi-ethnic. Russia as a whole actually consists of numerous republics and has quite a number of (native) minority groups living within it, it isn't all Slavic, which doesn't match up with the image of Russia (or Moscow) that I knew about before visiting last summer.

    There are 4 permitted mosques in the city, this is the largest of them. This mosque holds 10,000 worshippers, however Moscow still lacks capacity for it's 1 million residents who are Muslim and 1.5 million of it's migrant workers who are also Muslim. Moscow has a total population of approx. 14 million, London has about 8.

    I've asked a couple of people (girls, 2 Russian, 1 British) if they'd been and they either didn't realise you/they could visit a mosque or have never considered going. Not sure if this would be different if I asked guys the same question. As far as I'm aware mosques, like churches, are open to visitors, you'd just have to use the correct entrance...? And maybe don't go on a Friday as there might be a lot of people praying.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/islam_in_the_soviet_union
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/moscow_cathedral_mosque
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/islam_in_russia#islam_in_moscow
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  • Entrance to Gorky Park (viewed from inside the park).

    I came here in Summer last year, it was definitely warmer then! There's loads of stuff to do in Gorky Park in summer, in winter it appears that most of that is closed. This isn't too surprising as everything's covered in snow and the paths are covered in ice* but soon they'll open up the ice-rink.

    There's relief of Lenin's head on the reverse side of these gates. After consulting my словарь (dictionary) I've worked out that it's about him coming to an agricultural exhibition that was held here in 1923. I've never been taught the word "селскохозяйственнвй" (agricultural) otherwise I'd have totally deciphered this at the park...(?)

    (Снег, снег, снег!)

    *All the main roads and pavements in Moscow seem to be de-iced though. Every day, possibly several times a day, you can see/hear someone clearing away the ice/snow from the pavements around my block of flats. They don't seem to use grit though, they just scrape it away.
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  • Дайв подпил монумент покорителям космоса.

    -------

    This is just outside/on top of the Cosmonaut Museum.
    I've never been to a museum about space travel but this place was great. It's probably common knowledge but apparently the Soviet Union did a whole lot in the realm of space travel and a lot of that's on display in this museum, including the singed landing capsules of a few rockets!
    There was also a mini-exhibition about how space travel influenced everyday life in the Soviet period (toys, clothes, posters, etc.) There were a few ('open') comments about "Khrushchev's Thaw" in a way that I don't remember seeing when I visited the State Museum of Contemporary History last summer.

    Fun facts (probably all slightly incorrectly noted down):
    - USSR had first probe in space, probe in orbit, animal(s) in space and then in orbit, manned space flight, spacewalk, docking of two aircrafts...
    - A Russian scientist called Tsiolkovsky was writing papers about space travel in the late 19th century (and after), some of which was later used to develop and improve Soviet (and I'd assume other) space programmes.
    - The former head(?) of the Soviet space programme (Sergei Korolev) played a major part in the first couple of decades of Soviet space travel, he'd been sent to Kolyma during Stalin's Terror where, according to Wikipedia, he lost most of his teeth due to scurvy.
    - There used to be two theories about the moons surface, one saying it was hard and the other saying it was soft, no mention of cheese was given in the museum.
    - The trusses which hold a rocket in place and can be seen moving away from a rocket during launch work by counter-weight. They're held in place by the rocket and move away as it starts to lift off(!)
    - Laika, the first dog in space, died due to the flight pod overheating whilst orbiting the earth.
    - Soviet Scientists chose cross-breeds for their size, ability to handle extreme conditions. "...all of them had already passed through the natural selection of the streets and hard conditions of unsettled ways of life."
    - You can buy space food from a vending machine inside the museum.
    - There was a 3rd man (Michael Collins) in the Apollo 11 flight but he didn't (get to?) walk on the moon.
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  • I can get used to this, after my adrenaline rush on skates I had found some nice chill out spots and a Coffee stand, so with that combination I seated myself with a nice view and sat there for an hour watching people in the park while the day ended and the night began.

  • After getting lost in the back and beyond of Russia yesterday we decided to play it safe and actually look up how to get to train station in order for us to travel the 715km on the Sapsan Train to Moscow. It was another early start, having to be out of the hotel at 5.30am to catch the first metro of the morning ensuring we had enough spare time if something happened to go wrong before our train left the terminal at 7.05am. I'm starting to think that I was way too eager when I booked all of these early morning trains to ensure our time was maximised everywhere. The only thing that is maximised right now is my tiredness (I know, boohoo to me 😢).

    We found the train station and the train with relative ease and jumped on board eager to see our next Russian City. We had booked two window seats on a four seater table berth and sat down to shortly be greeted by a hungover Russian guy named Kiril who was 5 months older than Jamie, was an Event Planner from Moscow who had been in St Petersburg for an event, and, had had a hard night the night before and offered his leftover beer as if to prove his point. Now you might think that Kiril knew amazing English however, you'd be wrong. We quickly determined that he couldn't speak much English nor us Russian and the conversation took place via hand gestures and google translate. Jamie and Kiril hit it off and they giggling like little school girls writing each other love notes on their phones while I watched on from the opposite side of the table like a third wheel on a date. Things got a bit more intense when, after watching my episode of Grey's Anatomy, I looked up and Kiril was now fast asleep on Jamie's shoulder to which he remained for the remainder of the trip. Cue dramatic heartbreak.

    We arrived at the Train Station and Kiril made a quick getaway, not saying goodbye to his new friend. Jamie, saddened and feeling used, had to resort to hold Teemu until he regained his composure. Teemu just gave this blank stare like he didn't care but Jamie was too busy wiping away the tears to notice. Once composed, we made our way to the Metro Station and after the ease of navigating the metro stations in St Petersburg we thought we had this business down. We proceeded to stand in line for a ticket machine until we got to the front and realised it was only for recharging a pre-existing card, we then thought "no worries, it must be these other machines" and again stood in another line until we realised the different looking machine was actually just a newer version of the same one we stood at previously. We then decided to actually go to a ticket kiosk, and when we finally got to the front - the lady couldn't understand us. Flummoxed and still reeling from his earlier heartbreak, Jamie proved a common male notion wrong and asked the information people for help. Fortunately, they spoke English and wrote down our requirements on a piece of paper to hand to the ladies at the ticket kiosk.

    After the better part of an hour mucking around trying to work out how to get our metro tickets, we were on our way and walked to the ticket barriers to find that they are actually tap and go, and we could have used a credit card..... I don't think words can do justice for the looks that came over our faces so I will let you use your imagination. The prices are fairly reasonable for a metro ride at 30 rubles a trip regardless of where you end up in town. I know Russia is big and ginormous, but Auckland could learn a thing or two about affordable and efficient public transport from this place.

    On our brief metro trip, it was now Teemu's turn to make a Russian Friend and was accousted by a lovely Russian lady in her 50's, pointing and cooing over Teemu which he later told me translated to "you are so super adorable". The men in my life are obviously a hit with the Russians.

    When we finally got to our metro station, we had a brief walk through our hotel neighbourhood which can only be described as the Shoreditch (for those familar with London) or Kingsland/Ponsonby (for those familiar with Auckland) of Moscow with random Russian girls posing all artsy like for other girls with big fancy cameras everywhere. I felt like I had just walked into a Vogue fashion shoot looking all casual in my quicksilver hoodie, no make up and heavy bags under my eyes.

    After dropping our bags we made a beeline for lunch at a place called Pinch which had the most amazing lemon drop cocktail (gin, lemoncello and prosecco) I've ever had for a casual 7 pounds or so.. it was so good I forgot to get a photo. I'll probably go back so I'm not worried. The food was delicious albeit small so obviously dessert was a must. Fortunately, Jamie "knew" a place and had already identified the location of a cake cafe aptly named "I love cake" near our hotel. Upon arrival at the cafe there was a big glass window fill of cakes to choose from, the selection was too tough but in the end we went for a coconut raspberry angel cake. The filling was a condensed milk icing which was super sickly sweet and dense and didn't really do it for me but Jamie was a big fan.

    After the heart attack inducing dessert, we went for a walk around the local neighbourhood and came across a photographic exhibition documenting industrial scenes from power plants to welding complete with beautiful flowers and hedge sculptures. I'll give the Russians this, they certainly are eclectic.

    In desperate need of fruit to feel healthy again, we found the local supermarket and spent most of the time perusing the vodka section (it's healthy, it's made of potatoes). We ended up buying some actual fruit but more importantly picked up some red Georgian wine from the Kakheti region and some Spanish rose (it's healthy, it's made with fruit). The Georgian wine was absolutely delicious and for €5 pounds we will probably pick up some more for our trans-siberian train journey in a few days time.

    Our days events ended with a dinner at a local Shawarma restaurant (very Russian I know) which had the most delicious moutabal and shawarmas we had ever tasted and a wander through the illustrious neighbourhood lit up by fairy lights adjacent to our hotel.

    Current distance between us and Auckland: 16,100km
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  • Day two in Moscow began with a stroll from the hotel, via a rather circuitous route, to the centre of Moscow.

    On the way we wandered through the wide, green , and seemingly forested central reservations of various avenues, until we hit the Moskva River. As we walked through though these central reservations, we passed through innumerable art installations, celebrating the life, times, and culture of Moscow. Sometimes, it was the natural beauty of wooden arches, woven with wisteria, geraniums, and roses. Sometimes it was billboards of photographs, illustrating the industry of the area. Sometimes it was trampolines and jungle gyms for children to get active, and make use of the green space within the city.

    As we walked through all these things put on by the government for its citiziens, we viewed it with some wonder. Having lived in New Zealand, and lived in London, it is inconcievable, that such things would be provided by a government for its citizens. The resources made available, and free of charge, put to shame those made available for free in many other parts of the world.

    Having made it through our conversation on the political analysis of government provision of cultural activities to the citizenry, we made it to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, one of the many chruches/cathedrals, dotting the Moskow landscape. Truth be told, the vast number of incredibly grand religious buildings that we have come across in our travels so far, have almost got us to the point of Christian cultural saturation. We just aren't able to appreciate the beauty and significance to the degree that we should.

    After the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, we wandered along the river, passed the Kremlin, to Red Square. Unfortunately, there was no spectacular Soviet-era military parade to be seen, or even something ever-so-slightly more cultural. That being said, Red Square was thronging with people, watching the changing of the guard, viewing Lenin's mausoleum, and over course, St Basil's Cathedral.

    Also encountered on our self-directed walking tour of Moscow: the Bolshoi Theatre, the headquarters of the former KGB, and the Moscow Opereta. The late afternoon, and early evening were spent nibbling some tasty Russian treats, and indulging in some more Georgian wine. We then headed out for dinner at a restaruant local to our hotel, before Courtney got too hangry, and hulked out. Dinner was delicious; Courtney did hulk out, but recovered; and we enjoyed a further Sunday evening stroll.

    Nothing exciting to report today. The photos provide the strongest narrative.
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  • Well I went here and there not really knowing what I wanted and thus no plan. Every change in course came from a distraction or a last moment change. At the end of the day when i was almost back i looked on the map and I was almost rolling over the floor laughing. So I made a de-tour of 500 meters to finish this appropriate sign of how I spend the day. See the picture hahaha :D. Ok how I accidentaly made my question-mark? I walked to Stalin's Bunker, Looked around for this local brewery (all found on a offline Triposo app, I just didn't plan these things), went to the Wolga and follow this up stream = south in this case, then I decided to see if I could see the Samara river (more like a delta), but i couldn't. On my way back I found the main shopping street so I went for a bar. I found a nice place and with wi-fi, normally I hook up with people. But just a handfull speak English in this country so I had some laughs that travelled like 3000km to home ;-). I went back and ate fresh :p at the Subway, found out about the question mark and in the hotel lifted some weights in the gym ate pasta carbonare with a beer and chatted on Skype with my dreamgirl. Good day, good night ;-)Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

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