Sunday, May 28, 2006

evgeny & vitaly

Ekaterinberg was very kind to us. There was a storm last night which cleared just as we finished buying our tickets to Moscow. The light was fantastic. Anything it touched was backed by super dark clouds, giving this awesome contrast and clarity. This town has a TV tower that was half built in 1985 and just left to rot after the main guy backing it disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Hanging out at our host's house where the kids are watching what looks like Eastern Europe's favourite cat and mouse team... Fucking weird shit from the 1970s with heaps of synth and "Turkish Star Wars" style narration. I'll try and capture some of it and email it through.

The dad (Evgeny) of the family who is hosting us has lived here all his life, so he knows every little bit of information there is to know about the town. "see that building over there? well...." and "this rubbish bin was installed in 1992...". He works at the "institute", where he is the "owner of his time", allowing him to show us around. He's got this cool sidekick (Vitali), who is about 70 and used to fly Migs back in the day of the all mighty USSR. Evgeny got a grant to tour this old bloke around Europe to tell his story. Hopefully I can sit down with him and have a chat about the good old days.

Tomorrow we are jumping into a mini van and headed for the Urals, where there is an observatory waiting to show us the stars of the Northern Hemisphere. Sounds cool. I love scientists and what they think is a good excursion for the tourist.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


In the last week and a half, Pippa and I have gone from Novosibirsk to Omsk and now to here, are safe and sound in the lovely little town of Ekaterinburg (sometimes refered to as Yekaterinburg). Novosibirsk was a fun city (about 2 million people). There we checked out the opera, the local fast food and 3 types of accommodation.

The first was the Lyux room at the train station. Best bed we've slept on yet. So fluffy and soft, we didn't even notice that it was actually two single beds stuck together until the next morning. Next we went to the Hotel Novosibirsk. This was a rather pricey option, but did include a room with a view (depressing soviet-style flats and a water feature thing that looked a cross between a fountain and a sewage treatment plant), a "free" breakfast (where we stole several hard boiled eggs for 'ron) and the all important visa registration.

For the uninitiated, all visas must be registered within 3 working days of when you enter the country, otherwise the man gets pissy. All the guide books and the people we had spoken to that had been through Russia said this was one thing you didn't want to fudge, especially in the more touristy areas. But as Russian bureaucracy can sometimes be its own downfall, the operative words here are "working days". We arrived on a Saturday morning (may 6) meaning we then had to wait until monday (may 8), which turned out to be some pseudo holiday before the Victory Day celebrations on the tuesday (may 9). We went to lake baikal on Tuesday, which didn't have any places to register, so we planned to do it when we got back to Irkust. When we arrived at the hostel the next morning (the only hostel we have found in Russia so far), where the woman basically refused to register our visas because according to her it was a waste of time and money. We left for Omsk, but decided under the guidence of a 40 something Russian ladt\y named... you guessed it... Natasha, recommended we go to Novosibirsk instead. It was well worth the whim we used to jump off the train a day early.

More soon

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

coke flats

Russia is kinda cool. bit of a rip off if you depend on hotels/hostels for accomodation. Couchsurfing and Hospitality club seem to be the way to do it. We met a young guy on the train from Novosibirsk to Omsk who offered us his couch for free. We cooked him and his flatmates a big meal last night to say thanks.

Super stress with tickets out of Omsk. doesn't help when Russian railways have varying ticketing policies in different cities. It's sorted now, but after a whole bunch of head aches.


I've left the open tundra of Mongolia behind for the bleak post-soviet styling of Russia. Big place. Some really cool people and the food, while often expensive and boring, is vaguely European, so this provides much relief from the whole buying bread in china experience. No peanut butter here though.

sunset at baikal

Such a beautiful place to throw rocks into a hole in thice. I wish everything in life could be this simple.