What a huge day. I started my day at 4.45 as I've been struggling to sleep. I had awoken at 2.30 same as usual but at least I fell back to sleep for a bit longer. I tried to drift off again but it was a waste of time, particularly because my curtains don't close and the street noise and traffic were coming through.
So I got up, did my washing, wasted heaps of time trying to work out how to make the water come out of the bath tap instead of the handheld shower (still don't know- others have tried to explain it to me but I seem to be unable to achieve it). Ended up writing the boys a note saying I'd be working downstairs. When they didn't turn up at 8 am I started to worry thinking they hadn't seen the note and maybe were trying to break my door down. I waited till 8.15 and decided to eat brekkie. 5 minutes later I was upstairs knocking on their door only to hear they'd slept in and were abysmally behind schedule. So they had a bit of a rushed start to the day. Meanwhile I'd gotten the blog into a semblance of working order. We headed off on the bus at 9, and did a tour of the city with a few photo stops. We all got some great shots of things that I don't remember the names of. David said one was Catherine's palace that we are going into tomorrow, however we all know that's wrong don't we as that's in st Petersburg, not Moscow... So the name of it is still unknown. We went to red square but typical of our luck it was closed because of the Olympic torch ceremony. We saw and got great pictures of st Basil's basilica though, lots of the other mosques/ churches, palaces and a very grand nunnery. The two guys Alan and Steve both have expensive flash cameras but I think our photos are comparable... The scenery makes it so.
It was a perfect day for photo taking. Once the sun was up it was just glorious... Similar to Hobart weather. We ended up at a big shopping centre where we had lunch and normally would have been able to overlook red square but those windows were blocked out as well.
There were police, army, secret service, plain clothed people, you name it they were there. Similar to Rome. The plain clothes guys were sooo obvious...
After lunch we went to a famous boulevard where the Bolshoi theatre is. I couldn't believe I was right there. It's on a street with a lot of tourist shops. It was a great place to stroll. From there we went to the metro and checked out the major stations which have monumental pieces of art in them. It was breathtaking - the grand scale of everything. Thinking of the artisanal workers creating those pieces. It's pretty amazing.
Then we were meant to be finished for the day but we joined a shopping expedition with Steve and Rita to buy him a charger for his phone. He'd left his at home. (By the way... One of the Lynne's left her credit cards behind). The ladies returned to the hotel clapped out.
The first shop we tried was useless for him, but a big score for me. I got an additional battery as both of mine had been going flat very quickly.
Rita found what Steve was looking for so we were all pleased. We sent Rita off for an hour on our own, and David and Kevin thought they'd buy a new camera, when they were ready to buy it, the guy said (we think) that they could choose black or white, but only the display items were available. They easily could have except if David and I had not seen what kids do- 2 days earlier we'd seen little kids in Dubai physically wrenching the telephoto lens out of the cameras. Then we saw the only discipline applied to any little prince in Dubai - the dad got him by the arm squeezed it HARD like a horse bite.. Then twisted it up like he was going to break it. Whilst we were horrified we were both thinking the little beast deserved it, and it kind of made up for the atrocious behaviour of Arab children everywhere.
Back to display items-Warning to you guys. Don't buy a display item... Ever. Just cos you didn't see it doesn't mean it didn't happen...which reminds me... The kid was a twin... We saw an extraordinary number of twins in Dubai... I mean LOTS. David thinks there might be a preponderance of IVF? One family had two sets. They were everywhere.
Back to Moscow....
So we returned to the hotel very very tired. I know I've overdone it, my back is killing me and I've taken extra painkillers. So a hot bath for me and more clothes washing. I was intending to find a laundromat but the room is so warm I've been able to catch up and keep up. Probably will be able to everywhere. I'm not being tight... It's just convenience really (where do I find a laundromat in Moscow) and let's face it... I don't have $20 sitting around every time I want the hotel to wash my jeans.. Yes $20. Might as well throw them out like David and Kevin do with their socks and jocks.
By this time we had organised our dinner. It was a free night and I'd asked Rita where we should eat. She said there was an oriental restaurant over the road. Or we could go by trolley car for traditional Russian. As we were all buggered but I guess David was starting to worry about my back we thought we'd suss out the oriental place to see if we should go there. Over the road wasn't just over the road by the way... It was across an underpass of a six or eight lane road and then along a bit. We were thinking and getting our taste buds ready for Chinese but when we looked at the menu we thought oh.. Maybe Lebanese or similar??
So yes we agreed we'd go there. We booked for everyone just in case and when we asked the others back at the hotel they agreed to come but later they wimped out.
We are starting to think the Lynne's and Libby are going to struggle. They didn't cope with what we did today, and it's only day one.
So the restaurant. It had really big statues that looked Chinese (the oriental bit?) but the menu was more Arab(vine leaves, kebabs, spiced meats)? Later on we found out it was Uzbekistan traditional food. So apparently Uzbekistan was a part of the Soviet Union - who knew? Would I be bold enough to say not of their own free will? it's exceptionally popular with the people as a way of celebrating and keeping traditional cultures, better than china where they have homogenized the 55 cultures out of existence by turning some into tourist attractions and outlawing others.
We were challenged by the menu but all the food was good. We washed it down with a half litre of grolsch beer. All good. And how many people do you know who have eaten Uzbeki?
Well lots over here.. It's a 24 hour restaurant and people were coming and going all the time. They had sheeshas as well. Nobody except Kevin smokes on our trip, so he had no one to share one with, but other tables were partaking. We thought it might be smoky, but the place just had a slight fruity smell from the apple charcoal they smoke through the water filter. It's really steam not smoke I guess..
Another day over, head full of the sights. I can't believe we were there, right there with those amazing buildings. There's something so fundamentally different about seeing it in person rather than in a book, photo or video. I just want to suck all the experiences in through my eyes and burn them into my brain.
Now - Have i told you about Alan, he's pretty cool. I knew he was older than me... i thought early sixties, but its hard to tell as his face is well run in. He has a good looking face, with sparkly eyes, and always ready for mischievous. Id say its maybe a craggy face? weathered? anyway, hes a very active guy, walks everywhere, short sleeves in all weather, and kayaks, abseils, hikes, goes on treks. i dont think he sits still. He travels several times a year and he tells me he starts planning a new trip as soon as he finishes the last one. thats not to say they are like this.. i think he likes his own company mostly and does the solitary hikes... sometimes with other blokes, sometimes not.
anyway... hes 68, almost 69. hes in way better shape than me. the first night he said he thought he might join an over 55 travel group but decided the pace would be too slow. he has no time for sissies, illness, weakness in himself, and likely not much for others. last night he told me that when he gives his body back, hes going to make sure its well and truly worn out. i believe him.
he doesnt talk a lot and as you could imagine, he has a dry sense of humor. whilst we were doing the metro tour and having to jump very quickly on and off the trains he pushed me in the back. he blamed it on David. i said to him next time he does that ill fall in between the train and the platform and let the train cut my leg off... that will teach him... i think hes the pick of the crop. a bit like crocodile dundee. he told me he had a girlfriend for a few years after his wife died, 15 years younger than him... but she recently dumped him because she couldnt keep up with him physically. not surprised.
tomorrow if i get time ill tell you about Steve.. from Geelong.