1330: A rush to the station but I still had 20 minutes to spare before departure.
I spent the morning at the Kremlin with Andrei who came to meet me. I’d erroneously lined up at the huge Kremlin gates queue only to be told as we were entering that I needed to get my ticket back over at the ticket office beforehand. Andrei had just arrived and so we had fo force our way back out of the queue. I’d also need to leave my backpack and guitar at the bag office down in Alexander Gardens. By this time the queue had moved on quickly and we were able to enter by 1030am.
There was some kind of government meeting so much of the area was closed off. A huge building inside the Kremlin was undergoing renovations and so a huge photo-realistic canvas facade was covering the entire work site. It was hard to tell if it was real or not.
Guards would pipe loud on their whistles if anyone strayed off the footpaths. And I got my fare share of whistle warnings. The crowds were enormous and while Andrei gave me good commentary we moved fairly quickly through the various cathedrals within the walls of the Kremlin. During the Soviet era Stalin took the Kremlin off the World Heritage list so that he could construct new soviet style buildings within its walls, which still stand today in stark contrast to the other historic buildings. Before the Soviet era the Kremlin was always open to the public and the Tsars’ and Emperors’ proclamations were read out in Cathedral Square here. During the Soviet era the kremlin was closed off. In the early 90s the Kremlin returned to the World Heritage list.
The Tsar’s absolutely enormous period canon was impressive with its one tonne canon balls stacked up by the side, as was the 200 tonne bell on show. An 11 tonne piece had cracked off and was propped up against the bell at the base.
After biding farewell to Andrei I headed back to Smolenskaya Metro station to the Hotel Bulgarov to grab my bags and brave the world’s smallest toilet (I was just leaving the door open now and hoping for the best – see previous post). With all my gear on my back and chest (and the guitar neck right in my face sticking out the top of the dayback) I headed back down the long steep slow escalators to Smolenskaya Metro to get to Yaroslavski Train station. The metro station (Komsomolskaya) was in fact the same one that I used when I arrived into Leningradsky train station last Tuesday morning. They call this metro the place of three railways stations as Leningradski, Yaroslavski terminal and another national train terminal are in close proximity to the one metro.
I was in the dormitory wagons. My provodnitsa was much younger but sterner than my last. I was in a sleeping car with a series of open compartments and fold down beds. Like the dog box I’d come into Moscow on but all open. A full train that left on the dot on time as usual was a clean and ordered affair. People looked prepared and changed clothes for bed and made their beds early. I was on the opposite side where the beds folded down parallel to the long axis of the train.
I hadn’t bought additional provisions but had enough to munch on: some spiky Russian cucumbers, some warm pliable mozzarella-like cheese, some hazelnuts and a couple of oranges. I then bought a cup of tea from the provodnitsa. And there was some confusion when she said it cost 13 roubles (about AUD$0.25). My ability to understand Russian numbers is getting better and so I thought I’d heard right. But I didn’t think it could be so cheap so I questioned her again and in the end gave her way too much. She returned with the change.
Out the window the flatness and green forest continued. I am yet to see a mountain or any significant topographic relief at all. The barn-shaped rooves (with their two staged roof slopes) of the cottages on their little plots growing their own veggies typified the outer limits of Moscow. Outside people walked about in shorts and skirts. And some of the men bare chested. Today is the longest day of the year. And interspersed with the green green forests of birch and oak and the occasional pine plantations, the villages continue unabated.
The sun pours in on my side of the train. I’m not sure if I should set up the bed. Something I’ll have to negotiate with my opposite I suppose, a young man who reads and listens to his iPod.
We’re two hours into the trip with another four to go to my stop of Nizhny Novgorod. This train continues to Perm, which is where I’ll go soon.