Sylvester McCoy #TrainTraveller
Part 1: outward bound from Hampstead
After 30 years of Time Travel, Sylvester set out on the adventure of a lifetime - this time a spot of Train Travelling. Not just any old train travel, but from his London home all the way to Thailand, taking about six weeks in total - and in his final destination, meeting his first grand-child, the beautiful Lilly!
It's been a long-time ambition to do this journey and he kept a travelogue so his many fans around the world could follow the journey.
Here's Part 1 and you can find Part 2 of this adventure here: Mongolia to Thailand
London St Pancras to Paris' La Gare du Nord
"My first Station !"
Day 1: Paris' La Gare du Nord
"Look Who I bumped into!"
Day 2: train shenanigans already!
"I ended up in Strasbourg because my train was cancelled in Paris
as the Russia train only came to Strasbourg."
Day 3: "Made it to Moscow! Eat your hearts out 3 Sisters"
Days 4 & 5: A weekend in St Petersburg: The Hermitage Gallery.
"St Petersburg! Note the Invisible Man wearing some Armour. And a lady who is Friendly and 'Armless...."
"The Hermitage was so called because Catherine The Great wanted a bit of peace and quiet!
Bit of a misnomer. Not fans of a rock star here but of da Vinci!"
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
Days 4 & 5: A weekend in St Petersburg:
The Alexandrinsky Theatre
"Chekhov’s “Seagull” was premiered here in 1896. It was a disaster ... the leading actor lost her voice because of the audience's behaviour (bad). Chekhov fled the theatre. Later in Moscow it was praised as a great moment in theatre! Anyway, I went to see "Swan Lake" last night. I shared a box with Koreans who left in the interval (I think they thought it was over !). It was great except for the ending . It was given a happy ending but that made me unhappy! The Swan did not die, but the Crow did ??? Music was brilliant!
Day 6: after a couple of days spent in St Petersburg; the second largest city after Moscow, and at one point the capital city of Imperial Russia. Here's Sylvester at Moskovsky Station (Mockba) in St Petersburg standing in Vosstaniya Square. "Arrived and now leaving St Petersburg Station. Back to Moscow!"
"A funny thing happened to me on the way to Red Square! I was just leaving my room in the hotel Metropol in Moscow when my phone rang and "Clare here, I’ve tried to book seats for 7 o’clock but it may be difficult."
I started to panic. Had I forgotten a date with a Clare ( A Clare !!! sweet ). I knew the voice! It was not my agent!
"I’m sorry Clare I think you’ve got the wrong number! But I know your voice, what is you surname?"
"Clare Short" said she.
"Hi Clare, we once had a great political chat on a train ride from London to Birmingham!" (I greatly admire her even though she didn’t resign at the start of the Iraq war. She eventually did.)
"Do you remember ? I was once a lamp stand on Tizwas in their long running soap?". She didn’t.
She ask me what I was doing here in Moscow so I told her I was making an epic journey to get to my first grandchild. She wished me well, congratulating me on I’m becoming a grandfather soon!
End of story."
Day 7: back in Moscow.
"Red Square/Me and a bear"
(Don't worry, he was very safe
- he says he told it to get stuffed)
Day 8: when you're about to go on a very, very, very, very long train journey, a good book helps!
"Here's a funny thing! I went hunting for a bookshop that sold books in English. I find one in this rather large Stalinist building called the Lubyanka. It is the headquarters of the old KGB, now the FSP, and it's also a prison. Anyway, in this bookshop in the Lubyanka building there was a great display of John Le Carre spy novels! That's a funny thing!"
Day 9: the train station at the beginning of the Trans-Siberian Express
Moscow's Yaroslavsky Railway Station
Day 9: The Trans-Siberian Express
"This is First Class for 2 people!!?! Not enough space to swing a cat. Imagine going all the way to Vladivostok non-stop for 9 days! No wonder they drink lots of vodka! Cheers!
My cabin is cold as the air conditioning is strong. A big Russian lady comes and stands on the beds stuffing newspaper into the air vents...it works!!
The barman was drunk when we left Moscow and the bar floor is wet with spilt drink. 3 giant men stand guarding the bar with dazed eyes. I'll not have a glass of wine with my evening meal I think!"
Day 10: The Trans-Siberian Express (still....)
"What a night of Rock ‘n’ Roll ! Not the 60s kind, but the Trans-Siberian Express kind! I’m in the last carriage of the train and when it’s travelling through the night, at high speed, it creeks, and groans, strains, and sways dramatically, as if it’s desperate to keep up with the rest of the train! Doesn’t guarantee a good night sleep !
Moscow is a magnificent metropolis! It has been polished, primed, and freshly coated with paint. The shops are packed with goods, The Muscovites elegant and sophisticated. Whereas, travelling through the countryside, going east on the train one sees villages of little wooden houses - some no better than a garden shed, crying out for a lick of paint. Many vegetable patches, very few cars.
I’m still in Russia but no longer in Europe. I’ve crossed the Urals (if you’ll excuse the expression!) and am now in Asia. Yipeee! This part of the journey is demanding, but I’m enjoying myself. A feeling of achieving something. If it were comfortable I would feel I’m cheating. (Let’s see how long that lasts???)
PS: the food on this train is inedible. I had eggs this morning that turned the miracle of water into wine on its head. This was eggs into water! Runny, watery, the palest yokes I've ever seen. Water is more tasty!"
(whilst on the from the Trans-Siberian Express near Yekaterinburg)
"Look who I met in Moscow while balancing the Bolshoi Theatre on my finger? Bill Baggs!
The unsung hero of Doctor Who. Without him it may not have gone underground and survived! Shortly after we met he went to the amazing Moscow underground."
Day 10 & 11: Yekaterinburg, Siberia
"Love from Rainy Yekaterinburg: I arrived at 9.15pm last night - have had a walk round and saw Lenin Avenue, and this elephant - a good way to disguise a drainpipe!"
Day 12: another day in Yekaterinburg, Siberia
"I'm still in Yekaterinburg til tonight and then back on the Trans-Siberian Express to Novosibirsk. Yekaterinburg is the home town of Yeltsin, the first president of Russia, and also the capitol of Siberia. And it's where they shot the Romanovs! " (see their family tree below)
"here's a monument to a couple of young workers marching towards a socialist paradise!
But look what's been done in front of their way! (watch the video!)."
"I was wrong to claim that Yekaterinburg was the capital of Siberia. It is the Political Capital of the Ural Mountains ⛰! Novosibirsk is, in fact, the Capital !
It shows I’m not infallible.
Though if I’d carried on training to be a priest and eventually become the Pope, then I would be Infallible ! So would that mean Yekaterinburg would be the Capital of Siberia??? "
Day 14: Novosibirsk
This chapel indicates the exact centre of Russia ! Pity there was not a cemetery, then it would be the Dead Centre Of Russia !!
Please yourself 😁
Leaving Yekaterinburg 10.9.18 (day 12)
and arriving in Novosibirsk 11.9.18 (day 13)
Day 15: Novosibirsk
"A panoramic view from my windows"
Day 15 continued..
here's a montage of Novosibirsk shots from Sylvester
- click the image for any comment from him
"It's very cold with freezing drizzle. Was 5 centigrade. Dramatic change from Moscow in the 30s!"
"Whilst in Novosibirsk I managed, at the last moment, to get in to enjoy this wondrous production. My, The Russians are past masters/mistresses at creating Ballet!”
" A lot of this ... and now approaching the end of the Siberia leg of the journey ! "
Somewhere between Novosibirsk and Irkutsk
on The Trans Siberian Express
"it's pure Heavy Metal eat your heart out Iron Maiden ! It definitely is an Iron Horse ! It screeches,twists, and clangs its way across Russia. Moving from one carriage to another is a bucking bronco experience. Invigorating!”
"There is a third class on this train 🚂. It has the same configuration as the trains in India that I experienced when making The Real Marigold Hotel show - that was called 2nd class in India. The Russian is more modern."
taking some some on the journey to look through videos and photos on his iPad: here's a film of the beautiful Hermitage Gallery that he visited back in St Petersburg (days 4/5)
Day 17: Sat 15 September
"I have arrived in Irkutsk as you can see, if you speak Russian! My last port of call before I leave for Mongolia."
Day 19: Mon 17 September
"Meet Lilly 💕💘👶
We are a Grandfather!
I'm not bigging myself up like Thatcher (spit) but 'We' as in Percy Kent-Smith and his erstwhile friend Sylvester McCoy,
Yours in schizophrenia, the above" 🤩
Day 20: Irkutsk:
"Irkutsk was a city of wooden houses - of all sizes .......
"Then there was a devastating fire in 1878. No smiling faces then!
In 1880 though, gold was discovered so they rebuilt the city in stone and turned it into the Paris of the East!
"Then came the Bolsheviks!"
Here's a classic Bolshevik Hotel!! The entrance hall is so dull I couldn't be bothered to take a picture!! "
"What I think Churches have done was focus great art and music. Here is a lovely example in this video.
Most of the small congregations I saw (I'm sure there are busier services) were attended by old ladies wearing the same style (Royal Headgear) scarf as our Queen."
"The Silver Birch turns Golden. Autumn is here! The tree that says Russia to me is the Silver Birch. It is my favourite tree along with Weeping Willows."
"Finally, I have to thank the Dr Who /Hobbit fans who welcomed me at Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk in Siberia. It was a great surprise (I should have known better as Fans pop up all over the world 🌍 ) but also a delight !
Not just fans who pop up everywhere in the world.....
"Alarm 🚨!! A Dalek spotted in Siberia ! Krasnoyarsk to be precise .
"A merry bunch on the Trans Siberian Express on its way to Ulaanbaatar!
(don’t focus on the bottles at the centre of the pic ! Well it’s still in Russia!! "
"Leaving Russia for Mongolia I was thinking how much I enjoyed the adventure. As I said before the Russians don’t smile easily but when they do it’s like sunshine, and their warmth is embracing. I was genuinely thanked for coming to visit the provincial cities of Siberia. There was embarrassment, shyness but a warm appreciation that I’d bothered ( no bother to me !).
70 years of trying to build the worker's paradise but creating the people's Hell meant if the brutish, cruel, paranoid rulers saw someone smile they worried that person knew something they didn’t! 'Who dare be happy in my country?' they bellowed and curse them to Siberia ! "
Day 26: Radio Silence for the last few days has been while Sylvester was in Mongolia! He's now gone from there, through a lengthy customs process into Beijing (more on that another time when he's rested!). Meanwhile, here are a few more photos from his time in Irkutsk.
"There are many churches which are not used for religious observances but other things; storing carpets, school, gym etc. One was used as an Observatory. So technically it was still looking to the Heavens!
The first photo is a church being restored by a latter-day Michelangelo! The Bolsheviks whitewashed most of the churches. My own personal taste is for less on the walls but not so in Russia! They paint Saints and Martyrs, Virgins and Sons of God all over everything. It makes me feel as I have overindulged on Liquorice Allsorts!"
you can find Part 2 of this adventure here: Mongolia to Thailand