September 25, 2004 GMT
Parties and Easter Eggs

Whilst siphoning fuel out of my tank yesterday morning in the hotel car park (as you do) I was accosted by a policeman and one of the MVD men with bulging left armpits who've been infesting the hotel for the last couple of days.

They wanted me to move the bike right away from the hotel because the conference centre next door is hosting an exhibition of Faberge stuff, opening night yesterday evening, lots of VIPS expected, massive police presence etc. Naturally, I refused. They eventually let me hide the bike in a little corner by hotel reception.

I met Zhanna at the station at ten to three, where we were scheduled to meet Oleg at three. Oleg finally turned up at four. He and Zhanna seemed to talk for rather a long time, but eventually I was told to ride the bike into the compound and into the baggage shed. Oleg wrote a receipt (of sorts) and I handed over 7000 roubles (about 140 pounds). No guarantees, but the bike might have been on last night's train, or maybe tonight's. He supposed to be ringing Konstantin to confirm time and dat of arrival in Vladivostok. This whole performance has taken four days. The rules are that your baggage can weigh up to 75kg; you can have three packages of 75kg, but not one of 225kg. A cargo train can take anything up to three weeks to get to Vladivostok from here, so that's not really an option.

Getting me to Vladivostok is the next thing. There was no space on last night's train, and I can't find out if there's space on tomorrow night's until 6 hours before it arrives from Moscow. All stations and trains (except local ones) run on Moscow time, so the 23:30 train actually leaves Yekaterinburg at 01:30. The clocks at the station are on Moscow time, as are all signs (especially those saying Position Closed). I may have to fly instead, which would be a shame, but Oleg was insistent that I be there before the bike arrives. You have to bear in mind that the distance we're talking about is the same as that from London to New York.

At least the enforced stay here has helped to sort the nasty cold I caught in the Urals (that'll do, Piercy). Although this is the edge of Siberia the weather has been very warm - T-shirt day yesterday, and although it's raining today it's still no more than cool.

Was invited to a party last night at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Very interesting time talking with Russian girls about all sorts of things, and Evgeny (who I met the other day and turned up at the party) has promised to help if visa things get silly (he runs a big business conference organising company here).

Eggs. Thought I'd better have a look, so popped next door this morning. Very heavy security - I even had to empty my pockets and leave the contents in a numbered bag. I think they may have had suspicions about me because although I dutifully tagged on to the (mandatory) conducted tour I sort of lagged and did my own thing because there was no point in listening to a Russian commentary and anyway the exhibits had English captions. The collection was that from the Kremlin in Moscow. The Wow factor was pretty much off the scale.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at September 25, 2004 04:13 PM GMT
 



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