The Yekaterinburg Skyshow

Lari's Tank Sexytime

The day is unbelievably hot. We never thought Russia was capable of such temperatures, but we’re all sweating a lot. We decide sitting in a café all afternoon is a good idea, but visit the Afghanistan war memorial on the way there. A central statue is flanked by two lines

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Yekaterinburg heights and the Night Mission

The city and its river

We stroll next door into the Scottish pub and settle down for a beer while we wait for our Russian friends. They arrive a pint and a half later and, true to form for most of the Russian Couchsurfers, they don’t want anything to drink. My three wives along

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Ganina Yama Rocks

Ivan leads us into the crime site

Our mission today is to visit Ganina Yama, a huge monastery still being built on the site where the remains of the last Tsar and his family were found. It’s a shallow pit where the Soviet revolutionaries had attempted to dissolve, burn and otherwise erase any evidence

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Dr Scotch and the Blinis

Having finished with my nightmarish morning, I sit down at a café and have a drink while I send messages to my missing Australian friends to find out where they are. It turns out that while I was experiencing some first class travelling blues stories, they were sound asleep and only just woke up. I’ll

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The Good Days… and the Bad…

We wake up late in the morning and Don and Lari head off home to get changed while I potter around the apartment with Elven Nastya. I ask her, “What was happening with you yesterday in the park? You looked like you were on a different planet to the rest of us. And when we

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The Endless Summer Day

Hot Yulia Action

My couchsurfing host Elven Nastya receives another message on her phone and herds us all downstairs where we are briefly introduced to a large group of people, fourteen in all, who will be spread across three cars. And so it is that three Australians, an American guy, Mehmet,

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A Stroll Around Yekaterinburg

As the train rolls through the city outskirts we watch the buildings and parks drift past us in the bright morning sun. The city feels palpably different to Moscow and St Petersburg already. No rush and crazed pressure of Moscow, but a different kind of laid back style to St Petersburg. We are

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Moscow to Yekaterinburg by Train

So we’re finally aboard our first true Trans-Siberian train out of Moscow. Yekaterinburg is about thirty hours away and we sleep long after the sun comes up. I should take a moment to describe the main inter-city trains that run on the Trans-Siberian line. The wagons come in different types for different budgets. First class

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The Day of Nightmare in Moscow

Useless shopkeepers hide here

We find the left luggage room easily and leave our suitcases behind, then decide to head for an internet café. I want to shift money around my accounts and the others want to check email and Couchsurfing requests in cities ahead of us. I cannot login to the internet banking

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The Trans-Siberian Adventure Begins

Near Moscow after sunrise..

So to bring you up to speed, it’s now about eleven o’clock at night and we have to travel back to Moscow overnight to catch our first real Trans-Siberian train to Yekaterinburg twenty four hours from now. We’re all sad to leave St Petersburg; it’s been our first stay together

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Peterhof; Peter the Great’s Summer Palace

After the storm the previous night, we awake to a fine day.  Now, Peter the Great built his Summer Palace, Peterhof, as a response to the French palace at Versailles; he was determined to make this its equal.  It cost more lives than Versailles did to construct, but it is truly magnificent and helped

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Catherine’s Palace and a Storm on a Canal Boat

We decide to go and visit Catherine’s Palace, Tsarskoe Selo, and jump a train and a bus in that general direction.  The palace gardens distract us for hours, they are beautifully laid out and filled with interesting diversions.  The pathways lead us through varied garden styles that are all bursting with life in the

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The Fire and Water Ritual

I wake up at some later time to find Don has appeared sleeping on the other side of the bed, clutching a bottle of vodka.  I roll over and go back to sleep.  I manage to stand up around three in the afternoon and shuffle into the kitchen to drink all the bottled water in

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One Night in St Pete’s

We find our way to meet Alisha at a Georgian restaurant nearby the Hermitage.  I immediately look for the Bozbashi soup and order it with a shashlik board while encouraging Don and Lari to try the same.  Don spots the vodka on the menu, discovers you can order a bottle for the table and acquires

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The Russian National Sport: Qualifying Round at the Hermitage

The river side of the Winter Palace and Hermitage: The correct side to enter from.

Nobody gets out of bed until around eleven, it’s a rainy day and that helps us all enjoy the extra sleep.  We decided that the Hermitage would be the place to visit today, but now we will only have

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Beers and Beaches in St Pete’s

Filled with the kind of overwhelming happiness that only comes from the depths of utter despair, we finish our drinks and surge into the street to begin our journey into the city to discover this Russian pub they call Tolsti Fraer.  After the heavy tension of the last couple of hours waiting for the tickets,

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Partners in Crime

Don and Lari attempting to look innocent

The first of my friends, Larissa, or Lari as she’s always known, is due to join me here today later in the afternoon. The train tickets are also meant to be arriving too, so I wind up staying in Alisha’s apartment, surfing the web, looking out the

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Mammmoth Ahoy!

I wake up late, feeling particularly calm and relaxed.  The day has other ideas for me that it lets me in on when I try to have a shower.  There is no sign of hot water.  I think that maybe the heater might need to refresh after Alisha’s shower and wait for a while.  Still

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Nevskiy and the Canals

After our very relaxing Monday together, Alisha decides she will return to work in the morning and hands me the spare key to the apartment.  This allows me a delightful sleep-in before launching my first real journey into St Petersburg.  I decide I’ll return to the city and walk along Nevskiy prospect to absorb

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Onwards to St Petersburg!

I say my goodbyes to Anna and Natasha as I have to change trains to get to the inter-city station I need for the journey to St Petersburg.  This is my first experience with these trains and I have no idea what to expect.  I find the station and the platform surprisingly easily; this information

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The Sunday Session

In the morning I pour Victoria tea and find the last couple of Tim Tams to put with it.  “Hey thanks for letting me stay here last night.  I wouldn’t have been good company for anyone”, I offer as some kind of backhanded apology. “You were better off staying home last night, it rained most of

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There goes a day…

Sometimes I think I cram two or three days into just one, which is the best excuse I can summon for losing a day every now and then.  After the amazing day and the night’s festivities, I awake suddenly only a few hours later being evacuated for the cleaner to arrive. I have another

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The Demon’s eyes in the Russian night

The Tretyakov Gallery 

It’s Friday and today has been an emotionally draining time.  Later in the day I discover the train tickets are still not ready and I ask him to send them to my couchsurfing host’s apartment directly.  I’m glad I’ve already been talking to Alisha for a couple of weeks about my

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Novedevichy with a side of Beach Volleyball

I decide that the Novodevichy convent and cemetery will be my primary destination for the day and bounce into the street to find my way there.  I stop at a small pavement shop to get something for breakfast and discover they can’t change a thousand rouble note, so I can’t buy anything.  I don’t know

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Russian Party Action with the local Couchsurfers

Russian Beery Goodness.

I’m early for tonight’s couchsurfing meetup, so I distract myself within the inevitable cluster of pavement shops around the station exit.  I find one that not only has beer on tap, but they will sell it to me in large plastic bottles or even a half litre cup.  I’m forced to

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First Couchsurfing in Russia

I’ve been walking for just ten minutes dragging my suitcase through the streets of Moscow and already I’m lost. I printed out the directions Victoria gave me to find her apartment building, but correlating the map and the reality before me seems impossible.

I think I’m on Victoria’s street, I’ve tried to follow her directions

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The Moskva River

I wake up with the domes of St Basil’s Cathedral on my mind and decide I’d better go back and see the inside.  Outside the day is warm and sunny, so I decide that the best way to get there is on a boat.  I start walking to the nearby river where my guide

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The Moscow Metro and the Russian ticket window women

Victoria had told me about Novoslobodskaya Metro station, her favourite of all of these works of indulgent art and wealth; created by Stalin to show how prosperous and happy communist Russia was.  So the only issue with my plan to visit a bunch of the more opulent ones is navigating the metro system itself.  Acquiring

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First impressions in Moscow…

“I’ll meet you at the big cow outside Moo-Moo”, Victoria tells me over the phone. I amble my way back to the bovine statue and it makes me smile again. She will be my first couchsurfing host in Russia, but that will happen in a few days. Today she has volunteered to show me some

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Welcome to Moscow

I walk into a mobile phone store to get myself a Russian SIM card and someone asks me what I want, in Russian.  I suddenly understand how different written and spoken language truly is; all the time I’ve spent learning written Russian is useless now.  Maybe I’m tired, I just spent forty hours awake getting

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