We woke up early (of course, early is a relative concept, depending on time zone) to a change in landscape. Snow. Large patches of snow inbetween the birch trees and small villages with wooden houses. We had brought flatbread and honey for breakfast, which was eaten along with tea in gorgeous glasses. Russia changes outside the windows as we move away from Moscow, the villages and towns are fewer and further apart. We passed the Ural (without really noticing, this far south they are not very big) and arrived in Yekaterinburg. We were greeted at the station by a young woman, who had us transported to our hostel, a very nice little place with two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. A quick stop at the nearest supermarket for dinner, before returning to the hostel for food and showers.
Monday morning we were in departure mode. We finished packing, checked out of our hostel and took a cab to the station, where we waited for quite some time before our train arrived. When the train came our tickets were checked by a Provitnitsa (The train stewardess, each carriage has two, and ours were very friendly.) and we found our compartment. The compartment is small, but not too small, and we got ourselves arranged in it fast. The others celebrated the departure with vodka, caviar and russian gherkins, while Moscow was replaced with forests and villages. Tea from the samovar, in beautiful glasses provided by the Provitnitsa, the changing landscapes and the motion of the train lulls you into a sort of trance, were time seems to pass faster and slower at the same time, and suddenly it is night and time for sleep.
The Moscow Metro is impressive. It serves more people than the London and New York metros combined, and consists of 170 individually decorated stations.Unfortunately it is, as far as we could figure out, taking pictures is not allowed.
Our “tour date” unfortunately fell sick, so we went into the Moscow Metro on our own, on what can only be described as a chemist’s pilgrimage. A quest (sort of) for the Metro station dedicated to Mendeleyev, father of the Periodic Table. Actually, finding the Metro station was not a problem, with the metro map in my danish guidebook (Politiken), as Lonely Planet’s guidebook (the transsibirian railway edition) was sadly inadequate in that respect. We passed through a few Metro stations on the way, some were very impressive with stained glass decorations, chandeliers and wrought iron decorations, others were more modest with simple marble walls. Hands down the most impressive Metro system I have ever seen. Also very effective, with frequent trains.
We found the Mendeleyev station, Mendeleevskaya, decorated with a mural of Mendeleyev and his periodic table. Also, the lamps resembled molecules. It was less impressive than some of the other stations we passed, but still it felt right for four chemists.
Then we went by metro to central Moscow and visited Jeliseevskij Gastronom, a very fancy gourmet supermarket in amazing surroundings. After lunch we went to the Danilov Food Market, which was very interesting, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to film (and in somewhat uncertain terms that I was indeed allowed to photograph).
We then went to the University, where there is a good view of Moscow, and spend some time enjoying the view and relaxing, before returning to our neighbourhood to shop for the train trip tomorrow. Now we have returned to the hostel to pack for tomorrow.
Tomorrow we board the train to Yekatarinburg!
Собор Покрова что на Рву, the Vasilij Cathedral is the thing in Moscow (maybe even Russia) that I wanted to see the most. Back in the day, when I first played SimCity, the Vasilij Cathedrale was one of the landmarks you could unlock and place in your city, and I found it so intriguing. It had so many colours! And the onion domes! (click here to see the Vasilij Cathedral SimCity style)
It really seemed too good to be true that grown-ups had really allowed something that colourful to be built. I really wanted to see it, to confirm its existence, and today I did. But more about that later
We began the day with breakfast, before packing up our cameras and walking towards the Kremlin. The heart of Moscow is a 20 minute walk from our hostel, a 40 minute queue to buy tickets, and a 5 minute bag drop (no large bags allowed inside) and security check. Then you enter the Kremlin, and you are greeted by buildings of monumental size and architecture. The cathedrals are particularly intriguing, with their golden onion domes (I really like onion domes…) and white walls. We spend the entire morning inside the Kremlin, looking at the cathedrals (which I find more impressive on the outside than on the inside, but that is a personal preference), watching a military parade (very impressive, the horses were very cute) and enjoying the view of Moscow.
Leaving the Kremlin, we walked up to the Red Square, and caught a glimpse of the, for me, coveted Vasilij Cathedral before eating lunch. After lunch we went back to the Red Square and the cathedral is really there, just as colourful and candy-like as in my computergame. I am happy! I took lots and lots of pictures of the cathedral (and also some of the rest of the Red Square) before we went don to Moscow River and after some time, some debate and some walking we boarded a boat tour that took us through Moscow, almost all the way back to our hostel. We then shopped for dinner, ate at the hostel and are currently enjoying a quiet evening.
After months of planning, weeks of preparing and days of packing, we finally embarked on our great journey. Kristian and I were picked up early this morning by Kristian’s mother, who drove us to the airport (Thanks again!) where we met up with Liv and Thorbjørn. After breakfast and last minute purchases, we went to our gate and boarded the plane to Moscow. Complimentary tea, a vacant seat between us and a beautiful view above the clouds later, we landed (slightly turbulently) in Moscow. (This is a big deal for me, as Russia is the thirtieth country I visit!). We found a cab and hit the rush hour, with queues of dusty cars, and after the queues a very fast cab ride to our hostel. The hostel is fine and centrally located.
After checking in we took a walk up and down a quite busy road, finding both a supermarket and dinner. Now we’ve returned to the hostel, for a quiet evening.
Here comes a guest post by my sister, describing her visit in San Sebastian!
* Feeling rather like one Mr. Michael Palin, I trumphed the odds and managed to arrive in San Sebastian around 3pm in the afternoon, having set off from London at 8am in the morning after about 1.5 hours of sleep. Although trying to look as awake as possible, the previous night’s escapade could not be hidden from the very kind man in Pret A Manger who very kindly served me a coffee and porridge with –not just one- but three packets of golden syrup. ‘Have you been to a party?’ – ‘Yes – how did you know?’ ‘Lift up your arm, let me see the stamp you have there’ – guilty as charged. My new friend – whose name I couldn’t remember even if I tried- obviously knows a thing or two about crowd control at London student venues.
* I managed to get through the nerve-racking scenario that is boarding on Ryan Air – stern and miserable looking flight attendants seriously eyeing-up the carry-on luggage. I managed to get my highly illegally heavy carryon with me, no questions asked. Queuing for the flight to Biarritz, France provided me with massive déjà-vu from way back in the day when boarding a plane at Kotoka Airport in Accra, Ghana headed for Amsterdam, would take the better half of 3 hours, passengers refusing to sit down in case that would somehow result in them not being ushered on the plane. Whilst in the queue I was faced with a rush of comfort as a stereotypically English-ly polite surveyor asked me a series of random questions: ‘whereto are you flying today miss? And what, if I may ask, is the purpose of your trip today miss? And how, if you don’t mind, will you be continuing your travels today miss?’ when I mentioned I was heading off to see my sister in Spain for the weekend, she smiled and said: oh how lovely. Read my thoughts, she did.
* It’s a strange thing – passing from one country into another, virtually unrecognisable, apart from the sudden shift from French to Spanish. Equipped with my best 8th grade French, I managed to get a bus from Biarritz airport to the train station, where I at long last found a very nice French ticket officer. Despite not being able to properly communicate with each other, him speaking in very fast French and I replying with a mix of French and dare i say it, English, we managed to plan a route taking me from biaritz to the Spanish border and from there on to Donostia – or, as I confirmed for about 50 times with various passengers aboard the train, San Sebastian.
* The view from where my sister and her boyfriend currently live is incredibly beautiful. So close to the sea it gave me a long-needed sense of ‘air’. It is amazing what seeing the sea can do to a person.
* Spending time walking around the town, running around the town, and climbing (hilly! Very hilly) all under the surveillance of Christ himself presiding at the very top of Monte Urgull, was just what the doctor ordered for a frazzled cosmopolitan like meself (insert ‘just shining my halo sound here’). To add art to serious injury, we even squeezed in a bit of highbrow attitude in the form of the Guggenheim Bilbao. Although perhaps not entirely to my taste, the building is magnificent and compliments the newer part of the town well. I had a chance to explore San Sebastian on close hold with my sister as guide and had I been able to stay for longer, I am sure I could have very well lost myself in a sea of tapas, old boarded-up French windows, warm autumn breezes and great company.
I am behind with my postings, and I can’t even say it is because I have too much to do. However, a quick post about last friday! Last friday was warm, sunny, and after Kristian had finished work, we went to the beach! The beach was, as usual, beautiful and warm, and after changing into swimsuits Kristian went into the water while I guarded our bags. After Kristian had taken a dive, I went to the water to stand with my toes in the sea (the water was cold!), and gradually I moved further out in the water until I finally took a dive as well, and I will admit that it was lovely. When I got up, Kristian went for another dive, before we dried off, got dressed and went home. And it seems it was a good idea to go to the beach that day, because the weather has cooled down significantly, and the sea seems less inviting now…
Stay tunes for a post about Annas visit!
So, lots of stuff has happened since I last posted most of which will be covered in a later post, but first I want to talk about the largest food market in the Basque Country. This is located in Ordizia, and is held every wednesday from 9 to 12. Last wednesday Kristian and I got up early, and walked to the train station, where we boarded a train to Ordizia. Upon arrival we followed the general direction of people, and found the market just a few minutes from the station.
First, I must admit, I was a little dissapointed. When every guidebook and internet page mentions this as “The largest food market in the Basque Country”, you expect something huge! It was not huge. When I think of a “large” market I think of the market in Ho, in Ghana, which covers a large area, but maybe we just don’t have those in Europe anymore. After the first disappointment, we took a closer look, walking around the stalls, looking at all the fresh vegetables, and I must admit, there is a certain something about the atmosphere at a market, it makes me feel like I can cook absolutely everything, and make the most amazing meals ever. We settled for broccoli, small green peppers, beet roots and carrots, and after a walk around Ordizia (which, besides the market, is a fairly uninteresting town as a visitor), we returned to San Sebastian.
Stay tuned for more upcoming posts, including my sister visiting and a trip to the beach!
So, it must be about time for an update! Admittedly, not much happens around here, Kristian works and I wander around town, read and watch cooking shows online. However, last saturday we took the local train to Bilbao. This was a 2½ hour train ride in a bumpy train with no toilets, not exactly my idea of comfortable transportation. But Bilbao was a nice city, pretty and with a nice feel to it. I did not manage to take a lot of pictures, but we strolled through the modern town center, went past the Guggenheim Bilbao, had lunch, looked at shop windows and explored the old town center shortly, before boarding a 2½ hour train back to San Sebastian. However, we plan going again (by bus next time), so I’ll try getting some more pictures then!
Sunday we walked along the beach, enjoying the warm weather, and relaxed.
Wednesday we took a trip to Ordizia, more about that later
I was actually not going to post anything today, because not much has happened the last couple of days. I’m still slightly tired from my cold and Kristian has been working, so there has been no particular explorations. However, after preparing dinner and leaving it to simmer on the stove, I sat down on the couch and looked out the window. The sight that met me was the most fantastic sunset light, and I grabbed my camera and hurried to the roof! Some of the pictures I took can be seen below, as well as three panoramas in different lights. I spend ten to fifteen minutes taking pictures and enjoying the view and warmth, before returning to the appartment. Not ten minutes after returning lightning and thunder came, along with heavy rain. The weather really does shift quickly in San Sebastian!