Posts Tagged With: Cathedrals

Day 2: Dundalk to Belfast – 95km

Today we had a 95.3km to ride, with another rest day at the end to look forward to.

To start the ride was busy but then we got out into the country which was beautiful. Coming through a town we nearly missed the turn as we were busy looking at a big Cathedral. It was nice to turn off out off the traffic.

IMG_4690

There was meant to be 800 meters in climbing but was actually over 1,100 by the end of the day. Some of the climbs seemed to go on and on.

At one stage we had a big downhill and unfortunately missed a left hand turn, one of the other riders spotted us going the wrong way and took off after us which was very nice of him. Bruce is from USA, he and his wife Becky did the South American ride last year, will be interesting to catch up with them and share stories.

We had a border collie following the riders energetically for about 10 km, he didn’t stay with me as I was too slow for him. Every now and then I would see him as he came back from a farm driveway where I think he gone to get a drink of water. At the 10 k mark he stopped and turned for home. I wonder how many times a day he does this stretch. From memory they are the dogs who need the most exercise.

The lunch truck had stopped at a lovely spot by a river and I was reluctant to leave. As always the first couple of kilometers were hard to get the legs moving again. Not helped by quite a steep climb to start.

IMG_4695.jpg

We had a nice path from about 10 kilometers from the town and arrived at The Hotel Ramada Encore about 5pm.

IMG_4692

IMG_4693

We met Michele and Tony at 6pm and headed of for beer and food. First stop the Duke of York Hotel where we chatted with Dean from California and Joe from Canada. We then went to the Northam Whig restaurant for dinner which was very nice, found out later it was a 4 star. I had a very nice steak.

IMG_4698.jpg

We could all feel the days ride catching up so after dinner back to the hotel.

IMG_4700.jpg

IMG_4704.jpg

Categories: The Pub Ride, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sightseeing in Dublin – 27 May 2018

I woke up feeling much better after a pretty solid sleep. One problem with the hotel is it has air con but it is controlled centrally by the hotel, and the room is constantly too hot. Fortunately solved by opening the windows and thankfully the room is at the back of the hotel so there was no noise.

Off downstairs for breakfast which was a pretty standard buffet. Irish Tea is really good, will look for it when I get home. Then it was time to meet Shellbe, Michele and Tony for a day of site seeing.

There are 4,749 million people in Ireland of which 1,345 million live in a Dublin, which makes it a pretty busy city. The Dublin Hop On Hop Off bus departs right outside the hotel, stop number one!

First on the list we wanted to get to the Guinness brewery before it got too crowded. We got there just after 10 and because our hop on hop off pass includes a number of attractions we didn’t have to wait in the queue. Pretty amazing place, it is Dublin’s number one tourist attraction. Arthur Guinness was brewing ale in Lexlip County Kildare. In 1759 he signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum to lease 50 acres in St James Gate, which is where Guinness Brewery is today. Arthur and his wife Olivia had 21 children of which only 10 survived to adulthood. This was a bigger then expected percentage for the time, but pretty sad to think about.

IMG_4653.jpg

The brewery started brewing dark ale which was named Porters as it was well liked by the hospital porters, but over time it became known just as Guinness Stout. The Guinness brewery is the largest producer of stout in the world with 1.2 million barrels per annum.

The visitor center is huge, it is 7 stories high, and as you go through you learn the history of the place. The bottles have a harp on them which is an Irish symbol and at the brewery there is a virtual harp that you can play.

One section had old ads and one I found amusing was one that said “A woman needs a man as much as a fish needs a bicycle” and there was a statue of a fish cycling. Not sure what the advertising gimmick was but made me laugh.

As part of the tour you get to do a tasting and they run through the proper way to drink a Guinness – you are meant to gulp Guinness not sip it. If you sip it, it has a bitter taste, you are meant to drink a glass in 4 gulps. At the end of the tour you get up to the 7th floor and you get a pint of Guinness to drink while you can enjoy the 360 degree view of Dublin. I certainly didn’t manage to drink my pint in 4 gulps, was more like 10, but certainly enjoyed it more than previously gulping instead of sipping it. I was pleased we had got here early as there were long queues outside when we left.

Next stop the Jameson’s whiskey distillery, also not too crowded, we only had to wait about 15 minutes before we could go on a tour. In 1725 England put a tax on malted barley to pay for a war against France. Jameson started using in-malted barley, which the population came to prefer and still uses some un-malted barley today.

 

The tour guide was very enthusiastic about the product, and we ended up with a tasting where we tried a Scottish whiskey, an America whiskey, and Jameson’s whiskey. The Jameson’s was far nicer. The tour guide said it’s because Jameson’s is distilled 3 times, versus Scottish twice and American once. Not sure if they used an expensive Jameson and a cheap Scottish and America whiskey . . .

img_6052.jpg

 

Back on the bus again, we went past Dawson’s bar, the smallest bar in Ireland with a capacity of 40 people. The tour drivers have a running commentary on various places of significance, plus their own points of view. One tour driver noted that if Bono from U2 went to the Dawson bar, the capacity would be one given the size of his ego, and another asked us “How can you tell the difference between Bono and God? God has never thought he was Bono”, so clearly Bono is not appreciated in his home country.

We then went past a big sports stadium called Croke Park which is the historic home of Gaelic football. A couple of minutes later while we were driving along Shellbe pointed out a seagull who was eating a pigeon! I didn’t know they ate other birds! Shellbe later wished she hadn’t pointed it out, especially the third or so time I bought it up again that day.

We got off the bus to go to Christ Cathedral but we couldn’t go in straight away as the Sunday church service hadn’t finished. We went to a bar and had a beer. I had a Kinnegar Devils Backbone Amber Ale was quite nice. We got back to find we could go in to the Cathedral, but the 12 century crypt, which was why we had come here, was closed all day. We had a look around, it was a Church – nice stained glass windows but not much else of note. It’s claim to fame apart from the Crypt is that it’s the oldest building in Dublin.

IMG_6054.JPG

Time to head back to the city and think about something to eat. We didn’t really have much of a plan and for four of us jet lag was starting to reappear, so we settled on going to J W Sweetman Craft Brewery again, this time to eat. It was certainly much quieter than the previous evening. We got a table and ordered a range of pub food.

IMG_6067

Michele, Tony, Shellbe and I got the beer battered fish and chips which was cod and fries with mushy peas, was pretty average. I had a Hop 13 larger also brewed by Guinness. Brett got the Irish stew, which was delicious – tender and full of flavour. I had stayed away from Irish stew as an option having had some pretty unpleasant versions in the past but clearly a different dish here in its own country.

IMG_6069

Then it was time to head back to the hotel. Lots of homeless begging, lots of them late teens to late 20s. The unemployment rate in Ireland is the lowest it has been for years at 6.2% but the youth unemployment rate is still 12%. The young lady beggar from the dairy asked for more money to get home, but she got a reasonable amount yesterday from Brett, so didn’t give her anymore, instead donated to a couple of musicians.

Tomorrow we have the trip riders meeting, moving hotels, and then catching up with Shellbe.

Categories: The Pub Ride, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 25: Rest day in Cologne (27 June)

We had breakfast at the hotel, then the next step was the ongoing need to get laundry done.

When we got into the lift after breakfast, Gergo (the tour leader) jumped in and started having a chat to us about going the wrong way yesterday morning. Ezster (his wife) who was the sweep had caught up to us, and she must have mentioned it to him. Gergo spoke to us like we were about 12 years old so I walked off while he was talking.

Next thing we get an email from him, copied to Miles in the head office in TDA, telling us again why we were wrong and telling us how to navigate! Very frustrating as it’s the first time Gergo has spoken to me since the day I arrived, and it’s to tell me off! And he was totally oblivious that actually the flagging was wrong, and at least half the riders had made the same two wrong turns as us. After awhile I decided to just ignore it.  As in the words of Henry Gold, founder/owner of TDA, “getting lost is half the fun”.

After doing the laundry we had a couple of pizza pieces for lunch. Brett was not feeling very well, upset stomach, so he had a nap and I caught up on a couple of days with the blog.

Later the afternoon we went for walk and were amused to see a statue in square with her arm and hand open, holding a bottle of beer.

IMG_3114

Statue in the Old Market

Then we went to see the Cologne Cathedral which is Roman Catholic and is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. The height of the building is 157.4 meters, which makes it the 4th highest church building in the world. It covers 8,000 square meters and can hold over 20,000 people. The two massive towers were completed in 1880c.

IMG_3102

Cologne Cathedral

IMG_3105.JPG

Cologne Cathedral

The cornerstone of the present day Gothic cathedral was laid at the Feast of Assumption of Mary, 15 August 1248. The previous building was deemed not impressive enough to hold the bones of the three wise men (Magi) and were brought to Cologne in 1164 by Archbishop Rainald of Dassel from Milan, after the latter city was conquered in 1164. In 1,200 these remains were placed in a golden Shrine. Because of these remains, the Cathedral is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Europe.

IMG_3107.JPG

Cologne Cathedral

IMG_3110.JPG

Cologne Cathedral

Outside the cathedral there were a number of beggars, I gave one a few euros and every time she saw me in the square after that she blew me a kiss. There was a man busking with an amazing voice singing opera, that we listened to for awhile also.

There were a number of cruise ships at the docks including the Ms Emily Bronte (from yesterday) and the Viking Vidar. The Viking Vidar goes from Budapest to Amsterdam.

We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant called Beirut, with John W. We got a set menu and we could not believe it – we got about 20 starters (hummus, meatballs, rice, salad, chicken etc)  but thankfully only a platter of main, and a small honey pastry dessert.

Afterwards we decided to go to the hotel bar. Um 3 drinks later, I may regret this in the morning.

IMG_3117

Riverside

Categories: The Odyssey, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 10: Trieste to Maniago

123 km: 800 meters up and 430 down

This is the start of another four day section, and this was the easiest of the four days.

Instead of having to take notes from a whiteboard like previous trips, this trip we get them passed out in their already printed version. Some riders pour over them, highlighting certain bits, others – like me – shove them in their pocket to be taken out if needed if there is confusion about which way to go.

We started at 8am with a convoy, which was meant to be for 4 km but after 1.5 km most of the convoy was out of sight due to having to stop at the lights. As Gergo doesn’t flag or give notes for the convoy to ensure riders don’t go off on the their own, it was just by good luck and guessing that we managed to stay on the right track.

The first 18 km was along along the coast, then we turned inward and took the last view of the Adriatic Sea (the top of the Mediterranean). The next time we see the sea we will be in the Netherlands.

We went through a town called Palmanova, which is an excellent example of a star fort from the Renaissance. This was built by the Venetians in 1593. The whole town is walled, and there are only entrances/exits through the walls.

1-Palmanova.jpg

An aerial view of Palmonova (picture source)

This is also where the Trans Europa ride we did in 2012 intersects with this ride, the Oydessy. In 2012, we came through here on the way to Venice.

IMG_2613.JPG

Walled town of Palmanova, inside the south gate

IMG_2615.JPG

Cathedral in Palmanova square

IMG_2616.JPG

North-west gate out of Palmanova, onwards to Amsterdam

There was a big market in the square with lots of stalls selling food, clothes, cooking ware, and lots of fresh flowers.

IMG_2614_edited

Market square inside Palmanova

IMG_2625.JPG

Through the palace gate to the Villa Manin

Where we stopped for lunch there was a man trimming his hedge who was chatting away to all the riders, and telling to make sure that they stopped in the next town Mortegliano to see the biggest bell tower in Europe.

 

IMG_2620

The locals reckon this is the tallest bell tower in Europe, Mortegliano.

One of the TDA staff Ozgur had made homemade lemonade for lunch, which was very thirst quenching. It’s made from lemonade, honey, water and soda water.

 

In the afternoon the breeze from most of morning was replaced by beating sun, it was 35 degrees C and felt hotter.

There were lots of very long straights, broken up with interesting small towns. All the town were deserted and the shops were shut as it was siesta time.

IMG_2618.JPG

Beautiful riding today through the agricultural flat lands north of Venice.

Whilst going around a roundabout I was bit/stung by bug (through my riding top!). I wasn’t sure what it was, but took an antihistamine just in case it was a bee or a wasp. Luckily I did, as later that night when I had a look I had a big welt.

The last twenty km of the day seemed to go on and on, a bit of an uphill gradient, and into a bit of head wind.

Although we were riding towards the Dolomites, because of the heat haze we did not get a view of them until about 8 km before the end of the ride, where they slowly started to appear through the haze.

IMG_2626.JPG

Approaching Maniago and the end of the flatlands. Next 3 days climbing up to Passo del Brennero and entering Austria 🇦🇹

We got to the hotel at 5pm and found out dinner would not be until 8pm. To start off with I could not find my bag anywhere. I looked through the bags twice, and was starting to get really worried. I then went through the bags again, bag by bag. I had never noticed until now that my red bag is actually half black. The bottom half is black and it was upside down. Relieved, I went off to the room to get cleaned up.

The hotel room had a nice big bath so I had a relaxing soak and then I intended to have a quick nap, but ended up sleeping for two hours. I was more tired than I would have expected, as not much climbing, but we had had 9 hours in the sun and although there was not much climbing there was no real downhill, so we were constantly peddling all day.

Dinner was tomato pasta, grilled pork and potato, vanilla ice cream, washed down with sparkling water.  I had dinner with Brett, Miriam, Tom and Cathy.

Introducing

Tom and Miriam, retired they live in New York, and have 3 sons and one grandson. No pets. This is their 4th TDA tour. Miriam was a lawyer and then taught law, and Tom was an engineer.

Cathy is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She lives with her partner Peggy (who doesn’t like bike touring, so is not on the trip). They have no children and have a German short haired pointer. Cathy has done 2 previous TDA rides and is an ED doctor.

IMG_2631.JPG

Tom and Miriam on the left, Cathy on the right

Tomorrow is going to be a big day, 130 km and 2600 meters climbing and I am feeling a bit daunted. We are going to be climbing through the Dolomites.

The Dolomites are the mountain range located in north-eastern Italy, and form part of the Southern Limestone alps. The Dolomites are also known by the name The Pale Mountains, they take this name from the carbonate rock dolomite. The rock was named for the 18th century French mineralogist Deodat Gratel de Dolomieu (1750 to 1801) who was the first to describe the mineral.

The Dolomites are renown for skiing, mountain climbing, cycling, and BASE jumping.

The first week in July is the Maratona dles Dolomites, where in a single day, road bikers climb all 7 mountain passes.

Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rest day two in Krakow continued

The salt mine was amazing. The mine is over 700 years old, it is no longer technically a working mine as it is no longer economically viable. This mine can produce 250 tonnes a day by old methods, whereas the new mines can produce up to 2,000 tonnes a day. This mine stopped being a working mine in 1996 but because it is a major tourist attraction they need to keep pumping out the water that naturally seeps into it. They can’t just dump salty water into the river though, so they extract the salt first – about 35 tonnes a day. Because of this they lay claim to it still being the oldest working mine in the world.

The mine goes down 135 meters, approx 400 feet, and there are about 2,800 chambers. We were there for two hours and only saw 1% of the mine. There is over a million cubic feet of timber holding the mine up.

Today open cast mining has replaced the old method of mining, today’s miners sit in a control room and the machinery does the work automatically. However because they have a strong union the miners still retire after 20 years on a full pension. This was set up originally as it was hard work and after 20 years you would be worn out, or would you? The miners were really well paid, plus got a handful of salt each day, and after awhile there was a practice where the miners would subcontract other workers to do their shifts for them.

There were numerous salt sculptures all done by the miners and they were really good. There was a big sculpture of Pope John Paul the 2nd made especially for a planned visit. Sadly the Pope was ill and never came but the sculpture is a really great likeness.

Salt sculpture of Pope John Paul II (photo from blogspot)

There are also three underground cathedrals, one is huge – you can get married in it. The alter and the wall sculptures are all salt. The wall, floor and ceilings are salt. When we were walking through the mines the tunnels were all salt: floor, walls and ceilings. To get down into the mine we walked down numerous steps but to get back up you go in a lift. As this is a busy tourist spot there is a bit of a wait for the lifts. Unbelievable but there is Wifi in the chamber by the lift, no doubt to keep people happy while they wait so I sent a couple of emails for novelty value from 135 meters below ground.

The underground Chapel of Saint Kinga in the salt mines (photo from Wikipedia)

As the tour had not started until 3:45pm we did not get back into Krakow until 8pm. We had organized to remove Danya’s stitches so went to the hospital first. The Doctor who did the stitching on her face did a great job, once her eyebrows grow back you will not be able to see any scars.

After this we went to find food. We went to the Old Town and went into the first place that looked suitable. Walli and I had Georgian food which was a bit liked a stuffed pizza with chicken etc on top. It was not a pizza though, Daphne and Shirley had pizza and theirs came out of the pizza oven at the front of the shop and ours came out of the normal oven.

Afterwards Walli and I sat in the town square of the Old Town and watched people. It was really lovely, the buildings looked great all lit up with lights, there were numerous outside bars and a constant stream of horses and carriages came trotting past. We stayed out until just before 12am which probably was not the best idea with a big day tomorrow but hey, when will I have the next chance to sit in the square in Krakow enjoying the atmosphere?

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lost in Russia III

Once again up early and onto the Metro to Nevesky Prospekt (spelt it wrong yesterday). I met Igor for a tour on foot around the many and various interesting St Petersburg sights. So many bridges, statues, cathedrals, parks, and a castle.

Sites today:
Alexandrisky theatre and ballet building
The Palace Square (designed by famous architect Carlo Rossi)
The Anichkov Bridge with four horse statues
An exhibit on Tsoi – an famous Russian rock star who died in a crash
St Michaels Castle
The Summer garden, which have just been restored and reopened two week ago
The Field of Mars, with an eternal flame for the Russian soldiers who died in the second world war
The Capella Opera hall and the three court yards

St Michaels Castle (from St Petersburg.com)

We also had coffee at Elessevs, which is the Kirkcaldie and Stains of St Petersburg (but posher). In the times of the Soviet Union it was the only place you could get luxury goods but at a very hefty price, well out of the range of the average worker. Igor told about how he used to have to queue for 2 to 3 hours to buy shoes and 2 hours for fruit such as bananas.

After this Igor left for work and I will not see him again this trip as he is working in the morning tomorrow and then going away until Sunday. Igor has made the last few days very special, I have been to places I would not have got to without him, plus I have been able to ask him endless questions about Russia. PLUS I have not got lost at all whilst with him.

I then went to the James Cook Pub, sat in the sunny courtyard and a cold beer and sorbet, which may sound a bit strange but was just what I wanted. After that I caught a double decker bus and went on a 1 ½ hour trip around St Petersburg and saw many of the same sites but from a different perspective.

Then I just sat for awhile on the Nevsky Prospekt, just watching people go past.

Nevsky Prospekt (from Panoramio)

When I decided it was time to return to the hotel, I went back to the same Metro that I have gone to the past 3 days in a row, into the same entrance and somehow I got lost!! Unbelievable this time, even I was surprised. I got off and had no idea where I was and could not simply go back the way I had came as the opposite line went elsewhere. I catch the blue line but the opposite line was red! But by looking at the Metro maps I worked out how to get back onto the blue line, phew!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Things that have interested me today:

1. The shops open at 10am and all stay open to 10pm. There is one shop – Gostiny Dvor – that fronts onto the Nevsky Prospekt that covers 14 acres and is 4 stories high – you could do some serious shopping in there, but from my glance into the window I would say you would also have to have some serious money.

2. There are no campervans (or at least any that I have seen at any of the tourist sites)

3. In the winter it gets as low as 30 degrees below zero. Igor told me how he once walked 300 meters from the bus to his flat without his ears covered properly and he got frost bite.

This morning at breakfast I saw three people that could be tour riders (one was wearing Lycra, always a good clue) and tonight they are sitting in the bar but I have not yet gone up and introduced myself, as am not ready for this segment of my holiday to be over, I will spend plenty of time with them over the tour.  As they say loneliness is the pain of being alone but solitude is the glory.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My daughter Kelly asked me what I do in the evening and what I eat.

As it is still light until midnight, I usually stop to buy something at a roadside cafe and return to the hotel. When I go to sleep it is still bright lights, and when I wake up it is light.

I have thought about going on the boat trip at night to see the lights but would be 1am in the morning and am not keen on then getting back with my sense of direction (or lack of, as my children would say). In my room I read but usually quickly fall asleep. I tried the TV last night because the hotel blurb said you can get English on one channel, but it was just snow, there were no other channels in English. I did watch the Simpson’s in Russian for a couple of minutes just for the novelty.

In terms of food in general, on every corner there are people selling hot dogs, drinks and ice cream. There are so many open cafes, it’s like Allen and Blair street – paved but with tables and  longer, hot sunshine and a few canals. There are lots of pastry shops here but also steak, salmon, sea food.  There is also KFC, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hutt, and McDonalds. I went into McDonalds just to see what the spelling of the burgers was and if it was different food. The food was the same but it was funny seeing all the different names.

McDonalds in St Petersburg (from Wikipedia, 2004)

Food at McDonalds (from whyevolutionistrue)

I have yet to see a curry place or Chinese restaurant or takeaway. There are lots of cured meats, pickles, sauerkraut, cheeses, loaves, cheese cakes, pastries. It is like lots of small Moore Wilsons everywhere. Fantastic.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My travel phone which worked perfectly in NZ will not ring out, although thankfully I can send and get texts. I have read the guide book cover to cover to no avail. There is a helpline to ring which would be fantastic if only I could actually ring it!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow I am going to Pushkins Palace and Gardens, Igor has taken me to the tour company, I have paid for my ticket and I have to meet them just past where I get off the metro. Friday I am going to Peterhoff Gardens and castle by boat.  Igor has dawn a map for from the palace square where I have met him twice. It is quite detailed so should be pretty foolproof but after today’s effort on the metro, well  .  . . .

Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Today started with good news and bad news

Good news: I found the (previously lost) instructions to make phone calls with the travel sim, so I can now do that
Bad news: The charger for phone has gone on holiday as well, and refuses to work.

Note to self: always bring two. I was confident that Igor would be able to help me find another, however it is disconcerting to not be able to find out the time, I spent the first 1/2 of the day twisting my neck at angles to see people’s wrist watches.

Today I set out to catch the Metro to town to go to the The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and Russian Art Museum and then meet Igor at the palace square at 3.30. Well, much to my surprise, and anyone who knows me, I did so without a hitch 😉

The cathedral is amazing, all mosaic panels on the inside and spectacular on the outside. It was very badly damaged in the second world war, and work was only started to restore it in 1972, it was open to public in 1980 but the restoration it is still ongoing.

Church of the Saviour on Blood (photo from FanPop)

Next I went to the Russian Art Museum, it was full of Russian art work, there were paintings dating back to the 12th century, unbelievable. One artist Valentin Serov died when he was 46 but has 5 large rooms of his art in this museum, and that’s only what’s in the ownership of this museum.

At the museum, and every other attraction, in every room is a Russian women employed to ensure you do not touch any of the walls or art. They have a chair and sit all day watching you.

I met Igor at 3pm and we went to a phone shop and I got a charger. It cost NZ$200 but at least I will now have the time and a phone again.

After getting the phone we went to the Peter and Paul Fortress built in 1703 by Peter the Great. Amazing views from the top of the battlements and interesting to see some of the places I have visited from the other side of the river.

Peter and Paul Fortress (from In Your Pocket)

A few observations of the city:

The St Petersburg traffic of course is on the opposite side of the road as what I am used to so I have to be careful. I also have to be careful as although the speed is meant to be 40km through the city, the cars are going much faster. I certainly would not recommend trying to duck across the road in between traffic like we do at home.

Smoking is very common here and people smoke every where – the restaurants, in hotel lobbies, taxis, even the ambulance crews drive around smoking.

It’s funny the things you miss when you are in another country and often not what you would expect: I miss being able to drink tea at the hotel, there are no jugs in the room or tea making facilities. So by breakfast I hit the restaurant like an addict looking for a fix. The cups are tiny so I gulp down 3 to 4 before even thinking about eating. Today I saw people using the porridge bowls as cups so they can get a decent size cup.

The Metros are amazing, they were built just before the second world war. You go down a very deep escalator to get to them, and they go under the river. There are 5 lines and they run constantly every 3-5 mins in the busy period and I asked Igor how often they ran off peak – he said every 10 minutes, unbelievable.
Also unbelievable is that on the way down the escalator all the Russians stand in single file so that if people are in a rush they can get past with no problem (such a rush they can’t wait the couple of minutes to the next train?).   I had not appreciated this system at first but after being nearly bowled twice I quickly learnt. The ride is very cheap, the equivalence of 10c (the only cheap thing I have found in St Petersburg but more on that later). Also the teenagers stand up to let the old women sit down. No, not me, I said old.

The weather is about 18 to 19 degrees, but although the weather report said it would be fine when I checked it before I left, so far each day there has been a couple of hours of very heavy rain. Unfortunately due to the weight restrictions with my luggage, the only water jacket I have is my riding jacket, which is a vivid yellow reflective jacket, which happens to be the very same style and color as worn by the street cleaners. So if I get rubbish that needs seeping pointed out to me I will know why.

The average wage in St Petersburg is equivalent to 6000 euro a year but it is a very expensive city, you could easily go through that in a fortnight. I have managed to spend $1500 in 3 days (this includes a trip to Pushkin to the Amber room, the 8th wonder of the world on Thursday). To give you an idea, a hamburger and chips cost NZ $40 at the hotel! Luckily for the bank balance this rate of spending will cease when the bike trip starts.

Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lost in Russia

When I went to sleep last night it was light – and when I woke up it was light! Not surprising given it doesn’t get dark till 11:30pm and dawn is at 4am, but twilight finishes at 1:15 and starts at 2:30!

I woke up around 6am and sorted out some stuff then went down to have breakfast. There were all sorts of different foods, some I will try over the next week and some … maybe not … but I settled on porridge and pancakes. The pancakes were what we would call pikelets and came with jam and a type of sticky custard.

At 8:40am I set off with my fail safe directions to met Igor at the palace square.  I felt quite  confident at first , then it started pouring and then I realized I was lost. I spoke to a couple of people but they did not speak English. To add to my confusion, there was a marathon taking place so every time I wanted to cross the street I had to dodge runners! At one intersection the green light to walk was not going and when I was waiting at a major intersection, there were two traffic police, one was yelling at me but of course it was in Russian so I had no idea what he was saying and he started to sound quite angry, so in the end I ran across a gap in the traffic and the runners. Probably what he had been yelling at me to do as he didn’t shout at me when I was running.

After walking for quite a while I found a taxi and arrived at the square.  It took me awhile to find Igor as our meeting point was also the finishing point for the marathon, and there was a crowd of people (I should have just followed the runners!). Luckily Igor was still waiting for me, even though I was nearly an hour late. Igor had not realized the marathon was  happening, but he was a gentlemen to not mention that the first runners had just come in, and had I been on time there wouldn’t have been a crowd.

The first thing we did was to go for a walk and see so many amazing buildings, palaces everywhere and cathedrals and buildings all with the most amazing and detailed sculptures, turrets, and intricate design. There are so many museums and art galleries I would need to be here for a month to visit them all. There is a museum of curiosities, the main museum has paintings by many famous artists and there is a huge museum with art of only Russian artists.

Today I saw the famous statue of Peter that took 12 years to build, and we went into St Isaac Cathedral – first we went up 250 steps to the 2nd level where you can walk around the outside and see the views. My mind is reeling with all the cathedrals, museum, and art galleries you could see. We then went inside, oh my god it was so beautiful, I had tears in my eyes. A lot of the paintings are not actually paintings but mosaic works. This place took 50 years to build and is on the site of 3 previous cathedrals. We then had something to eat at a restaurant made famous as Pushkin used to write his poetry there. He had supper there before he left for a duel – he died three days later from injuries from this duel.  Then we set off to St Catherine cathedral, which was also beautiful .

We went on a boat trip around the waterways river and canal, and saw many beautiful things. We sailed around the Peter and Paul fortress. Igor took me and showed me where the Russian Museum was next to a cathedral that
was built for the memory of Alex the 2nd to commemorate the spot where he was killed.

Igor then arranged that tomorrow I will meet him at the same place as today but in the afternoon and I will visit the Russian museum and the above cathedral first.

To facilitate this happening, Igor took me to the Metro and caught the Metro with me and then walked me to where I could see the hotel, thereby ensuring that I would not keep him waiting tomorrow and would get back to my hotel safely. He also programmed his cell phone and a taxi number into my phone for me.

I have taken lots of photos but even if I could follow instructions in Russian, the internet terminal here was born long before this technology was possible. So I will do this when I am able.

Now I’m off to put plasters on a couple of blisters, have something to eat and then bed. It is 9:17pm here, so about 5am in New Zealand I think.

Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments