The next four days we spent enjoying ourselves in Moscow. Dmitry allowed us to use Alex to drive us anywhere we wanted to go in Moscow. One day we drove the Earthroamer into the Ford dealer near the centre of Moscow, to see if we could get it serviced and leave it there undercover. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough room so we drove back to Dmitry’s house – about 20 to 30kms round trip which took us four hours – such is the Moscow traffic.
We decided to spend two nights in the Moscow central city itself as this would allow us to walk around the city. We visited just about everything we could, walking through Red Square a few times and had a wonderful guided tour of the Kremlin.
|Moscow River and Kremlin|
|Dick back in Red Square after 41 years|
|State History Museum|
|St Basils Cathedral|
We also went on a boat cruise down the Moscow River
|Stalin's Wedding Cake apartments|
and caught the Metro back to our hotel.
|Statue of Peter The Great|
In Red Square when Dick was there in 1966, opposite the Kremlin was the Gum Department store. Dick said it was hopeless, virtually nothing was worth buying and everything was overpriced and not good quality. Now forty one years later it was impossible to compare. Gum was now like a modern version of our Queen Victoria Building in Sydney but ten times the size.
All the top European Designers and other expensive brands from around the world were there. There appeared to be lots of young Russians buying the products. Most of the young girls were beautiful and slim and talking on their mobile phones. We were told they were slim because they spent most of their money on the latest fashion and very little on food!
We managed to take ourselves on the underground – the Metro in Moscow. This was an interesting story – we were having lunch in one of the top hotels when we befriended a young Russian property developer, Vladimir Volkov. We asked him how to buy tickets in the underground. He said that it was almost impossible if you didn’t speak Russian. He advised “You will stand in a line for quite awhile and a Russian women with a stern look, who never smiles, will demand your money and demand that you speed up.” He solved our problem by giving us his tickets and advised us how to get on the railway. This was so we could go and organise our Kazakhstan visa – a lot of fun and quite a challenge when you do not understand the language or the signs.
Moscow City itself was completely booked out, even with hotels costing at least $600USD per night. We did manage to find a hotel room for the first night but unfortunately the air conditioning was not working so we moved to the Marriott (their last room) for the second night. That was shear luxury with the air conditioning working because Moscow was having a heat wave, 38 degrees C on 31 May – hottest May day since 1800’s the papers said.
We visited Dmitry’s office on the Tuesday evening and Dick was fascinated to find there was a large aviation map of Russia glued together on his wall. Dmitry told us that he is always dreaming of flying across Russia in his own plane.
He kindly took us to have a magnificent seafood dinner at a restaurant nearby. We finished our meal around 10.45pm and Dmitry suggested that he drive us to the village where he was born. We thought he said it would take 15 minutes but he actually meant 50 minutes but it was more like 1 ½ hours. He drove us at incredible speeds, up to 160kph in pitch darkness heading somewhere to the North West. Even at the high speeds we were doing, other cars were passing us! There is a 100kph speed limit but no one takes any notice of it.
Eventually we arrived at Dmitry’s home town, Sergiev Posad and he drove us to see the Trinity Monastery which tributes St Sergius of Radonezh, patron saint of all Russia. We eventually arrived back at Dmitry’s home at 1.30am. We realised that to Dmitry and to many Russians that 1.30am is not late at all, they were just getting going at this time!
We needed to get Kazakhstan visas for the next part of our journey. We had been sent the Letter of Introduction and the visa forms by fax to our hotel from our office at Terrey Hills. The problem was that we needed a passport photograph to glue on our forms. Everyone we asked told us to go to the Metro and eventually we found a little old lady operating an automatic booth machine. We received four pictures each for 150 rubles ($7.00AUD)
Modern communication can be incredible and very helpful. When we went to the Kazakhstan Embassy in Moscow we were inside a very hot room with a crowd of people waiting for their visas. We thought we could be there for hours so Dick grabbed hold of Pip’s mobile phone and called the Consular Assistant at the Australian Consulate in Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, half a world away and asked him if he would ring the embassy officials in Moscow and give us speedy service. Within minutes of the call, a gentleman came out and ushered us into the inner office. We paid $205USD (had to change this into rubles) each for a business visa and left our passports with the forms and arranged to collect them that afternoon at 4pm. and we were on our way.
We called into the Australian Embassy in Moscow and met Robert Tyson, our Ambassador and his staff, Debrah and Susan.
It was great to see the Aussie flag flying outside. Inside, after going through the most incredible set of security doors we met Robert in his office. We enjoyed a lovely cup of Aussie tea with him and had an interesting chat. Robert is a fan of the Collingwood football team. He said the only disagreement he’s ever had with Alexander Downer was on what football team to support! He kindly gave Dick a coloured copy of The Age newspaper and we headed off to explore more of Moscow.
The people we saw in Moscow all seemed to be well off. We walked down into the underground shopping centre near the Kremlin and the shops were modern and full of good quality merchandise with many people shopping. It was nice and cool down there and we enjoyed a cool drink and a sandwich. We walked out into the park next to the Kremlin where beautiful horse statues stood in the middle of water fountains.
Because it was so hot we found many young people standing in the water and splashing each other. So many of the young people were smoking and almost all of them seemed to have mobile phones which they used constantly. It was a happy and friendly atmosphere. Pip managed to walk miles in her plastic support boot but she did slow down as the day progressed!
We noticed many modern black Japanese cars with tinted windows in Moscow with a blue light on the roof. We were told that these blue lights were only supposed to be used by the police but many wealthy people put a blue light on their car so they could drive at high speeds through the traffic. They simply paid off the police whenever they were stopped!
Elena, our English speaking guide who took us through the Kremlin said that for many years she had worked for Intourist. This was the old Soviet tourist organisation. We were fortunate because just as we headed towards the Kremlin we saw the changing of the guard in front of the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier.
The Unknown Soldier’s body was found close to the place where Dmitry had met us on the northern side of Moscow. This was the closest point Hitler and the Nazis got to Moscow in World War II. At the Kremlin we could see the building where President Putin has his office. The flag was flying on top of that building and we were told that meant he was in residence.
We enjoyed walking around the buildings and went into one of the Cathedrals within the Kremlin walls.
On our last day in Moscow, we were fortunate because a cool change came through and the temperature dropped to a very pleasant 26 degrees C. Dmitry’s driver, Alex met us and drove us to a shop which Dmitry knew sold GPS’s. We bought ourselves a Russian GPS with all the roads to Vladivostok in Russian; we just have to learn enough Russian to be able to operate the unit!
At the Marriott Hotel we had managed to purchase tickets to the Bolshoi Ballet for our last evening. Unfortunately the Bolshoi Threatre building is closed because it is being renovated but the ballet was performed in a beautiful small theatre next door. On the Friday evening we attended it was the Bolshoi Ballet School that was scheduled to perform. It was wonderful watching the dancers from the young boys and girls dancing a traditional Russian dance through to the senior artists who performed a number of pas de deux from various ballets. The standard was extremely high and we enjoyed the evening very much. Alex kindly met us at 9.30pm and drove us back to Dmitry’s house where we stayed overnight. The next morning we moved our Earthroamer up onto the lawn beside Dmitry’s house where we have left it for a month. Dmitry was going flying in his Cessna and he kindly dropped us at Domodedovo Airport on his way to a smaller airport nearby.
We went through the Immigration section and there was not a blink at our unstamped immigration forms. The lady just took the form out and stamped our passports and gave them back to us with a smile. We flew with Singapore Airlines to Dubai and then to Singapore and after about 23 hours we arrived back in Sydney on Sunday night 3 June 2007.
Of the 40,075kms around the world, we have now covered 46% of the distance.
591kms Today 18,445 kms Total since Anchorage Alaska
2,817kms Total Europe (Stage 4)
Part 1 of Day 53