I have responded to the comments on the last three posts, so be sure to check that. Sorry for not having time to post in the last couple days. We have had trouble finding internet.
Leaving St. Petersburg was quite tough as we had really gotten close with Marina and her family. They took such great care of us and it was an incredible experience. On the last night they told us all about Russian history and places to see, as well as the history of their family. Marina's grandmother showed us old photos of her relatives and an old sketch of a soldier that was her father (I presume). Afterwards we showed them photos of Calgary and Banff and so forth. It didn't make me feel homesick, but rather made me really happy to be from Canada, and I think it renewed in me a desire to explore my own country. Hopefully this lasts and I will be able to travel a bit more around Canada. We will definately be keeping in contact with them and when they come to Canada, we can return the favour.
We left Piter (St. Petersburg, as it is called by the locals) on the night of the 22nd and arrived in Moscow on the 23rd at 10:00 AM. Austin didn't have much luck sleeping but I slept quite well. I think I got about 6 or 7 hours. We took the cheap train which is called the hard-sleeper. I'm sure many of you know what this is all about, but this trip is my first experience with trains. Hard sleepers are slightly padded, but not very well. If I slept this well on the hard-sleeper, I am confident I will sleep quite well on the soft-sleeper of the Trans-Siberian train.
When we entered Moscow we were met by Alexander, a friend of Austin's mom, Lori. He first took us to our host's place which was actually quite easy to get to. The Moscow underground, once you get a bit accustomed to the Cyrillic alphabet, isn't too difficult to navigate. The St. Petersburg underground was much, much busier because it's not quite as extensive. Our SERVAS hosts are a lovely couple by the name of Leonid and Valentina. When we arrived we were greeted with a hot cup of tea and sandwiches. Valentina is a geologist and Leonid is a biologist. They had been on many expeditions to remote places of the earth and so we talked about these adventures of theirs.
We met up again with Alexander and visited Moscow State University as well as Red Square. Getting to Moscow State University was interesting and we got somewhat lost. On the other side of the Moscow River there is a large hill and we climbed up that. We stumbled across what looked like a ski hill at one point...Red Square was also quite impressive, but like everything, is much smaller than you would think. The Lenin Mausoleum was closed that day so we decided to return the next day. Afterwards we said our goodbyes to Alexander and went back to the home of our hosts. We had a delcious dinner and talked about Russia and Canada and other topics.
The second day we decided to get our tickets for the train. It was an interesting experience in that it was the first time in a long time that my French actually came in handy. We found the office of the ticket agency but couldn't get inside. There was a big metal door with a number-lock (not sure the correct name). We went into the grocery store next door and asked if anyone spoke English. Nobody did, and we couldn't understand what they were saying to us in Russian. Finally, a young Russian guy came in and could speak a little English. He said something about pressing 2 on the lock on the door. Austin and I proceeded to thank them and walked out and back to the ticket agency. We pressed 2 and someone said hello. We said that we didn't speak Russian and tried saying "Bilet" which means ticket in Russian. Finally, she asked, "Parlez-vous Francais?" Relieved, I asked her where I could pick up my tickets and she let us in. It turned out she wasn't actually the ticket agency, but was the neighbour, so she knocked on the next door and there, finally, was the ticket agency. Afterwards we went and visited the Lenin Mausoleum which was interesting.
Anyway, I am running out of time and will post later. We are going on the train tonight at 23:00 and should be in Mongolia in about 5 days. Talk to you then!