I just got my Russian visa today and i’am super excited about it. For a long time it was not very sure if i’d get to travel to Moscow or not. But I’m not going to bore you with details and i cant tell you how excited I’m about going to this unexpected place.
Growing up, i had a strong connection to Russia. I remember all the book fairs in my school where most of the books would be from Russia. Stories about Tzars, valiant peasants, princes and princesses they were similar to any other fairy tales i guess, but i loved reading them and all the illustrations that came with the books. My grandfather in chennai also had a strong bond with Russia, he knew a little Russian and kept lots of Russian novels and magazines.
So that was then, long back before we got MTV and Discovery channel. Russia slowly faded away and replaced by a new found obsession with everything american. Not that anything is wrong with that, just that i know very little about russia now.
So before i travel, i’am planning to pick up a few books to read about the country, its history and its people. Ideally i prefer to read a story (either fictional or non-fictional) set it some particular time/place. And any background information can be usually found on wikipedia. Books like Wolf Totem, Kite Runner and Seven Years in Tibet come readily to mind.
So, here’s my short list of books on russia.. suggestions are welcome and the list is likely to grow a bit bigger over the course of the next few days.
My friend also talks highly about “Inside the KGB” but the review’s i’ve read on the net are not so great. Anyway, i think i’ll borrow it from him in Beijing, if he still has it.
28 Aug 2009
This article is written by Danielle Sharma.
Well we are now in Ekaterinburg. 2 hours ahead of Moscow. Quite a big city and our first real stop off on the trans-siberian route.
Had a good time in Moscow – it has snowed a bit over the last few days which is how you imagine Moscow should be! Red Square was just beautiful – especially at night. We did a lot of walking so feel like we saw a lot of the city. The diet has deteriorated though – we have resorted to fast food several times now but there really aren’t that many options!
The journey here was amazing (I can already tell I will be over-using that word on this blog!). It was a real snow storm as we waited at Moscow train station. As we left the city there was more and more snow on the ground and pretty soon there was nothing around us at all. In fact there was nothing more than really small towns of shack-like wooden buildings until we got here. And we were on the train for about 26hours!! The landscape is beautiful though. So flat and bleak. The amount of snow outside varied as we went along but there was quite a lot at some points – those tiny wooden houses must get completely buried. It’s hard to imagine what life must be like so cut off from the rest of the world. It’s strange because it’s really warm on the train so you’re in your t-shirt looking out at the snow.
Being on the train is funny – its weird being so close in such a small carriage with complete strangers. especially when you can’t communicate with them at all! We were with a man and a woman this time. It’s just a tiny cabin with 4 beds – two bunks on each side. Not much room to manoeuvre though! Seemed like everyone else had meals included but we didn’t so we lived mainly on the provisions we had with us – there is a hot water supply (samovar) so you can make hot drinks and cup-a-soups and instant noodles. we have loads of dark choc digestives too! Steph came out with a classic quote when we were sitting munching on them looking out over the land “You’d really feel you’d contributed something to the world if you had invented these… Such a fantastic biscuit.” They say train travel encourages profound thoughts!
The train is great fun – Sanj me and you would have loved it when we were little, running around exploring! Its more like being on a ferry because you get really settled in – change into pyjamas and flip flops and you can walk around all through the train. The journey goes really quickly. sleeping is really nice with the motion of the train. we had some food in the restaurant car which wasn’t too bad. Everyone else on the train so far has been Russian. People seem to find us quite amusing wherever we go! I think it’s because we look quite young – like we’re runaways or something. Whenever the train stops all these local people – mostly quite elderly people come running up to the train trying to sell things. it’s quite a chaotic scene and they are trying to sell really bizarre things (maybe things that are produced on that town) like huge vases and chandeliers.
Anyway. We are back on the train tonight. This place has been a weird experience. We arrived about 8pm local time with no accommodation booked but we’d read about a few places so headed to the one which sounded like the best option for us. Picture us trekking loaded up like donkeys with our bags. Anyway finally found it but it has now become a swanky hotel. Next place we tried was full and it was dark by this point. next place had rooms but was quite expensive again so we carried on looking for a while but in the end had to give up and go back to it. It was splashing out a bit for us but we couldn’t wander the streets forever! So we just enjoyed it and had baths a good sleep and a really nice breakfast! it was like pretty woman! don’t think there are any hostels here because no one comes here! there is nothing to do! we’ve been here all day and just wandered around! the sights took about half an hour to see. we’re starting to think maybe there;s a reason most people don’t stop off much on this route! Its quite funny being in such random places though. i’m sure we’ll never forget them. next stop (just 1 night again) in krasnoyarsk will be the same i think. nice to break up the journey though.
anyway this is turning into quite an essay so i’ll stop, hope you are all well – keep in touch! xxxxx
8 Apr 2011