Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

travel update from Siberia Russia

Previet Everyone,
Moscow was a good city. It is not so different from St. Petersburg. The population is of course much larger. Both cities have a lot of foreign visitors. Foreigners do not stand out very much there. It is easy to find helpful people who speak english, especially among the younger folks I am meeting. Even the police were helpful if you are a foreigner looking for directions or asking questions.
Globalization has come to Russia. Everywhere one looks it is all the same as other countries. McDonalds, Subway Sandwich, Starbucks. Tuborg, Heineken, Budweiser, Johnny Walker, and Jack Daniels. People dressed in the same fashions as in the west, reebock shoes, Dolce and Gabbano, Christian D'or. Young people with tatoos, American and British rock and roll music in the air. Bob Marley playing on the stereo in my hostel...BMW, Toyota, Chevrolet, Mercedes Benz cars...I am a little disappointed. I was hoping to drink tea prepared in a samovar. No deal. Plastic electric tea kettles have taken over the world!
Well, I suppose this is what some would call "progress". I am not so sure about that. It seems to be a lack of character and an overdose of uniformity. In Thailand they have an expression...they say "Same, same but different". I am not saying that it is completely characterless. People still eat Blini, Pierogi, and lots of different kinds of caviar. Lovely breads and interesting cheeses. If you all are planning to travel to see how the different cultures differ one from another, I suggest you not waste too much time. The forces of mass marketing is bringing the east to the west, the north to the south and turning everything inside out! Just my opinion but, based on my first hand observations...
Trying to buy our train tickets in St.Petersburg or Moscow at the train stations was a horror show! Long lines and ticket counter sales people who did not speak anything but Russian and were not in the mood to try to help at all. People who were behind in the line volunteered to help by translating, (so friendly, so helpful, so sweet) but most of the trains are crowded or sold out. We had to take a bus to Moscow and from there trying to buy tickets for trans siberian rail road trains was all but impossible. Finally in desperation we bought them on the internet from RealRussia.com and paid the extra commisions. Ahhh, What the wahh hay! it was worth the price for the added convenience and security of knowing we would be able to get on the train! The first leg of my great trans siberian rail road journey is done. 56 hours from Moscow to Tomsk.
The train was modern and very comfortable. We had cheapest tickets, in third class. People were super friendly! We were the only not Russian people in our car! There were a couple of teenagers who were travelling with grown-ups who translated for us. We played checkers with them and Rummy and 17 matches. They invited us to play chess but we both do not play. Pity it looks like fun...
Everyone brings their own food. There is not much to do so everyone is eating all the time! Like a big camping trip. The train has a big samovar so there is boiling water any time ( I finally got to use a samovar! ) you want to make tea or coffee or cup of instant noodles or instant mashed potatoes or soup in an envelope. They also had a microwave oven you can use.
Most of the people bring bread and make sandwiches of hard cooked egg or salami or cheeses smoked or canned fish. Lots of fresh fruit like cucumbers, apples, bananas, cherries and strawberries. Lots of pastries and sweets. Everyone was offering us stuff to taste or to eat. There is not much to do so everyone is eating all the time. It is like a big camping trip! I loved it, so much fun.
There are many stops and you can get out on the platforms and stretch your legs and of course all kinds of stuff are available to buy. After 56 hours, however, I was about ready to get off and stay in a town for a couple of days and take a shower. Which is what we did.
So we stopped in Tomsk a city of 500,000 people built along the Tom River in South Central Siberia. Tom and I are the first Americans to stay at the Eighth Floor Hostel. It is a nice hostel and the staff is friendly. It is rather new and everything is very clean. It is a converted apartment. The city population is about 50% university students they say. There are many XVIII century old wood buildings, actually more like giant log cabins. Very beautiful and interesting. It is obviouse they do not get many foreign travellers here! After 3 days and 2 nights we got back on the train to go to Irkutsk.
Once again we had the third class cheap tickets but this was an older train and it was not as nice as the earlier train. lucky for Tom and me we only had to stay on for 36 hours. It was very hot and uncomfortable. The people were great very friendly and there were two French men on the train with us so we were not the only foreigners.
I am writing from Irkutsk. Irkutsk is famous for lake Baikal. It is said to be the deepest lake in the world. 1.6 km deep at the deepest point. Irkutsk is not exactly on the lake but rather about 60km from the lake. We will go tomorrow to the lake and to Taltsy.
Taltsy is a big outdoor museum, actually a rebuilt replica of a siberian village from the eighteenth century.It is about half way between here and the lake so we will go there first and then continue on to the lake. We will stay for the day and return to Irkutsk.
Here in Irkutsk we are staying in a 101 year old home made of logs. It is way cool and the owner Igor, is a gem of a man. He is a director and producer of theater plays. he has done a great deal of the work on the home himself. Restoring here and refinishing there. The place is totally unique. i am loving it!!
Well thats all for now. Next update from Mongolia!
peace and love to all of you

"Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues; you can tell by the way she smiles."Bob Dylan
"Your life feels different on you, once you greet death and understand your heart's position. You wear your life like a garment from the mission bundle sale ever after -- lightly because you realize you never paid nothing for it, cherishing because you know you won't ever come by such a bargain again." Louise Erdrich

“There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.” G.I.Gurdjieff


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