I had been rather worried on Day 1 that I could only source 250 quids worth of rubles but try as we might it was virtually impossible to spend them, and that included travelling pretty much everywhere by taxi.
Now I take it as a personal failure if I have to change back foreign currency after a trip abroad, so our plan was to hit the championships merchandising shop and spare the plastic card.
I discovered that the Russians are absolutely masterful at producing tat and amongst other stuff, mugs, plastic wrist bands. pins, fridge magnets, and socks I snagged a Championships chopping board (yes a chopping board even though it closely resembles a kick board) for Teenage Triathlete to take to University with her next month (I know she’ll be thrilled by my thoughtfulness!).
I also bought the odd meet t shirt and hoodie from the Arena shop and was pretty miffed to discover they were actually cheaper than in the shop at the pool. (About 20% cheaper). Shopping over we taxied into town when it started to pour down. Being unequipped for this deluge we abandoned all hopes of sightseeing and decided to undertake a mini adventure and risk a trip home to the Gulag on public transport.
My concern about travelling on the Kazan Metro was not so much getting on the wrong train, (mercifully the signs on the platforms and trains were also in English,) but surfacing at our destination and not having the first clue in what direction the Gulag was!
Sure enough we managed to catch the right train and alighted at Probesky Prospekt or something like that and surfaced with it tipping down with rain and facing the bleak prospect of not having the first clue where we were meant to be going.
Standing under the shelter we scrutinised the map and looked very much like lost tourists, a middle aged dour Russian bloke came up to us and started talking at us and looking and pointing at the map we were holding. We managed to indicate where we wanted to be and pointed in the right direction, at this point he involved a girl standing next to us and they were in deep conversation which we hadn’t a scooby about.
Our friendly Russian then scooted back underground inviting us to follow him, ah well in for a penny in for a full ruble, he led us through a number of twisting tunnels and deposited us next to a teenager on a tram platform were his demeanour seemed to be pretty much saying to this kid (in a rather rough and aggressive manner) that he had to look after us. The dour Russian then simply melted into the crowd and disappeared it felt like we were in a scene from Tinker Taylor with Lynne and I being the dead drop.
Despite the rather intimidating and clandestine introduction the kid spoke really good English and we chatted away as the tram pulled in, turns out he’d been a volunteer at the airport and was having a day off. We climbed onboard the tram flashed our accreditation at the conductress and after a short ride and thanking our guide we were deposited at the far end of the Gulag complex.
Lynne and I tried to take a short cut into the complex by walking down the road, but we were “not transport” and were directed the long way around by the thugs at the check point, they remained unmoved by my comments about mindless Russian bureaucracy so with no alternatives we plodged our way to the next checkpoint.
Our task for the evening was to try and pull together a British team photo, this took an inordinate amount of time, not helped by our self designated photographer Nick Hope being delayed in traffic, no doubt after spending most of the day trying to get this shot right.
Mission accomplished we decided to try dinner at the Gulag’s Tennis Academy, dead obvious place right, well what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quantity, but the company was great have I mentioned that the dynamic duo of Lynne and I had become a trio having been joined by Jade who was clearly the most talkative Essex girl I’ve ever met (and that includes Lesley Cook) Anyway with the impending doom of 200 breast the following morning I headed back to Block 22 for an early night.