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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  



August 14. NIZHNY NOVGOROD We again arrived early in the morning into N. Novgorod but didn't have any definite plans.  That was deliberate since the highlight of the area was a four hour river ride to an old monastery, something that probably wouldn't be enjoyable in bad weather.  The weather was indeed bad so it looked like we wouldn't be spending much time in Nizhny Novgorod.  After a coffee at the train station we checked our bags and went to McDonald's for some breakfast.  We looked at our options and thought it would be best to stay a night in N. Novgorod before heading on to Vladimir.  It had been a hard couple of nights on trains and a bed sounded awfully good, not to mention a shower.   Unfortunately the nearest hotel listed in the guidebook had only its most expensive rooms left, and at a much higher rate than LP indicated.  Discouraged we looked into onward trains to our next planned stop, Vladimir, but lodging options there looked worse and a train would get us in quite late to be scrounging around for a place to stay, not to mention that the weather was awful.  After so much time at the station we had attracted the attention of some military men who were conspicuously following us around the station.  We stopped for a coffee until they went at away.  In the end, after plenty of running around in the rain, we opted for an expensive hotel room at the Hotel Tsentralnaya. 

We tried to buy our train ticket for the next day to Vladimir, where we planned to transfer via bus to Suzdal, but were met with complete frustration.  Now that we had some understanding of Russian queuing protocol we each took up a spot in different lines.  The lines moved very slowly and it appeared that some Russians were approaching the person in front of us and asking them to hold them a place in line in front of us.  Anyway, we kept waiting and I finally got a turn at the window.  I had everything written in Cyrillic except that we didn't know exactly what train number we wanted since the schedule didn't show where the trains stopped along their routes.  I had written "morning" on my slip of paper but when the lady at the ticket window but the woman came back at me with the letter "N." for the number of the train.  When I tried to explain that I didn't know which trains went to Vladimir she started to write a bunch of stuff in Russian on my slip of paper and then handed it back to me.  Of course I had no idea what it said but I did make out the number 43.  Thinking it was a window number I looked around but saw no window number 43.  Besides, the administrator in the ticket area had directed me to these windows to buy my ticket to Vladimir.  The lady didn't want to try to communicate with me anymore and the people behind me were just rolling their eyes.  For all of the hours that each of them took to purchase their tickets they didn't want some foreigner delaying their time at the window.  I tried another line but got an equally charming ticket lady so I joined Rob in his line and we tried again.  This woman started to look on her computer but then one of my earlier ticket ladies walked by the window a yelled to her. She stopped working on the computer and started going on in Russian at us.  Fortunately, a very nice man next to us spoke some English and offered to walk us to the place where we could buy local train tickets to Vladimir.  We wanted an express ticket, not a local train ticket, but at this point it just seemed futile to try and get that across.  He walked us to the next building where there was a closed window 43 and another person directed to other side of the building where a row of ticket windows were lined up.  But, after all of that we couldn't even buy the ticket because they are only sold the day of travel.  Anyway, we were very thankful to the man that helped us and he just explained that we should get to the station early to buy our tickets the next day.  It was a 7:20 train so that would be quite early.

Having failed at securing a fast train to Vladimir we contented ourselves with some greasy, but tasty, piroshikis at a stall near the station.  With the hotel fiasco we'd had in Nizhny Novgorod we started to get worried about lodging in Moscow.  Guy and Stephanie emailed us and raved about their homestay/apartment in Moscow so we thought we should see if the same place were available for us.  We would be arriving a few days earlier than planned since N.Novgorod was getting cut short so it was starting to seem more urgent.  Rob had ventured out in search of an Internet cafe earlier but nothing convenient could be found near our hotel or the station so we caught a trolley into downtown N. Novgorod to find one.  The downtown area of the city was actually quite nice, unlike the somewhat grim looking area near the station.  In better weather we might have enjoyed a day or two.  The streets were lined with older buildings and there seemed to be plenty of cafes and restaurants.  The Internet cafe was sort of a basement hangout for techno nerds but the connectivity was relatively fast.  We emailed Guy and Stephanie's Uncle Pasha to see about his apartment.  They described him as a self proclaimed tourist hating man but the apartment was in a great location in Central Moscow and at this point we were pretty sure that most Russians were tourist haters anyway. 

For the $90 we were made to pay for our hotel room it wasn't quite as nice as we might have expected.  The room was really clean and laid out nicely with sort of two rooms divided by a curtain of beads, one with the large double bed and the other with a desk and couch.  But, the 60's style red beads, the multicolored juvenile bath mat, and sheets in a motif that suited a little boy's room and were too small for the bed all conspired to undermine the otherwise decent decoration.  We couldn't help thinking that we didn't pay much more for a much nicer room at the Westin in downtown Sydney.  At least the front desk staff at the hotel were very helpful in getting a cheap hotel reservation for our next destination.  The woman who gave us so much help had spent time living in New York and spoke English well.

TRANS SIBERIAN RAILWAY Ulan Ude Aug 6-7 Irkutsk Aug 4 Aug 5-8 Yekaterinburg Aug 8-10 Aug 11-12 Kazan Aug 13 Nizhny Novgorod Aug 14 Golden Ring Aug 15 Aug 16-17

MOSCOW Aug 17-19 Aug 20-21 Aug 22-23