The weather leaving St Petersburg matched our mood – dreary. We took the most famous overnight Red Arrow train to Moscow and arrived early in the morning to rain. Rain was pretty much a constant while we were in Moscow. It was ok from our point of view because we had been to Moscow before and there were things we could miss because we had already seen them on our previous trip to Russia. When it stopped raining we would venture outside (with our raincoats just in case) and check out a few of the sites. On our previous trip to Moscow we had walked inside the Kremlin, however this time we decided to walk around it. We forgot how big it was but luckily made it back to Red Square in time to check out St Basil’s Cathedral before it started pouring rain again. The one thing we noticed different about our time in Moscow compared to last time was this white pollen ‘stuff’ floating in the air everywhere. We asked our hotel receptionist what it was and he told us it was from a tree that is all over Moscow. He then added “it snows the entire year in Moscow”. We gathered he was talking about how much of this white pollen that seemed to be everywhere – he didn’t look too happy when he spoke about it and I could understand why. It got in everywhere! As soon as we opened the door to our hotel it would fly in and just form clumps all over the ground. It would be a constant job just trying to get rid of it all which is why I imagine they just left it. On our last day we got caught out in the rain so we decided to run into a huge shopping centre we saw. When we first walked in we noticed that all of the stores were for kids and there was a huge play area for them so we made our way up through all of the levels and at each level there were more and more kids shops until we worked out that the entire shopping centre was purely for children. It was amazing. It had everything from baby furniture stores to H&M for kids and even jewellery stores just for children! To make the shopping centre even more grand there was this ginormous gold clock mechanism that hung from the roof, all the way down to the ground level. Mark especially loved the Legoland creations and as he said “we got to see Moscow in miniature form”.
We left Moscow after a few days to get another train but this time to Kazan. We hadn’t been to Kazan before so were excited to see another part of Russia. Arriving at the train station in Kazan, the maps on our phones weren’t working properly so we couldn’t see where our hotel was in the city. After walking around a bit trying to see if there was somewhere we could go to get WiFi we decided to just get a taxi because it was pouring rain and all of our bags were getting soaked. Walking up to a taxi driver we had the address out and were asking how much to take us there. He was looking at us in a slightly odd way but we just figured it was the language barrier so Mark tried to explain slowly what we wanted. The taxi driver just looked at us and said “Crystal Hotel?” to which we replied “Yes!” he then looked at us with a smile on his face, turned around and pointed across the road. We looked up to see a huge hotel with the name sprawled across the top in English and Russian. We just laughed with the taxi driver and walked across the slightly flooded roads to our hotel. We had the option of waiting 5 hours until check in or we could pay more to check in early and considering I had stepped in a massive puddle and one of my shoes was soaked all the way through we opted to pay some more and check in early. It rained for our entire 3 days in Kazan with the occasional dry spell (mainly at night though). Because we hadn’t been there before we braved the rain as much as we could and walked around to check out the sites which lucky for us are all pretty much in the one area. When it’s raining that much it makes it difficult to really look at many of the things a city or place has to offer but we are glad we went out anyway, even if we weren’t out for as long as we would have liked. After days of rain we got up at 2am for our flight to Minsk and what do you know? Clear skies everywhere. Thanks Kazan!
As Russia & Belarus are 2 different countries we had read that we required visas to enter both. We knew this of course for Russia and it didn’t surprise us when we read this about Belarus. What we didn’t realise though, and what we still don’t totally understand, is that there seems to be open travel between the 2 countries, even for foreigners. What this pretty much means is that we left Russia to fly to Belarus on what is considered a domestic flight. We still don’t know if we even needed our Belarussian visa but are glad we had one. Imagine getting detained in Russia or Belarus for not having the right visa… no thank you.
Minsk was pretty much like a country town of Russia. 2 thirds of the country is actually covered in woods and forests and Minsk seems to just pop up out of nowhere after driving for about 45 minutes from the airport. It was slightly chilly when we arrived but we were so glad it wasn’t raining that we went and sat in a park for a while and watched some artists paint. After a little bit the sun started to get really warm so I laid down on a park bench and rested my head on Mark’s lap while we just enjoyed the warmth on our faces. After about an hour of this we went to check into our hotel. On the walk back I started to get a bit itchy and I thought it was just the heat and me wearing too many clothes so once we got to our hotel I went to our room to change into a t-shirt and it was then that I found the cause of my itchiness. I had these hive-like lumps and bites all over me and more and more were starting to show and get even itchier. So, like I would back home, first thing I did was take a photo and send it to my mum asking her what she thought it was. She told me she thought they were bites of some sort and to get an antihistamine. It took a full 12 hours after taking the antihistamine for everything to go away which was annoying but I was glad it was gone! Today was our only full day in Minsk and we spent it checking out some of the sites before heading to the airport later in the afternoon for our flight to Poland. One of the first things we are going to do when we get to Warsaw is eat Pierogi! – It’s always about food!