So, it’s the 7th September, we’re one week into our journey and this is the first time I’ve got near a computer for long enough to write a proper blog post. I’ve been writing small updates to my Facebook status using every few minutes of wi-fi I can find, so add me on there for more frequent updates. The temptation to switch from Blogger to WordPress is increased by the fact that Google have not yet managed to put out a decent update method for the iPhone. No way that’s going to happen while I’m on the road though.
Anyway, we’re in Moscow. Moscow is huge. Not just in terms of the 10.3 million population and 1000km2 area—everything is just massive: the roads, the buildings, the nectarines. It feels oppressive, like the architecture of totalitarianism. Everything around dwarfs us so completely. The best example is probably the metro system. It’s easily the most elegant underground system I’ve traveled on, and yet seems designed to remind the user how small they are. It’s almost like walking through Rapture. I think I now know where Ken Levine got his inspiration.
When it actually gets round to being a little more welcoming though, it seems like Moscow has some idea of what it’s doing. We appear to have arrived in the middle of the celebrations of the city’s 861st birthday (an odd number, I’m still trying to work out if they celebrate like this every year). As we walked toward the Kremlin today many of the eight lane highways were closed to traffic and instead filled with stages. We’ve seen some rubbish performances and some downright strange, but we also stumbled across a free concert by (I think) André Previn and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
On Wednesday we leave Moscow for Ulan-Bator on the Trans-Mongolian railway. We arrived here yesterday on the overnight train from Riga, so we’ve a little experience of long distance trains, though we would have been completely stuck were it not for a few helpful English speakers who showed us on our way from one station to the next, how to use the metro and helped us buy our tickets. There’ve also been people who’s help has been a tremendous blessing, despite us not having a single word in common.
We made our journey from Bradford to Warsaw without spending a single Euro on travel. I could write about every driver who picked us up, but the post would go on forever, and I’d have no stories left to share with you all when we get back. Perhaps the most amazing lift Lavina and I had was from a young Polish guy who took us all the way from the ferry in Dunkirk to Wrocław in south west Poland in one 13 hour drive fueled by two entire tubes of caffeine tablets dissolved in two liter bottles of water, and no sleep. Had I known that was his plan I might have been reluctant to get in his van, and yet we felt safer in there than with several drivers who took us much shorter distances.
We perhaps cheated in little in taking a taxi from Warsaw airport, where the final truck dropped us, to the station where we met Ben and Tansy, but the sun was baking and the walk exhausting. From there we took the overnight bus to Vilnius, where we spent most of a day, before taking another late bus to Riga. Thankfully, the first hostel we walked into at around 11pm had space for us, and we got out first bed since leaving home four days earlier. I was very impressed with both Vilnius and Riga, though our visits were fleeting. Riga is beautiful. Every third building seems to be a castle, and the other two are either art-nouveau masterpieces or peculiar wooden builds that look like something out of the American west. Vilnius had much less grandeur, but just as much beauty. I lost count of the number of churches we looked at that day, but St. Anne’s was a highlight. We also got the opportunity to paddle in the river Vilnia, which is not something I’ve ever wanted to do in the river of a capital city before, and discovered what looked like some kind of amazing artists collective in a mural covered gallery beside the river. Sadly the gallery was closed, but we took a few photos.
This plan to blog the journey seemed a lot easier before I set off, before we had any idea how much we’d see in such a short space of time. I’ll try and stick to the highlights so as not to overwhelm/bore you all. If you made it this far, thanks a lot!