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Moscow to Yekaterinburg

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Moscow to Yekaterinburg – 26th September

I am sat on the train from Moscow to Yekaterinburg and have been on here for exactly one hour. I have got approximately 29 hours left to see out before I arrive at my destination. I have been looking forward to this journey for a while, a real Trans-Siberian experience crossing the plains of Russia, but stopping of at Yekaterinburg to break up the trip to Irkutsk by a third. I had spoilt myself by getting the Red Arrow from St Petersburg to Moscow, that train was a Russian institution. It was luxury on tracks, comfortable beds, well trained staff that spoke perhaps a little bit of English. The train was a Russian Heritage, so much so that just before it departed the Russian national anthem played, and again once it arrived the speakers at Moscow played it again. This train was a treasured Russian asset and it was a pleasure to ride on.

The difference between that train and the one I travel in today is like comparing the relative comfort of a British Jail with that of a GULAG camp. Today I am in that camp and doing hard labour with all of the other cretins. I am in second class and dread to think what third class is like. The compartment is dressed in 70s style wooden style laminate décor with a fragrance of Marlboro. Every 5 minutes some Bershka visits the compartment, spits something out in Russian and when no answer is the reply, or if I am confident enough perhaps a ‘NYET!!’ she may disappear which doesn’t discourage the next one who is waiting in line to sell us some Christmas decorations or a Scalectric set.

1 hour done 29 still to do…….

So I have now been on the train for 7 hours, I have got accustomed to the heat and humidity that they create in these sauna like holes. This room is about 27 degrees and it is no suprising that the four of us occupying it are in a vegetative state. I am in a room with a young mother with her son and another woman who got on after the first stop past Moscow. The second woman speaks some English but I have had no further dialogue with her other than her asking me if I will be changing into something more comfortable. Not sure about the motive behind that question but nevermind, I will never understand some of the idiosyncrasies that some (particularly Russian) people have.

I was waiting to speak with the carriage lady who serves hot water and who attends each carriage. Now I know for a fact that she could see me, I stood there for an elongated period purposely to see who would flinch first, she could see me out of the corner of her eye. It seemed that time stood still and she was motionless. So I tapped on the door with a great big smile, ‘Hello, can you help me please’. I'm not quite sure what game the stone faced ox was playing but these encounters with Russians have been quite a common occurrence. They do tend to thaw slightly when they realise that your ‘one of those idiots from abroad’ rather than another Russian. Russians actually do not like other Russians, I have learnt that much at least.

In the City of Vladmir I was joined on the carriage by three guys from England, which has had a neutral effect. On the one hand I am pleased of course that I can relate and communicate with these guys, but it is also an easy way out of not attempting to converse with the locals, not that they an inviting lot as I have just said.

7 hours done, 23 still to do…..

It got pretty dark early, perhaps as we are travelling east and travelling through a couple of time zones, I'm not exactly sure of exactly how many zones as they have this annoying rule of only using Moscow time for departures and arrivals, so in actual fact when I thought I would be arriving in Yekaterinburg at 16:30 I will in fact be arriving at 18:30. So that means of course I will have travelled through two time zones. Nevertheless it is quite annoying, my train ticket to Irkutsk I had planned to arrive in the city for a reasonable time, I have just also learnt that I will be arriving at 02:30 local time. I got to say, that that is a great time to see the underbelly of the city and a good time to get pistol whipped by some scroat in a leather jacket, so perhaps I will use one of those Gypsy taxi’s on that occasion, hmmmm, maybe I need to ponder that one. So it got dark around the 8 o'clock mark and things got pretty quiet in the cabin, I think they must have turned up the temperature to knock everybody out but there was not much activity past that time. I was a little surprised by this, thinking that the Vodka would have come out, of which I was grateful as I hate the stuff and I cant take drinking it. So it turned out that everybody tucked themselves in and got comfortable for the night. I finished reading my book “Hells Angels” by Hunter S. Thompson then dozed off.

Strange sensation being bounced around whilst being asleep, the sound of the train horn bellowing randomly through the night, night time stops people rolling in and rolling out. I woke up this morning and the occupants of my room had changed and I hadn’t noticed. Better check my bag make sure the thieving kid who was eyeing up my iTouch hasn’t made off with it.

I was brave enough to make the journey to the restaurant cabin, and I wish I hadn’t bothered. I wanted water, I felt like a dehydrated raisin when I woke up. The women greeted me with their usual hostility, I in turn smiled and pointed to water. 125 roubles a water?? Its around 48 roubles to the pound so in rough terms that’s £2.50 for a 33cl bottle!! Bloody nora!! “Dva” “dva” she kept on saying, not a chance…. She was trying to sell me two, I have no idea why, no “Nyet, Adin, adin!!!” I got my water and I got my change, 25 roubles short, “nougat, nougat” she poisoned me with her blank expression. She thought it was a healthy exchange and that she was doing me a favour by giving me a small square of chocolate nougat rather than the rest of the change I was expecting. That’s very nice of you, thank you so much, I am forever in your debt…..

I looked around the counter, I saw endless amounts of Vodka for sale, some beer, they were all much cheaper than the water I had bought, no wonder it’s a nation of Vodka lovers. I wanted Fruit, just a bit of fruit please….. I didn’t fancy the exchange, I knew it would be pointless, they wouldn’t have it and I would probably be given an apple flavoured fruit pastel instead…

32 hours done 8 hours to go…..

Russian pot noodles are the way forward on these trains. Each compartment has a Russian ‘lady’ who looks after you. There is a samovar in each compartment which gives free hot water, use this for your cuppa or pot noodles. Only the Russians have their own version of it, in a nice bowl, but if does the trick….. still want some fruit though desperate for the stuff.

Had a brief stop in Perm where the train changes engines. On the platform locals were selling drinks and snacks. “Bottle of water please Marra”. I was reluctant to give this guy a 100 when the cost was 50, did he have change would I get a chocolate button back in return? He pulls out this enormous wad of cash and flicks a fifty my way. “No worries about change with you” I say out aloud. 1.5 Litres of water for 50 roubles Vs 0.33 Litres for 150 Roubles, yeah man bargain, only I taste it and realise the damn thing is salted?!! Every day I learn more….. but I can’t explain this one?

Hang on, stop the press…. Old bag lady is hovering up in my compartment…..

30 hours down, 6 to go, and I'm told were running late…..

Sweet, we arrive on time, at 16:30 but it is two hours ahead of Moscow time so its 18:30. I have arrived in Yekaterinburg, famed for the control of the Russian Maffia, The Qwerty Keyboard monument, an overpopulated city and pollution. Its going to be great….

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Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 10:25 Archived in Russia

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