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Russia Wrap-up

Reflections of our month in Russia

View Back in the USSR on MikeinCairns's travel map.

It's a sign that you enjoy a country when you are sad to leave. We could easily have spent another month in Russia and it is quite annoying that the visa is max 1 month.

The trans-siberian train experience was fantastic fun. We did not tire of it, and wanted to travel much more by train. It was a good idea to go from East to West. The remote and natural landscape slowly became rural and then small cities and finally the mega cities of Moscow and St Petersburg.

Russia was cheap. Food and accomodation was about half Australian costs. Public transport was incredibly cheap. The trains were reasonable. We lived it up - ate well, stayed in places that we could never afford in Australia, and travel in comparative luxury.

The food was generally good. On the train we ate fresh fruit, noodles and lots of tea and coffee. For restaurants we opted for buffet style russian food, and occasionally spalshed out on Georgian or Central Asian.

The people were generally unfriendly. We were never asked anything about ourselves (what's your name, where you from, etc), but that didnt bother us much. We even got used to the grumpy old ladies behind every counter.

The language was sometimes a challenge. We learned cyrilic script quickly so we could read menus, food lables, bus locations, etc. And tried to get our tongues around the usual travellers niceties (hello, goodbye, good morning, etc).

With the exception of Tynda (see blog), we loved all the locations. The remoteness and nature of Northern Baikal was beautiful. For culture, the architecture of Tomsk was outstanding, The smaller cities were our favorite - Vladivostok, Yekatarinberg and Kazan. Parts of Moscow and St Petersberg were crowded and horribly touristic but with help from the internet we quickly found some free/unusual/out-of-the-way attractions that were fantastic. A particular highlight in Moscow was the Metro and the awesome VDNKh park.

Russia is clean and green. Spotlessly clean. The city streets are spotless. There is no grafitti. The public transport is clean. Russians love parks. Although the cities are filled with ugly run-down soviet concrete appartments, there are green spaces everywhere. And some of the parks are spectacular. And Russians love to go out and enjoy the summer weather (we were there in summer holiday time).

Everything appears to work efficiently (except the shambles of the museum queues). The long distance trains especially are a logisitc marvel arriving at every station exactly on the scheduled minute. The metro and buses are likewise precision perfect. It is very clean and well organised.

There seems to be an interest in the old monarchy and soviet pasts. It is all preserved or renovated well. Amazing palaces, museums and churches were a highlight for us. Religion has returned in a big way. We saw many families and children praying in churches. It is certainly a conservative country and we think that's no bad thing.

We know there are problems - mostly related to emerging from the Soviet Union. From rich to poor there is a great range of wealth. I'm sure there is a lot of corruption especially with the oligarchs and elite politicians. The expansionist wars into Georgia and Ukraine are depressing. But from our outsiders view - Russia seems to be a country oozing strength, success and optimism for the future.

Posted by MikeinCairns 11:39 Archived in Russia

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