July 18, 2006 - Taking the Midnight Train to Moscow

Olga with the BAI Elbrus team at The Kremlin

Perhaps I spoke too soon in the last dispatch about the G-8 summit not being very evident in our fascinating and rich days here along St. Petersburg’s Nvesky Prospect.  By noon on the 16th our friends on the Hotel staff had told us that we were welcomed to stay a bit longer, but as the long red carpet was rolled out into the street in preparation for the arrival of the Chinese Delegation we were asked to wait back in our hang out at the Cafe Vienna, right off the lobby.

Line tries on a Russian style hatThe wireless internet still worked great on the Panasonic Toughbook so Claire took advantage of the opportunity to catch up on some e-mails. After a while we decided to leave in a mini bus and go about one hour outside St Petersburg to visit the beautiful groups of Catherine the Great Palace.  As we were ushered out the back of the hotel to our waiting vehicle surrounded by a corridor of security, Stacy and Yael were laughing and saying that they now know how it must feel to be celebrities who get escorts out of back entrances to 5 star hotels. It was nice to leave the fanfare of Nvesky behind for a few hours.

We coordinated a pick up of Lina by cell phone, as a Russian she had not been allowed near the delegation, so our driver used my cell phone to arrange a spot to meet her. We got to the relaxing green splendor of Catherine the Great Palace around 2:00pm and had a beautiful afternoon.

We got back to Nvesky prospect in the evening and enjoyed a leisurely dinner at "The Literary Cafe' where Pushkin dined just before he was killed in a Duel 180 years ago. In the White Night light approaching midnight we finally walked down to Moscow Station to board our night train to Moscow.  Just before we pulled out the sky finally turned from pink to dark for the brief spell of nighttime that this northern city has at this time of year.  Most of us slept very soundly all the way to Moscow.

The group relaxes at Cafe Vinena while the Chinese Delegation arrived at the Nvesky Palace

Of course as always Olga, our long time friend and Moscow city tour guide was standing on the platform as we stepped off the train. We were about to begin one of Olga's informative and entertaining tours when Steve remembered that he had left his Camera on the train!  I was sure the train would have already pulled out of the station, but Steve ran back and got the woman who ran our car to let him quickly in.... He literally jumped off a moving train with his camera and rejoined us.  Perhaps as pleased to have had a successful "James Bond" at Leningrad Station experience as he was to get his camera and memory card back.  He will always have a great story to tell about this one.

Yael in front of Catherine the Great PalaceRed Square, the Kremlin, the sights of Moscow with Olga - all on schedule and without delay.  This is one of the featured highlights of traveling with BAI in Russia.  I know that anyone who has done our Elbrus trip will smile and agree with this.  Our photos will always give us great memories of visiting Moscow’s great sights in a brief morning right off the train.

Now we are at our hotel and will relax before tomorrow's flight to yet another completely different part of Russia - The Caucasus.

Above: Comet Hale-Bopp over Mt. Elbrus from Pik Terskol, Caucasus, April '97. ©"Observers", AlltheSky.com