Wednesday, 22 July 2009

What no Hats

I am well settled in Astrakhan .It is a pleasant town with a Kremlin very similar in design to the one at Novgorod only triangular in plan.The Kremlin has a number of lovely buildings within its walls , with a particularly beautiful cathedral with restored frescoes.
The rest of the town is a mixture of old some what run down areas with what is clearly a major building boom clearing these areas and building large office and apartment blocks of a very high standard. Like many Russian towns it has a number of well laid out and maintained parks. The difference here is that they are smaller than say Volgograd .They are like London squares ,you turn a corner and there one is a pleasant surprise.Most Parks have statues ,the ubiquitous Lenin in his square is some what exposed given it is not a park but a newly paved area rather a challenge in over 40 deg hard sun.
I have been here a couple of days longer than planned ,one because I decided I wanted to see more one because I could not get a seat on a train to Rostov on Don,perhaps that should have warned me.
The hotel is fine and on the river and I have found two good places to eat.
Yesterday I went to the fish market which was smaller than I expected given this is a major river and sea landing spot. also the fish were mostly not fresh but dried and salted ,a local delicacy (chernoyer ) or smoked .There is an interesting church alongside the market which appears to have been open in Soviet times.
Yesterday I came to the conclusion I am going to fly back from Kiev. I had not intended spending a lot of time in Warsaw or Berlin and in total to get home it would be some 5 days on trains.
There is an Aeroflot lady at the hotel and she confirmed she could get me a flight to London on B A for 5,500 Rb ( 110 pounds !!). So off I went to the station to get the ticket for Rostov to Kiev which I knew had a daily service. However I was told there is only one ticket available on that train between now and early august and that on the day I arrive in Rostov.
This was a major issue and on the way back to the hotel I was doing a complete re plan as I have to be out of Russia by midnight 31/7 .However Aeroflot to rescue, I am now flying from Rostov to Kiev via Moscow. I would have liked to have trained but there we are. Again I got very good support from The Aeroflot rep and at least sympathy from the train ticket seller.
Public transport in Russia is plentiful and cheap. Some of the vehicles are over due replacement , I think the cheapness of fairs does not generate enough revenue.However there is extensive use of minibuses ( Transit size) that roar around towns stopping when hailed and dropping when requested .Similar to the Belfast black cabs I think. Well I had seen these in every town and so I finally used them here. A challenging ride with the driver taking the fixed fare( 11 Rb /21p) blasting everyone with his horn and weaving in and out of traffic .
Speaking of new things since it has been hot I have noticed0n the streets sellers of a dark liquid in plastic cups and bottles filled from an aluminium beer keg the seller pressurises with a hand or foot pump.Having seen lots of people drinking this, when I saw 2 city types and a policeman drinking it I tried it .It is called Kvas very refreshing and tastes of molasses, I have since learned it is beer made from bread.
I woke up this morning to find the Navy in town. Anchored in the river outside the hotel is a Destroyer ( TATAR STAN ) and a smaller frigate (ASTRAKHAN) along with a fast patrol boat.I assume they are on a good will visit from the Black Sea fleet.
And no hats, I have not seen a hat or coat made from the skin of new born lambs. I assume the Astrakhan reference is because long ago this was the port of entry rather than the source of such clothes,in the same way Windsor chairs got their name.
Off to Rostov tomorrow my last Russian port of call.Love John

1 comment:

  1. will be great to have you back home, can't wait to see the photos of all the things you are blogging about. take care now.