Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my blog. It is here that I will attempt to keep the few that care updated on my adventures around the globe..
Those adventures began in the land of Vodka, Babushkas and Matriyoshka Dolls… MOTHER RUSSIA.
I have it in my head that the only way to start a trip is with a little splash of luxury. However, this should be preceded by a comparable splash of pain.
First, British Airways were happy to oblige here by not upgrading me (“Hi, my sister said if I had a quiet word with you…….) and instead “looked after me” by supplying excessive amounts of gin and tonic.
After landing at Domodedovo Airport, Moscow, I inflicted the real pain. No taxi. Too easy. Instead.. shuttle bus away from airport, shlep to metro with bags, metro shlep to Dinamo station, unbelievably long shlep of a walk with bags and getting a little bit lost in the pitch black across a 12 lane highway. A two hour journey, but at the end, a shining light, Moscow’s Renaissance Hotel.
We were reunited with the Lord of Luxury in the o2 Lounge of the roof of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. We snuggled under their blankets, looking out over Red Square, drinking Moscow Mules and eating posh snacks such as Wasabi Minstrels. The bar, and hotel, took schtief to a new level. Check it out at..
Our time in Moscow took us to..
*Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the GUM Department store – ALL REAM!
*The world famous Bolshoi Ballet to see “Esmerelda” – not a clue what was going on especially as we could see 60% of the stage partly due to our position in the theatre and partly due to the incredibly long necks of Chinese tourists as they craned to see the show. At the start of the second half we snuck into empty seats we’d spotted but got swiftly barked at in Russian and then moved and moved again. We ended up back where we started with a little woman screaming NYET at us.
*Lenin’s Mausoleum – very weird seeing his embalmed body. Barked at again by a Russian for putting my hand in my pocket.
*Fress, fress, fress – Amazing sushi, amazing russian food, (Chicken Kiev, Beef Stroganoff and Borsht at Cafe Chekov), vile pizza served by more barking russians, this time because Chelsea walked away with the Tabasco bottle, amazing Georgian food (with a pointless waterfall and river and bridge in the restaurant – think Little Tokyo).
*Sanduny Bath House – I cannot sing this place’s praises enough. The Lord of Luxury and I went to this Russian bath with a little apprehension. Within 10 minutes we were naked, in Imperial surroundings, marble and leather everywhere, in the the hottest steam room and coldest plunge pools know to man. Half way through the experience we were presented with bundles of oak branches and leaves, and after soaking, we both partook in a little violent self flagellation in the steam room. Unbelievably invigorating and followed by tea and russian savory pastries on our designated part of the lounge.
There is a certain magic about boarding a train at sunset for a journey where the sun is just rising at your destination.
We boarded train 006, headed for Irkutsk, on a freezing misty damp night, and were welcomed by the Provodnik (carriage attendant) “Radion” who was to become our big pal by the end of the 4 day journey, into a warm cozy carriage. Our cabin was basic, but clean and comfortable, with the necessary Russian chintzy tassles all over the place.
A couple of hours into the journey, an experience began that taught me my first lesson of the trip. NEVER DRINK WITH RUSSIANS. It started with me poking my head into their carriage and commenting that their processed meat smelt like a dead body. The next thing a knew I had half a bottle of russian cognac down me and I was inbetween two carriages desperately trying to fend of the burps and mouth sweats that precede only one thing….. I managed to get through it and continue the fun, but it was a close call.
It’s unbelievable how quickly a life of nothingness becomes enjoyable and easy. There is nothing to do but sit, eat, lie, sleep, chat, play cards, smoke, read, and watch the beautiful siberian countryside roll past. The days are punctuated by stops every few hourse allowing a little time off the train, and giving the Lord of Luxury a chance to buy delights such as rotting fish, decrepit sausage, and mystery pastries off the cute babushkas on the platform.
2 bowls of borsht in the restaurant car proved enough for any man and a staple diet of noodles took over quickly. In addition, the waiter was a creepy bugger and kept sneaking round our carriage. The less time touched the goods i was about to consume, the better.
Minus 2 degrees greeted us in Irkutsk. Obviously I felt it necessary to lead the troops in the freezing cold, at 6am, on the 5 minute walk to the hotel. An hour later we arrived. It seems new arrivals are directed to the strip club under the hotel, and so we hit the drinks, choosing this over paying for a room. Someone else had the same idea. A middle aged man was fully asleep/dead on the bar.
After day break, and a breakfast of Goulash and Rice, we headed to Listvyanka. A village on the the world deepest fresh water lake, Lake Baikal. This was a weird WEIRD place. Think of every american horror film by a lake. Every guest house seemed to be closed, so we checked in at a hotel, and tried to find something to do. Visitor information – closed. Seal show – closed. Schmaltzy market – stinks of fish. Diving – impossible today, “why are you even called me about this sir”.
We were told to try the OMUL, “it’s delicious”. This fish is native to Lake Baikal and is definitely the reason why these people are ODD.
We got the hell out of there, and back to where we felt at home. The Strip Club of the Baikal Hotel, Irkutsk. We enjoyed a merry evening there where Chelsea, the Lord and I danced the night away, on poles, with naked strippers. The less said about that night the better.
After a big sleepy day in the beautiful siberian town of Irkutsk we sprinted to the train station. It was a close call, but we JUST made it on the train. This train was going to take us to another land of mystery. MONGOLIA……