A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about train

Horse Stomach with Onion?

Mongolia 22nd October

So I failed the test ok?

It was the thing that I had been trying to avoid and had managed to succeed up until my final leg of the journey out of Mongolia. I had been travelling through Russia and Mongolia where men eat meat and that’s that. It is beyond comprehension that people would not eat meat for whatever reason. I thought I had gotten away with it, and I was leaving Mongolia having only had that brief run in with a little pig meat Granny had gave me. But that was long forgotten.

It was the thing that I was afraid I would do and I did it, I felt terrible.

I was on the local train from Ulaanbaatar to the Mongolian border town of Zamyn-Uud, I was in Kupe class again, and I was on the top bunk, the ride was to be about 12 hours overnight. The carriage attendant brought in 4 cups of hot water with a choice of Mongolian Tea (Milk, Green Tea and Salt) or Coffee. These train journeys are a time to relax and are generally quite sociable, so I came from my perch and sat with the 3 others, who didn’t speak a word of English, and I could only muster the words I had picked up along the way which didn’t really amount to much. The guy opposite me was in his 40’s he was travelling with his wife and her friend. Seeing that I was down from above he took this as a time to proudly open up a package that was covered in newspaper wrappings and unveiled a grand portion of dumplings. He offered them to me, so without having chance to think, I picked one out and doing what I normally do, I ripped it in half and looked at what nasties were inside. I must have pulled a face. It was jam packed full of mutton, but what did I expect, Tofu, Linda McCartney’s pretend sausage, or maybe a bit of couscous? I tried to tell them that I was vegetarian. I dumped it on the table and refused it, I might as well have folded my arms and spat my dummy out. Of course this was done with just about as much tact as a punch in the nose. I mean why didn’t I just eat it? Their suspicions that I was maybe not from around here may have just been aroused around about that point. The Tupperware box came out next and I wasn’t offered any of this. In the box it looked like long cut flat pieces of mushroom, it had that dark colour and texture, it was accompanied by some chopped onions. It was that Mongolian classic dish of boiled horse’s stomach. I probably pulled another judgemental face. They were cocking their heads back so they could get the whole thing down their throat in one go as if they were eating some liquorice lace, slurping and sucking up that beautiful horses tummy.

They loved it.

The husband left the compartment briefly, I took the dumpling and pushed it to the bottom of my empty cup of coffee, I topped it with some rubbish trying to hide my shame. I climbed back to the top bunk and ate my Cheese and Onion Crisps. I didn’t offer anybody anything.

If you have some time to kill and want to see how Mongolian border control works then cross the border into China on a lazy Sunday morning…. Jeeps, throwing rocks at them, kicking the doors in, smashing up innocent cars, woman pissing in the back of the car….

IMG_2415.jpg
boiling sheeps stomach, similar to a horse, but a sheep instead.....

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 02:49 Archived in Mongolia Tagged train soft mongolia seat mutton kupe Comments (2)

Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk

all seasons in one day
View Overland debacle on beatski's travel map.

Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk – 29th September to 1st October

I don’t eat Pork, and I haven’t eaten Pork for about 10 years. That is up until this train journey when pork managed to find its way into my stomach. My 50 hour trip from Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk started with a solo occupant in my carriage, when I woke another two had appeared. I had introduced myself to the solo traveller the previous night, he was travelling to Novosibirsk for work, though that was where the broken conversation ended.

The two new arrivals, an older couple, Grandma and Grandpa, I learned were heading Ulan-Ude, they had just been to Tyumen to visit his 90 year old mother. I was invited down from my upper bunk to share tea with them all on the first morning. It was amazing how much we could talk by just using my basic phrase book and good old fashioned sign language. We managed to get by like that for nearly 10 hours.

Grandma was called Galina and she was traditionally Russian, she was probably in her mid to late 60’s, with dyed red hair, she could talk forever and I never knew what she was going on about, but she was unbelievably kind, it was almost like I was a guest in her home she was so generous. Anatoni was married to Grandma and struggled to get a word in, he was a slight guy around the same age, baldy head sat in the cabin with his tracky bottoms and his white Bruce Willis Vest. All of his bottom teeth were made from gold, I wanted a picture of his teeth but he wasn’t playing ball.

I had heard of Russian hospitality but that has been limited to the vodka swigging soldiers who drink you into an alcoholic coma. I hadn’t expected this kind generosity I was received from these two great wrinkly old Russian Fogies who would have been 12 foot tall each if i had gave them a good iron.

They had laid out all of their food on the table and insisted that I eat. Everything that I offered them in return they declined, which is a shame, I had healthy portions of fresh and dried fruit, nuts (including Cashews!!), and some cup-o-soups, I had also bought some chocolate Russian Dolls which I thought would be a rationed delicacy, not any more apparently. I suppose they didn’t like my culinary choice, and preferred to eat and share their own. I did manage to get them to drink one of my Camomile teas I had bought, though they pulled out some Mongolian concoction of Tea and Herbs and managed to top trump me.

They found it really difficult to digest that I was travelling solo and that I was in Russia of all places, they hadn’t heard of anything like it. They couldn’t get to grips with it and were genuinely baffled by it all. Often the conversation would come back to the same subject. They kept pointing to “Pachimo?” in the phrase book, “Why??” I actually couldn’t answer them, thinking about it, I couldn’t genuinely answer an English speaking person if they asked me the same thing, so I found the word Crazy in Russian and used that, yeah they liked that one..!!

I was their entertainment in the cabin, and I didn’t mind, I felt as if I was being hosted by my Grandparents without the obligatory Sherry. I got my phone out and scrolled through all of the photo’s to show her England and all of my friends, Grandma got excited looking through them, she used her own finger to see how it she could navigate through the gallery, she was like Mick Dundee going up an escalator, didnt have a clue what to do.

When they spoke together I could pick up words such as “internet”, they were experiencing the modern world first hand, they hadn’t been expecting it, they shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads, they just couldn’t get to grips with the modern world.

And that is when I ate Pig, I was all excited and caught up in the hospitable nature of my new Old Fogie Friends, eating all of their food. They had pulled out a fully cooked chicken, some kind of salmon caviar and some white stuff I had assumed to be fish. It was only when I looked up in the phrasebook that I realised that I was eating Pig. I won’t be doing that again, but next time I think I need to bring a menu that is not limited to fruit and nut.

I couldn’t thank them enough, I wrote them a note in Russian to thank them, they had been so hospitable and I could not repay them at all. I left the train at 02:30 but they both got up out of bed to make me my last cup of tea with them and to also wave me off the train. On the platform she spoke to a Russian Soldier and asked him to show me into a ‘safe’ taxi, she was worried about me getting to my hotel safe, bless…. (which will lead me to another story). In the note I left my email address but I don’t expect to get an email back, but you never know, the modern world is catching up with them very quickly, so I will check my inbox none the less.

IMG_1792.jpg
Note to my new Granny

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 05:27 Archived in Russia Tagged train russia irkutsk yekaterinburg baboshka Comments (3)

The Red Arrow

St Petersburg to Moscow

sunny 18 °C

St Petersburg to Moscow – on the Red Arrow – 22nd September

I had been looking forward to my first overnight train trip for a while, all of my journeys so far had been during the day. The journey from St Petersburg to Moscow can of course be done during the day time and recently can be done in around 4 hours on the fast train. However, the traditional way of doing it is by overnight train. The Red Arrow is the most prestigious of the overnight trains, it is a Russian Institution, each night travelling from one city to the next from midnight to 08:00 each morning. If I was going to travel overnight then I was going to do the Red Arrow. I had thought about booking it in the UK and paying agency fees but in the end I had managed to purchase all of my tickets in Russia for Russian prices which was a real bonus.

As the train departs music of the Russian national anthem plays on the speaker system, you are shown to your cabin by the courteous staff and you are given your bedding. I was not totally accustomed to the practice but watched others and followed suit. A big surly German guy came in smelling of Vodka, he broke the ice immediately in the cabin by shaking everybodies hands vigorously before crashing out in a drunken stupor. I spoke briefly to a Belgian guy but then insisted that he get off my bed because I was fooking knackered. I had been waiting around for the whole day to get this damn train, I had had to check out of my room at 11am and had been essentially homeless for all of that time, naturally I wanted to sleep.

Anyhow, Rio, a Japanese guy who was in St Petersburg on business waited for me to depart, and whilst he was there I asked him to take a photo of me by the train……

IMG_1556.jpg

If you look hard, i am behind all of those people.....Thanks Rio, it’s a keeper that one…..

Arriving at St Petersburg, the Russian anthem played again, I had had a good sleep and was ready to tackle Moscow and the Moscovites…..Bring it on!!

IMG_1558.jpg

A Smiling Russian???? Never!!!

IMG_1562.jpg

Inside the Cabin....

IMG_1560.jpg

IMG_1559.jpg

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 05:02 Archived in Russia Tagged moscow the train red petersburg rio st arrow anthem Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 6) Page [1] 2 » Next