Posted by: glenswatman | July 15, 2009

200906-1-England Russia



MONDAY 1 JUNE 2009 – Claire has a nice list of jobs for us to do so I set off downtown to
buy a few things.  Daniel and Natasha
are swapping rooms and we are helping to get Daniels new room ready so need
decorating stuff etc.  I’ve managed to
find a lot of stuff on line and have ordered stuff to be collected from the
stores.  I’m amazed by how many shops
have closed down since last year and end up spending 3-hours because I can’t
find things.  Steve has been busy
removing the fitted wardrobe and shelves. 
It is a really hot day so we both take a break in the afternoon to



TUESDAY 2 JUNE – The kids are sleeping at Daz’s for the next couple of nights so we get
stuck into the decorating.  The room is
only about 6 foot square so we take it in turns to do the painting.  By mid afternoon the pink walls are all a
light grey and everything is finished and looks pretty good.  It feels a bit like when we went through
Parkwood in 10 days doing a whole room per day.  The new bed is arriving tomorrow so we have had to press on.  Again it is a really hot day so we manage a
bit of sunbathing.  Claire is out
swimming in the evening so we invite Lisa and Mick around for a meal and chat.



WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE – I begin with a trip down town, a skin test at the hair salon ready for
a colour tomorrow and more shopping for decorating supplies.  The bed hasn’t arrived by lunchtime and when
I phone “Rooms” he says the delivery has just been dropped off and they only
have the mattress and not the base so we cancel.  Claire goes downtown in her lunch hour to check out another one
for delivery later today then I follow her down to pay.  The new bed arrives and I quickly get the
bedding on to have it looking nice for when Claire gets back from work.  She is also happy with the way we have
organised the furniture in Natasha’s new room and agrees with us that we should
press on and paint the blue wall pink to complete the transformation.  Steve sets about giving it two coats of
white in preparation whilst Claire goes for the pink and I paint the front
door.  All hard work but we are
beginning to see results.



THURSDAY 4 JUNE – I leave Steve putting the pink sparkle paint on the wall.  Call round to pick up Mom, as she wants to
see what the College beauty salon is like. 
It turns out my hair colour, cut and blow wave is going to take longer
than anticipated so she leaves me to bus home. 
Steph does a very good job and at £11 for a full permanent colour and
£2.40 for the cut it is very reasonable. 
Back at home Steve has ended up having to put on 3 coats of pink (that’s
5 coats on the wall since 6pm last night – crazy).  We have a frantic couple of hours getting everything straightened
as much as pos before heading for Doctors appointments.  Last year in Florida we had our skin checked
for cancers and were warned to get them rechecked.  The Doctor here feels they are no problem but we should keep and
eye on them.  When the kids get home
they are both very pleased with their new rooms so all our hard work was well
worthwhile.  Keeping up the pace I take
Daniel to scouts whilst Claire is out swimming.  Really don’t think we could keep going at this rate without
meeting ourselves coming back. 



FRIDAY 5 JUNE – We have a last tidy round and wash our bedding, and Mums car, before
leaving.  Drive to Prestwich to meet up
with David & Donna.  When we arrive
only Chelsea is home as David & Donna are at the funeral of the lady from
next door.  We wait awhile then Chelsea
gives them a call and says they are at the welcome.  I completely misunderstand this and think this must be a
Manchester expression for a wake.  As
the conversation develops I finally realise that they are at The Welcome pub
just up the road.  We call in for fish
and chips then head to the pub to chat with David and Donna in the beer
garden.  David looks really well having
put on a bit of weight and grown his hair however Donna is still not recovered
after her operation last year and obviously in quite a lot of pain.  Arrive at Mums late afternoon and sit
chatting before we settle ourselves back into the spare room.  We speak to Claire in the evening and she is
really pleased with everything in the house but not the bedding that was wet
through on the line as has rained in Keighley all afternoon.  For once we are in the right place as it is
just cold in Drayton but dry.  Mum is
keen to go away at Christmas so Swatours opens and I begin negotiations with
Auntie Pamela and Mom & Dad to try and find a trip that suits them
all.  Netty & Ian call round in the
evening and we have a chat and a bit of a laugh.



SATURDAY 6 JUNE – Other than waking up once in the night I have slept really well and am
surprised to find it almost 9am when I get up. 
Claire and family get up around 6.30am and I have been waking up with
them to get on with jobs so I was due a lie in.  It is a miserable raining morning so I drive Mum up for her hair
appointment then walk to the library for Internet.  I hear Aussie voices and find myself sat by Steve and his wife
who live in Victoria and have a holiday home in Ocean Grove near Bev &
Norm.  They are renting a canal boat to
do a circular tour in the area.  When I
get back I open Swatours and finalise the trip for Mum and everyone to do a
coach tour to Ilfracombe for 5 days over Christmas.  In the afternoon I drive Steve to the pub so he can watch the
England match – with great interest as they have almost guaranteed their place
in the World Cup which means we plan to be back in South Africa next



SUNDAY 7 JUNE – It is another rainy day, think we may have had the best of the summer
last week!  Mum goes to church in the
morning whilst we try to sort out some of our affairs.  It is Nick’s 17th birthday and he
is having a party so we head round there around 3pm.  It is raining and the original plan was for a BBQ so in true
British style Ian arrives opens the garage door and sets up his stand
underneath it.  We have a great laugh,
Bobby’s is there with his girlfriend Kat, Nick with girlfriend Rachel and
Netty’s friend Debbie, whom we also know, also joins in the fun.  Once Nick has blown out the candles on his
cake we grab him to do the bumps.  Mum
has a bit of a headache and leaves mid evening but we stay on quite late



MONDAY 8 JUNE – We are on a mission with lots to do but fall at the first hurdle.  All we want to do is convert a bond that
matures next week, whilst we are away, into an ISA.  Not so simple as you have to put in £3600 and they don’t know the
exact value of the bond until the interest is added at the end.  I leave Steve gathering checks and go to the
library to do our tax return on line but get stuck with that as Steve has the
bankcards with the information I need. 
Back home I had planned to go to the Tesco clearance store with Mum but
she has heard it is only open weekends, sure enough it is closed today and now
opens Wednesday to Saturday but at least Mum gets her shopping done.    



TUESDAY 9 JUNE – It is a cold day and I am glad of the fleece jacket I have recently
bought.  On the Internet I realise we
may have problems in London tomorrow. 
Elizabeth Street is where the National Express coach station is and is
also where we could have caught a bus out to Heathrow.  From tomorrow afternoon it is closed for a
street festival.  Checking out the
alternative of the underground I learn that they are on strike for 2 days.  Good job we don’t fly until Thursday morning,
reckon we could end up hitching a lift at this rate!  In the evening we drive over to Paul & Elaine’s and Pete
& Carol come up to meet us all there. 
We send out for Chinese and curries so we can spend more time catching
up on news.   As usual Pete puts on a
great performance and has us all in stitches. 
It’s amazing how some things never change!



WEDNESDAY 10 JUNE – Mum usually gets a lift to town but can’t today so I offer to drive her
and Pauline up after her pupil leaves around 10.15. 
At the
library I do on line check in for Austrian Airlines, easy with only hand
baggage.  It is raining mid afternoon so
Mum offers to drive us to the bus station to catch the 3.10 to Hanley,
£2.60.  We have a short wait for the
4.20pm National Express bus to London. 
They stop at motorway services within an hour; think this is because
they then get a voucher to travel free on the new toll road.  Nearing London the traffic is really bad due
to the tube strike.  Our driver pushes
along but gets blocked when a lorry driver tries to share the same lane.  There is a bit of road rage when the lorry
drive comes over to shout at our driver but size wins and the lorry backs
up.  From Victoria coach station we want
to go to Heathrow, can’t take the tube due to a strike, can’t catch the local
bus nearby as the street is cordoned off for a festival so have to use the
National Express airport shuttle £4. 
The 8pm is running late and we leave at 8.40pm but within an hour are
stopped at the side of the road with a
problem.  We’ve been hearing strange
noises and bits of rubber have come off and made a real mess of the wheel
arch.  We must wait for another bus and
just over an hour later a
Dillons coach takes us to the airport.  With no tube running between terminals we
are very pleased to find that the Heathrow Central bus stop is only a short
walk to Terminal 2.  It is really quiet
and we join the other "couchsurfers" laid out on the seats.  We are quite comfortable but sleep is nigh
on impossible due to security announcements about unattended baggage every 15



THURSDAY 11 JUNE– At 4am the departure area opens
and we proceed through.  Austrian
Airlines say you can only have 1 piece of hand luggage weighing 8kg but having
checked in on line no one has weighed our bags or looked to see how many we
have.  Our 6.05 flight to Vienna leaves
on time and we have just over an hour to wait for our onward flight to
Moscow.  We land in RUSSIA Moscow
Domodedovo airport a little ahead of schedule. 
At passport control it is organized chaos with no orderly line just a
huge crowd of people pushing forward. 
We see the right side moving faster then get to the front to find we are
in the “diplomatic passport” area. 
Anyway they seem to be taking everyone and we are very surprised how
quickly the formalities are completed. 
As we emerge into the terminal Mubin (our couchsurfing host) comes
running up behind us.  As we have little
baggage he says we can use the local bus and train to get to his home.  Exchange rate is around Rubles 50 = GBP1 so
easy to convert.  The micro bus, R100
(5.00), takes us to the metro station at the edge of the city.  In Russia they drive on the right but seem
oblivious to normal road rules!  Mubin
is an English teacher and although he speaks well he wants to perfect phrases
etc during our visit so we immediately begin chatting.  He has a carrier bag with beer inside so we
have our first taste of Russian beer whilst on the bus.  The bus stops by the steps down to the
Metro.  These tickets cost R22 (44p) per
journey and we are soon underway on the largest underground in the world.  Many of the older stations are really
impressive with fancy ceilings, chandeliers and murals.  Emerge at Komsomolskaya station adjacent to
Yaroslavl train station.  Our journey
costs R56 (1.12) and takes about 45 minutes to the town of Klazma where Mubin
lives.  Every few minutes a vendor
appears in the carriage and stands at the end giving the info on what he has to
sell, food and drink (including beer), DVD’s, clothing and other things.  They are very professional and use a
microphone to promote their wares. 
Business seems good as they all make at least one sale.  Arriving in Klazma Mubin wife Lucia is
waiting in the car.  She doesn’t speak
English but seems very friendly and is always smiling and laughing.  They have a wooden home in the forest and we
have our own room.  After a shower we
enjoy our first Russian home cooked meal, a few a salad items followed by mash
and chicken then salami, cheese and bread. 
Mubin takes us for a walk around the area.  We are amazed to see huge posh mansions amidst small rustic log
cabins.  Apparently Moscow has more
billionaires than New York.  Walking
down by the river it begins to rain so we head for home and settle into the
spare room on the sofa bed. 



FRIDAY 12 JUNE– Today is a holiday in Russia so Mubin &
Lucia suggest we got out for a drive in the country.  Before that we try a Russian breakfast of rice porridge, bread,
salami and homemade cottage cheese.  It
is a nice sunny day and when we set off at 10.15 the roads are very busy.  The 2 lane dual carriageway has become 5
lanes with people driving in the centre lane, on the hard shoulder and also the
dirt beside it.  Lucia is driving, aided
and abetted by Mubin who encourages her to keep changing lane.  There are many modern cars on the road but
lots of old Lada’s and these are the ones that are generally seen broken
down.  The countryside is very green
with vast expanses of forest.  Petrol
varies in price but seems to average 40p
litre for
regular unleaded.  We’ve been trying to
explain motorhomes to Mubin & Lucia and this is made easier when a caravan
tour of about a dozen Italian ones come towards us.  In Russia they use the

alphabet so
during the journey I try to learn it by translating the place names and it is
no easy task.  Capital and lower case
letters are used along with symbols. 
Rostov is a most attractive town and we picnic down by the lake.  The main attraction here is the Kremlin
(fortress) as it is very old.  We really
enjoy wandering between the different buildings linked by bridges and outside
walls.  There are many churches with
nice frescoes and museums with exhibitions. Your admission ticket must be
marked on entering each room and I notice the people seem quite surly so make
it my mission to get one to smile.  I
finally do on all but the last room. 
Also in Rostov is a nice monastery with lots of domes on the
church.  On the way back we stop at
Pereslvl, the place where Peter the Great made his first boat.  There is a museum containing a replica on
the hill but it is closed.  We take
another picnic by the lake but a thunderstorm makes us cut it short.  Lucia has driven all day, to enable Mubin to
drink, so must be tired when we get back at 9pm. 
Mubin used to teach
English to a neighbour’s boy called Dima and he wants to come round and
He arrives with a lovely orange cake his mother
has made.  He is 17 years old and his
spoken English is now better than

, but he has
visited England and is still studying it at college. 



SATURDAY 13 JUNE – – Lucia stays at home whilst Mubin
takes us into Moscow on the train and metro. 
We emerge in Revolution Square then walk around the corner to Red
Square.  It is very impressive with the
huge GUM department store on one side and the Kremlin opposite with the
magnificent red Historical museum at one end facing the really picturesque
onion domed St Basils Cathedral at the other. 
To enter the cathedral costs R350 (7.00) but Mubin gets us all pensioner
tickets for R100 (2.00).  Not as bad as
it sounds as in Russia pension age is 55 for a woman and 60 for a man.  The cathedral is magnificent with numerous
chapels with frescoes and murals linked by passages and stairs.  We double back through Red Square where a
wedding couple are pausing for photos and even pose for us to take one.  We also stop for the obligatory picture on
the KM 0 plaque where many people make wishes and throw a coin over their
shoulder for each one.  Next we wander
through the Alexander Gardens with the Unknown Soldier’s grave, story character
statues in the stream and an impressive horse fountain.  There is a huge line for the Kremlin tickets
and no discounts without proof so we pay R350 (7.00).  After walking over a bridge we emerge inside the walls to find
modern and old buildings.  The churches
are again impressive with murals and icons. 
There is a famous canon and a bell, both the largest in the world but
they have never been used.  We picnic in
the Secret Garden before heading over the river to catch a boat.  R400 (8.00) gets us a 40 minute trip and we
get to see lots of things including Peter the Great statue and Gorky Park.  We get off near the station that goes to
Odessa and there is a wonderful fountain where we paddle to cool our feet backed
by the Crystal Bridge over the river. 
Back on the metro we wander the length of Arabat pedestrian street then
walk through parks with statues and theatres. 
Whilst walking around I can’t help but notice that many Russian women
are tottering around in high heels and are very dressed up, actually it is
Steve that points this out plus the fact they have very long legs and big
boobs, I guess the miniskirts and low tops don’t hide much.  Again we get an evening storm.  Dima comes round and says he was very
frightened as it is the worst storm he has known.  Tonight he has bought an apple cake from his Mum and we eat this
after the liver and mash and the ubiquitous salami, cheese and bread.  It seems true that in Russia you get little
variety of food but plenty of it and plenty of beer to wash it down.   After dinner Lucia produces some good
Russian vodka and tells us we have to take 3 shots and follow each one with
something salty like raw fish.  Now this
is the part of Couchsurfing we really enjoy, when we get to know the local
traditions although eating the fish is not on my agenda. 



SUNDAY 14 JUNE – We set off early to beat the queues
for Lenin’s tomb.  It is very somber but
quite an experience to see him lying there looking more like something from
Madame Tussauds waxworks than a preserved corpse.  Next we explore the GUM department store, 3 sections with high
glass domed ceilings and lots of bridges joining the different areas.  There’s a free guided tour of Kitay Gorod
area leaving from Revolution Square at 11am and although it isn’t in English we
tag along.  Between Mubin filling us in
and our Rough Guide we get a really good walk through district.  One of the buildings is famous as in has a
huge hall inside and in 1994 they filled it with Masaratis and Ferraris sold
out by the end of the day.  We walk up
to Gorky’s House and really appreciate some of the interesting “Gaudi style”
features inside.  Onwards to Patriarch
Ponds with fantastic brass 3d pictures depicting Aesop’s style fables along
with a huge statue of the author Ivan Krylov. 
It is a long metro ride out to Kolomensko but once we climb the hill and
walk through the arches and see the magnificent Church of the Ascension with a
stunning view of Moscow behind it is all worthwhile.  We are all weary and feel frustrated that our next long walk
takes us to a replica wooden Palace that is still being built and cannot be
visited; well at least we have seen the unfinished 8th wonder of the
world.  Arrive back shattered but very
happy with all we have seen and done. 
Mubin is not happy as the workers have made a real mess of his new
gate.  We hear him having a go at them
when they come round for payment and Steve is frustrated that he can’t help by
backing him up. 



MONDAY 15 JUNE – In Russia tourists must be registered within
3 working days of their arrival.  There
is confusion over where and how this must be done.  Hotels are responsible for registering their guest whilst for
travellers the onus falls on their
"landlord".  Mubin says we
will try the local Police station where we arrive early and must wait for the
10am opening.  He gets forms to fill in,
has to drive home to get family to sign papers and returns with his
brother.  All to no avail as they then
say we must go to Puskina Police Station, huge queue when we get there.  I’ve read on the Internet you can register
at the Post Office and yes you can but this one doesn’t do it on Mondays.  We want to go to St Petersburg tomorrow so
need to get registered today.  At Mubins
we call "Real Russia" who issued our visa and have an office in
Moscow.  They will register us for R1000
(£20.00) each but say Mubin can do it at a Moscow Post Office cheaper.  In the car we find a Post Office on the
outskirts but it is closed 1-2.  When it
opens we find that their photo copier is broken and we need copies of our
passport, entry visa and arrival form. 
The photo copy shop next door closes for lunch from 2-3.  We leave Mubin filling in the forms and set
out to get copies.  At a bathroom
showroom across the road the assistant kindly does them for us and won’t accept
payment.  It takes Mubin almost 2-hours
to complete the procedure.  He has
difficulty with the forms and has to ask for assistance but the clerk shouts
back at him.  Apparently they are very
poorly paid and see no reason to be nice to customers!  Eventually we complete the process at a cost
of R118 (2.36) each plus R89 (1.80) for recorded delivery.  We are given a receipt that Mubin must hand
into a Police Station within 24-hours of our departure.  We can see why few people visit Russia
independently with all this performance to go through.  Arriving back late afternoon Mubin realizes
the gate in the fence has nothing to keep it closed and with us leaving Lucia
behind tomorrow he wants to fit a lock and does so assisted by Dima and
Steve.  For 3 years Mubins car has been
stored in his brother garden so he gets it out to give it a run and top up the




  1. What a hassle to register as a tourist! Did Mubins take the car out of storage for your visit? He sounds like a wonderful host.

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