A Travellerspoint blog

Moscow - Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Visit to the Kremlin, free time to explore Moscow and an evening visit to a Russian National Dancing Show

semi-overcast 18 °C

We had a later rise this morning as we are leaving half an hour later today. Had breakfast and then on the bus for our tour of the Kremlin. At yesterday's briefing, Diana gave us strict instructions about today's tour and what to do and what not to do. Stay together in your group and don't wander away from your group and no photos allowed inside the buildings. Outside okay but not inside.

On the drive into the Kremlin, Svetlana was telling us about life in Moscow. There were eight lanes of traffic heading into the city.

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School teachers in Moscow get paid about $2,500 US a month. Other workers receive about $1,500 US a month. There are a lot of illegal immigrants in Moscow but the numbers are unknown. Every second family has a car and a lot of them own "dachas", a summer house out of the city. Lunch is the main meal of the day as opposed to dinner in the evening in Australia as our main meal. About Moscow weather, they say that Moscow has two seasons - July and Winter!

Both parents work and children attend Day Care Centres. These centres are open from 7am to 7pm and the children attend them until they are 6 years old and then they start Primary School at age 7. By the time they start primary school, they can add up and read so they are very well prepared.

50% of the population is divorced. The older people lost all their money in the 70s and 80s when Gorbachev was President and now they depend on their children for survival. They only receive $300 US a month old age pension, which is definitely not enough to live on, especially in an expensive city like Moscow.

Maternity leave is given for three years. There is .5% unemployment in Moscow and 7 to 8% in the country. There are 143 million people in Russia and 9 time zones. The Government is encouraging women to have a second child by offering them $10.000 US after the birth. The voucher can't be cashed but can be used to upgrade accommodation or provide for a good education for the children.

We arrived at the Kremlin in plenty of time to buy our tickets and walked briskly through the grounds to the Armoury. The wind is vicious! The Armoury stores 10% of the best of the Russian treasures and what a shame photos weren't allowed. It is an absolutely amazing place with costumes, carriages, jewels, faberge eggs, silver and gold. Not to be missed if you are coming to Moscow.

Out in the grounds, I took some amazing photos.

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Photos of the Kremlin Wall and the entrance to the Kremlin

Back on the ship for a buffet lunch and then we explored the ship. We found an enclosed sun room at the end of our corridor and some steps leading to the open air sun lounge on the roof. We chatted at length with some Canadian ladies who were sunning themselves on the roof. In the enclosed sun lounge, there is an exercise bike and a walking machine, tables and chairs and a coffee making machine.

There was a Scenic Tea at 4.40 pm, which was a light snack to tide us over until we returned from the Dancing Show where upon we would have a light supper before going to bed.

So, back on the bus at 6.00 pm for the ride into town for "Kostroma" the Russian National Dancing Show. The traffic in Moscow is horrendous and it took us one and a half hours to get in there and we just made it, with about 5 minutes to spare before the concert began. It was a lovely theatre and we had really good seats. I thought Phil would probably go to sleep during a dancing concert, but from the word go, it had him and held his interest for the whole show. It was the story of Russia through the ages and then after interval, folk dances from all the different regions. Sounds a bit boring after a long day of being a tourist, but it was really good. Fabulous costumes and fantastic dancing - cossack men jumping all over the place and beautiful girls dancing intricately and skillfullly. They are touring Australia in October and I would certainly recommend the show to anyone. Unfortunately cameras weren't allowed, so no photos to show.

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Back on the bus for the ride home. This time it only took 45 minutes to go 20 kilometres. Most of us went into the dining room for a late supper. I had red bean soup (kidney beans I think) and it was delicious and just enough to tide me over until morning.

Into bed by 12.30 am and a sleep in tomorrow as we are not leaving for our excursion until 9.45 am.

Posted by gaddingabout 05:20 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Moscow - Monday, 25 August 2014

Guided tour including Tverskaya Street, the KGB Building, lunch in a local restaurant, ride on Moscow's Metro, Red Square and St Basil's Cathedral

rain 18 °C

Had a good night's sleep and up early today as we are leaving the boat at 8am for an all day tour and won't be back until 6pm. Were the first in for breakfast this morning and sat with Mavis and Peter from Griffith. (Easy names for me to remember as those are the names of my mother and brother!)

We were on the bus by 8am ready for our day's touring in Moscow. Marsha was our guide and Sergei was our driver.

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Moscow was founded in 1147 and is huge and very spread out. 30 million people live in Moscow. There are not many signs in English so it's really hard to work out where you are. I wouldn't want to get lost as not many people speak English. We visited Christ the Redemer Church. The weather is turning bad and starting to rain. It's not too cold but very windy and raining. But the architecture is fabulous. I just knew it would be.

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Phil the photographer!

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We drove to the University of Moscow which is the most prestigious university in Russia and was built in 1953. It is free to attend this university, however, if the child of a wealthy person doesn't pass the entrance exams into the university, then the parents will pay for their tuition. It is quite the most stunning building for a university that I have ever seen. On the way, we passed a place called the new maiden convent which is a working convent today but was once a convent for unwanted wives, where husbands could get rid of their wives! Only in Russia!

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It is now pouring rain. What a shame. Very hard to get photos out of the bus window.

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We went to Sparrows Hill which is 85 metres above the Moscow River and is the highest part of Moscow. At least it stopped raining so we could get out of the bus and take some photos.

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Twins!

We then headed for the Moscow Metro for our tour of the underground. We keep passing these amazing apartment buildings that people used to receive for free. Not any more. That all changed in the 1990s and now some of these are selling/buying for a million dollars plus. If you don't have that sort of money, Russians tend not to borrow from the banks because the interest rate is too high, sometimes as high as 12 per cent.

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So, we arrive at the Moscow underground and are given VERY specific instructions about what to do and what to do if we get lost. Well, it's best not to get lost because we can't speak or read the language and I can't even pronounce the name of the station where we are getting off! 9 million people use the metro every day. It is a very efficient way of getting around such a huge city. We waited until peak hour was over to experience this amazing place. The trains come every minute or minute and a half. The escalators going down to the platforms are extremely steep and we were advised to hold on to the side rail which was good advice because just as we were nearing the bottom, someone got their shoe caught in the escalator and it came to a sudden stop and we were all jolted forward. No one was hurt, but it could have been nasty. We hopped on and off four different trains just to see the beautifully decorated stations. There is absolutely no rubbish lying around either. At one stage when we hopped on, a young girl stood up and gave me her seat. I accepted with a smile and Phil gave her a gold kangaroo. It's great travelling with grey hair! These underground stations were also used as bomb shelters during World War II, when 27 million Russians were killed. It was a great experience and after we got off, we walked up to the street and proceeded to our middle eastern restaurant for lunch.

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The restaurant was called Damas and we had a cold pressed tomato terrine thing, then pork and potato and a nice sauce and then a very light chocolate cake. It was nice and then we all hopped on the bus again for our visit to Red Square and St Basil's Cathederal.

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Waiting for the bus.

We drove to Red Square and St Basil's is at one end of Red Square. I was so disappointed at Red Square because the whole place was covered in tents and seating for a Military Tattoo that is being held there in a couple of weeks. The square was unrecognizable! Anyway, by this stage, the battery in my tablet has just about gone, so I took as many photos as I could before it finally gave out, and unfortunately I had no battery to take photos inside St Basil's. We had some free time after our tour of St Basil's, so we walked through a very posh department store called Gum (pronounced Goom). We also watched some Cossacks practicing on their horses for the Military Tattoo. They were very good.

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Red Square

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St Basil's

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We arrived back at the ship at about 5.30 pm and just had time to get changed for dinner before we went to the Tsar Lounge for tomorrow's briefing. Had dinner with Roschane and her mother and Gail and Owen from WA. Did a bit of blogging and then into bed. I am not having any trouble sleeping. The bed and pillows are just great but today was a huge day for our first day.

Posted by gaddingabout 05:22 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Singapore to Moscow - Sunday, 24 August 2014

Hello the "Scenic Tsar" - our floating home for the next two weeks!

semi-overcast 22 °C

We boarded the plane and took off at 2.30 am for our 10.10 hour flight to Moscow. I started watching a movie but was struggling with the sound, so went to sleep and pretty well slept most of the flight, well about 7 hours of it. When I woke up, only because someone pulled up their window shade and the sun came pouring in, I watched the movie The Long Way Home, the story of Nelson Mandela. It was really good. Breakfast was a typical airline breakfast and then we started our descent into Moscow. We were flying over fields and forests and small towns and it reminded me of the patchwork quilt that is the Darling Downs in southeast Queensland, Australia.

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Some of the passengers applauded as we landed. Maybe the disaster that was MH17 is still fresh in their minds. I must admit that I am always glad when we have landed safely.

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Immigration went smoothly and you pass through behind these funny little boxes. I was wondering if I would ever see Phil again!

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We all met up with the Scenic Tours rep and proceeded on the one and a half hour drive to our boat.

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We chatted with a couple of people while waiting to board the bus and one of them used to live one house away from my cousin in Toowoomba, when she was a girl! Small world! And he even knows one of my old primary school friends!

On the way to the dock, we passed lots and lots of accommodation buildings. Several years ago, these apartments were given to the people for free. Haven't heard the full story about this yet but will write about it when I know.

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As we were boarding, we were given a Russian VIP welcome - fresh, crusty bread and salt.

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Our cabin 302, is on the top deck and is really nice.

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We went down to the lounge for a light lunch of soup and sandwiches and are now back in the room unpacking, showering and resting before our vicinity walk at 5.00pm, followed by a welcome and safety briefing, followed by our first dinner.

For those of you who have read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, you will understand this next bit. For those who haven't, then read it, or skip over this bit. As we were coming in to land in Moscow, we flew over lots of forest and I saw all the trees described when Tatiana and Alexander were having their honeymoon in the forest for a month. Then, if that wasn't bad enough, inside the terminal was a girl in a white dress, with red flowers on it! Spooky! I can't believe we're in Russia. This is going to be fantastic.

Went for a short walk along the dock just to get our bearimgs and to see how to get to the supermarket but why would you want to go there, everything is provided. This beautiful building is lying in a state of disrepair. It was built in Stalin's era and was used as a ferry terminal. It is an excellent example of architecture of that time - 1933 to 1937. Hopefully they are going to repair it. It is too nice to go to waste.

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Photo of the Scenic Tsar and us trying to pose for a photo.

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We attended a safety talk and a run down on tomorrow's program and then went into dinner. We sat with Jan and Dennis from the Central Coast and Helen and Neil from Nowra. Helen and I knew so many people in common. It is so weird. I even went to Fairholme with her cousin! This is definitely becomimg a "small world" trip.

We have an early start tomorrow so must go to sleep now. It is now 10 pm and still quite light. The white light, it is called.

Posted by gaddingabout 10:45 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Singapore - Saturday, 23 August 2014

semi-overcast 31 °C

We had a good night's sleep, a little sleep in and wandered down to breakfast at about 9am. Breakfast was good - bircher muslei, voghurt and fruit and poached eggs / omelette. This is the view of the restaurant from the lift.

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Just lazing around the hotel for a few hours until we check out early afternoon when we head over to the airport.

We get a great view of planes coming in to land at Changi Airport.

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Went for a swim in this lovely pool

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then checked out and caught the airport shuttle to the airport. They dropped us off at Terminal 1 and then we caught the skytrain to Terminal 3. This airport is so huge and beautiful. We were able to check in early and were told that the flight to Moscow is full.

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Then we made our way to the Gold Krys Lounge for lunch and are enjoying the peace and quiet of the lounge and are contemplating whether or not we will go on the free bus ride around Singapore for people in transit.

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Phil enjoying the Gold Krys lounge!

What a fabulous place this Changi airport is, especially for transitting passengers with long waits. There are sleeping rooms, a butterfly compound, a huge children's playground and a movie theatre that plays really good movies 24 hours a day. We just killed two hours by watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller. It was a bit silly but quite entertaining. We are now back in the Gold Krys lounge, having some dinner and still with three hours to wait until boarding, by which time it will be tomorrow and the start of a new blog!

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Posted by gaddingabout 07:16 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Sydney to Singapore - Friday, 22 August 2014

semi-overcast 33 °C

Had a great sleep last night at the Rydges Airport hotel. The bed and pillows were absolutely magic. The good news is that reception told us that they were for sale on line so I might have a look at buying some pillows when we return.

Strolled over to the airport about 3 hours before our flight left so we could have breakfast in the Singapore Airlines lounge.

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We had a dream check in, with the guy giving us a priority pass for customs and immigration which meant we just sailed through all that. He also gave us a priority pass for our return. This is starting out well. Security was okay but both our carry ons had to be opened, but no real drama there either. Just a couple of containers needed checking and then we were through.

We are flying to Singapore today in an A380 air bus and we are in the upstairs section, which is really great.

Had a great flight. It was so smooth and quiet and for the first time in my life, I actually ate ALL my airline lunch. It was a beef stew thing and it was delicious! My personal entertainment screen wouldn't work so the crew had to reboot it which took about 20 minutes so to compensate for the inconvenience (which there really wasn't because I was happy reading my book) they served us our lunch personally, before anyone else in our section. How embarrassing!

We both watched The Railway Man with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman and both shed a tear. It was based on a true story and meant a lot to us as we have been to the museum and on the train along the Thai Burma Railway. Horrible. I read my fiction book about Russia, the second book in the trilogy of The Bronze Horseman. Book 2 is called The Bridge to Holy Cross. I am enjoying it very much. It's getting me in the mood for Russia.

Phil watched Two Faces of January, Fading Gigolo and three quarters of The Monument Men. He'll have to watch the end of that movie on the way to Moscow.

We waited about half an hour for our free shuttle bus to the Changi Village Hotel which is supposed to be quite close to the airport. It took a bit of a search to find where the shuttle buses left from as we followed the signs and they led us nowhere. But after making some enquiries, we backtracked, got our stickers and sat in the waiting area for the bus. We can see planes landing from our balcony and we seem quite close to the airport, however it took us about 20 minutes to get here as we had to drive all the way around a ring road. Our room is pretty basic, even though we were given an upgrade but it is clean and all we want to do is sleep here.

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Our hotel is right next door to Changi Village so we went for a walk and chose a very busy outdoor local restaurant for dinner. We were the only Westerners in the place, but because it was so popular with the locals, meant that the food was fresh and good.

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It is now 10.45 pm so probably time to have a relaxing bath and into bed. The weather here is quite warm but not too humid for me, but Phil is feeling the heat. Because it is the dry season, the locals are all in long pants and coats! I guess it's all relative.

Posted by gaddingabout 07:51 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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