Wednesday, October 25, 2006

From Russia with love

Tuesday 24th October
This is our 2nd visit to Russia, though it is our first to the southern part of the country. Our first visit was in 1999 when we went to St Petersburg, Moscow and Novgorod. As is now becoming something of a habit, the ship arrived in port - this in Sochi - before breakfast. Border controls here are much more thorough and without a visa, you cannot just step off the ship and wander around. To go ashore you either have to get a visa before coming here or be part of an organised group. And clearly we are part of the latter. Border control means passport stamps! I was rather disappointed that the passports were not stamped in Georgia. Same as in June this year when I went to Cuba, no passport stamps then either.

Our first trip today was to Mount Akhun. On its peak is a viewing tower that gives a tremendous view of the town to one side and the Caucasus Mountains to the other. From there we went on to Stalin's dacha, fully restored to its former glory from when Uncle Joe was alive. I was worried I might stumble into a meeting of the Canterbury Lib Dems' policy committee! But apparently they were off meeting Trotsky to get policy tips!

All excursions had to be over by 1.30pm as the ship was leaving at 2pm for Yalta. The good news is that tonight we put the clocks back an hour as we move back a time zone.

As the ship was sailing through the day, the lecture programme kicked in again. The first was by Sir Richard Parson on The Ukraine which was interesting and the second was on the Gallipoli operation which I found a bit disappointing.

We have now taken over 600 photos and an hour of video. The memory card on the camera is close to being full so the photos are being transfered to a dvd (too many for a cd). I'll need the memory card back tomorrow morning for the Yalta visit.

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