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Day 15: Moscow: The End of Our Journey

She barked in Russian at the two if us, and signalled that we should follow. We weren’t going to argue. She took us to a platform just as a train was arriving, and indicated that we should get on.

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Day 14: Our Arrival in Moscow

The couple sitting across from us in our compartment polish off a bottle of vodka. We’re issued with a little lunchbox, with the driest looking sandwich I’ve ever seen. We’ve no vodka to wash it down so I just leave mine.

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Day 13: Studying Art St. Petersburg Style

In the restoration department one student had been working for six months already scraping layers of paint off a Russian icon to reveal an original painting, centuries old. Another large painting of Lenin was being cleaned – on the other side, a painting of Tsar Nicolas II had been revealed. It hadn’t yet been decided which portrait was the most worthy of preserving.

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Day 12: St. Petersburg

The evening was spent hunting for a restaurant with an English menu, which is no small task in Russia. After another long walk, we encountered a charming little restaurant with a fairy tale theme. And yes, an English menu.

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Day 11: Tales of Tallinn

Everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion, and the winner of the vodka drinking competition no doubt safely tucked up in his cabin for the day. I wonder what the winning prize was, no doubt a bottle of vodka.

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Day 10: The Baltic Crossing

I knew that stage two of our journey, the Swedish section, would be particularly poignant for me. Uppsala was where I lived at the time of Jane’s death, and I connect it to the early stages of my personal journey of first accepting, and later learning to cope with the reality of my sister’s passing.

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Day 9: Ein Student Aus Uppsala

I saw Jane on a couple of occasions after we returned home from our Swedish holiday together in August 2011 – helping her to move into her new student flat in Dundee one Sunday morning in September, and when she stayed over with us in Edinburgh one Saturday night in October just 10 days before she died, but Uppsala was where we spent our last real time together.

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Day 8: The North Passage

The day was characterised by train delays, reading books, snoring – for my dad at least – and, in fairness, some beautiful countryside. On Day 8 I was able to check a box on my bucket list. Well, not that I actually have one, but if I did crossing the Øresund Bridge would certainly be on it.

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Day 7 – Fact and Fiction

Our journey has essentially three main stages – revisiting places in Belgium and the Netherlands where we had spent time with Jane, revisiting Uppsala in Sweden, and then reaching our final goal of Russia where Jane had always wanted to go. The stages in between are steps in the journey, stop offs on the way, but a chance nonetheless to take in sights which I am sure Jane would have enjoyed seeing.

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Day 6: Willkommen in Deutschland

These ideas and combinations are Jane’s and Jane’s alone, but the style and influence pays homage to the great work of Vermeer which we were privileged enough to observe in Amsterdam. And, incidentally, Vermeer lived in the small city of Delft, where day 5 of our journey had ended, and day 6 began.

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Day 5 – Dutch Chic

It’s a bit quirky – Craig described it as groovy, and it is in a 1960’s hippy chic, or should that be hippy chick, sort of way. There are murals on all the walls, and on the way up the stairs these are of cavorting nudes. For a moment I thought we’d stumbled into the wrong type of establishment – well it is Holland after all!

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Day 4: Hunting for Smurfs

Little would he have known that I used to spend hours hunting for Smurfs when Jane was little. She had a collection of them, and they lived in her doll’s house. A doll’s house full of little blue men with white hats.

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Day 3: Belgium

Sitting by the main canal, the sun was baking down on us, but within minutes the sky darkened and grew ever more black and oppressive. Fork lightning flashed across the sky, and the rain came down in sheets. A glorious Summer’s day one minute, the next all the tourist were huddled together under awnings.

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Day 2: Send off from the Russian Consul General, Shona Robison MSP and Roderick Campbell MSP

We then met with Shona Robison MSP for Dundee East and Roderick Campbell MSP for North East Fife in the beautiful setting of the Scottish Parliament’s garden lobby. Many thanks to both Shona and Roderick for their kind words and for meeting with us on the usual busy Thursday, what with First Minister’s Questions and all.

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Day 1: Leaving – by Craig Kelly

It’s been an odd day. It started with a bacon sandwich and a kilt. One eaten, the other worn. Followed by an adventure around Duncan of Jordanstone with two journalists and a member of staff in desperate search for a suitable art studio to record an interview.

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