Russia (Overall thoughts/Tips)

I just want to add a few things, that I’ve probably gone over in previous blog posts, that might be handy for anyone who might want to travel to Russia.

  • Visa’s – From my experience, if you can fork out the extra dough to get one from an agency, go for it, probably less hassle in the long run, as if you done it all yourself, you would have to dick around getting invitations, there are probably going to be the odd person reading this that think I’m talking balls, but hey, its only an opinion.
  • Money – If you are in St Petersburg or Moscow, you should be okay, plenty of cash machines there, my debit card from Norn Iron worked okay there, I’m sure that plenty of others should work there too.  The girl who took my Russian class said she used her debit card down around the Black Sea, if you feel you need one or two readies before you get into Russia, you can get them in any of those bureau de changes in an airport, just know that you are probably going to get shafted exchange rate wise.
  • Language – Wouldnt do any harm to know at least a wee bit of Russian, but if you are in St Petersburg/Moscow, you could manage okay, up to a point, with English only.  Still, I would recommend knowing some русский, and at least have a fair idea of how to read the cryllic alpahabet.  Overall, St Petersburg is the easiest place for westerners, as you have the bi – lingual metro, a lot of the shops in the west, are there too.
  • Transport – Dont be a wally, and do what I did, and spend most of your time walking around.  My feet were worn out after the 2 weeks, I would wholly recommend using the metros, also, if you arent too sure of them, you can book tours of the metros first, plenty of companies/people do them, if you are a bit inexperienced in using underground subways.  Plenty of buses there too.
  • Things to see – Look up google, to see what you might find interesting, each to their own I suppose, plenty of things to do and see, just depends what floats your boat.
  • People – Like anywhere, you get people who are helpful, and people who arent, but I would say in some respects, St Petersburg and Moscow, are big melting pots – you have the natives of each city, as well as Russians from other parts of Russia, then Asians, Central/South Americans,  Europeans, the list goes on.  I couldnt really fault anyone there, if you just keep the head down, you should be fine.  In general, they are more reserved, but get a few drinks in them and they open up, just like everyone else.
  • Food/drink – I thought the prices were pretty reasonable, you have good choices between local cuisine and western fast food.  Drink is easy enough to get too.
  • Culture – I don’t think its radically different to western culture, yes its different, but its not like comparing Belfast to Bangkok.  I know some people have this idea that Russia is like the wild west, but I found it okay, mega busy in Moscow, but nothing out of the ordinary, if you’ve been to huge cities in other parts of the world.
  • Toilets – If you want to do a bit of log cabin building, just remember, you kind of have to put the toilet paper in a bin beside the toilet – isnt so bad if the bin gets emptied regularly, not so good if it was like one place I was in, full to the neck with shitty toilet paper and the odd jamrag, the smell would’ve make you gag.
  • Clothing – Winter time, thermals are a must,  big jumper, jeans, I have known people who said to wear baggier jeans in the winter, as you feel the cold more with tight jeans, not really sure if thats totally true, proably a part of it is in your head.

Theres not much more I could add at this point in time, only to say, if you want to goto Russia, its easily doable, just plan ahead, as you would with any other holiday destination, and you should have a good time!



Russia (Part 4 – Moscow)

On the Monday morning, I got the train from St Petersburg to Moscow,  I decided to get the super fast train, it was super comfy, the experience was really good, staff were courteous and helpful (coffee tasted nice too), the train was really shifting,  hit speeds in and around of 140 mph.

When I got there,  I got kind of lost, I stopped off in a shop, asked for directions, the young guy I asked for directions, he was super helpful,  got his phone out and showed me where to go,  spaseeba compadre!

I got checked into my digs, staff were super helpful, gave me maps, washed my clothes, unofficially you couldn’t drink there,  but one of the staff offered me a drink,  and made me feel at home.

It seemed in some ways that Moscow was  easier than St Petersburg for English speakers, I was still wary at times,  still having my wits about me, this being a super big city.

One of the people which worked in the hostel was from Uzbekistan, some 4000 km from Moscow, there was also a girl from Siberia, no idea what part, puts things in perspective about places being far away.

I was informed by her and another Russian guy  staying there (who was part americanised) that the way I was pronouncing no in Russian was incorrect.

You see, when westerners learn it we pronounce it “neeyet” , yet it should really be “nn-yet” , then again most people find my accent sounds garbled at the best of times.  I think they laughed even more when I tried to ask them about Russian tv series Brigada, it took them a minute to work out what I was talking about…

The more time I spent there the more I realised that to have a decent look at Moscow,  you would’ve needed a full week,  rather than the 4 days I spent there.

I seen many monuments, actually tried Русский foods, had some meat ball soup, which was nice, a few other things that I couldnt remember now, there is some buffet restaurant chain pronounced moo moo (my my), prices seemed reasonable, and plenty of choice too.

I didnt really head out at night, there wasnt that many staying at the hostel, one or two Finns, they seemed okay, but just done their own thing, I was chatting to an American, think he was from Texas, he seemed a nice enough guy, but he didnt really seem overly keen on heading out.

St Basils cathedral and the Kremlin were a sight to behold, so, so many other places to see here.   I walked down The Arbat, an old street, that has a lot of history tied into it.  There wasnt much happening when I was there, probably because of the time of year.

I would definitely recommend going to Moscow, but I would advise going there when its a bit warmer, and spending a full week there, as its so big.  Some people told me that it was grand looking, but I thought although it had all those grand sights, it seemed a whole lot more industrial, in comparison with St Petersburg.

Tour of Scotland – part 6

On Saturday morning, I felt as  rough as a hedgehogs arse, got a few bananas in me, the hostel offered free tea (well, at least I think it was free), the tea tasted like someone has sweeped up the dirt up off the floor, and put said dirt in a teabag.  Anyway, after a while I felt better, and got loaded up and back on the road.

I tavelled from Edinburgh, passed in and around Glasgow, and then stopped off in Kilmarnock, but not before seeing a sign for………Moscow!  I thought “This is intriguing, must check this out later”, and headed into Kilmarnock for a fish supper.  It fairly lined my stomach, fish, chips, bread, nice pot of tea too!  I wouldnt day i seen much of the town, only thing that it would signify is that one of my great great grandparents came from there.

After that, I just had to check out this Scottish Moscow, followed the signs for it, was kind of out in the middle of nowhere, and found it.  To be honest, the place is tiny, it seems like a hamlet, there seemed to be a garage in it, but it was a garage where you got your car fixed, rather than a filling station.  Its strange some of the things you come across when travelling.

After that, I headed off to my final destination, Troon.  When I got there, I got settled into my digs, and went out for another fish supper, tasted great, but just had a quiet night, felt a bit cream crackered, The people I were staying with were a retired couple, and seemed very helpful and pleasant,  they said they were originally from Glasgow.

Troon itself seemed nice enough, but its more of a place to just pass through, than to stay any length of time.