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Trans-Siberian

overcast 27 °C
View Overland debacle on beatski's travel map.

Trans-Siberian

This is a post i should have published about a week ago but have only just finished it......

I'm 4663 kilometres into the Trans-Siberian, 4649km is the half way point between Moscow and Vladivostok the far eastern port town of Russia. In total once I have reached Irkutsk I think I will have ben on a train for about 80 hours or so, it is difficult to tell because the train runs on Moscow time, even though we pass through 5 or 6 different time zones, so you need two clocks to try and keep track. The problem with going east for so long is that the days become shorter and shorter, every 1000km or so I have to fast forward my watch by an hour.

I am travelling in Kupe Class which is second class, there are 4 bunks in the room and generally it is quite comfortable, I have been able to lay on my bed looking through the window at all the scenery that Siberia has to offer.

The Scenery….

Travelling at Russian train speed across the country you have time to take in the scenery at a very leisurely pace, this is not the Japanese Bullet Train by any means. I would say that it is a steady 60mph all the way with the constant banging and clattering that any 50 year old train would have developed over the years.

I have seen endless amounts of Silver Birch, perhaps thousands of kilometers of the trees, but what surprises me is that when there is a clearing in the wood you can see small villages that sit completely isolated from anything and any real apparent civilisation and you wonder how they manage at all. As you pass in the night you can see that these tiny wooden ruins are dimly lit from inside and if you look closer you can see people inside pottering around doing their domestic chores. It is inconceivable to imagine that these places are habited especially during the harsh Siberian winter when the temperature often drops down to -40degC for three months of the year. Surely they leave the village and go on holiday to Salou only to return once the land has thawed.

We make regular pit stops where I assume the driver takes one of those Technical Breaks that the Russians clearly enjoy. When we stop the train is swarmed by local tradesmen and women selling anything from smoked fish, fruit, beer to children’s books and fur hats.

Hang on, I think Grandpa Anatoni has just relaxed his bowels as I write this, I think maybe with his age he has little or no control over his movements, its understandable i guess when im his age ill have earned the right to fart anywhere in public also. Maybe i should fel sorry for Gramps, but the room is 27 degrees and there is no ventilation!!

Sorry, I digressed.....

Being on the train and being the only foreigner is slightly intimidating, if only for the group of guys that are travelling in the same compartment walking around with their tops off, probably going to the same destination as me with the intention to take possession of my worldly goods….. but maybe a bit of paranoia has set in which is understandable under the circumstances. I am alone in Siberia on a train with lots of Russians, what do I expect!! I think though that Grandma and Grandpa would protect me anyhow, she has a big handbag and I'm sure would teach those boys a lesson with it….. have no fear!!!

That of course is no reason not to enjoy the train experience, I am in a privileged position and am enjoying the lot of it!!

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temperature of cabin
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Platform Salesmen
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Silver Birch
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Journey to Irkutsk
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Small Siberian Village
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Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 03:10 Archived in Russia Tagged russia class irkutsk trans yekaterinburg siberian kupe Comments (0)

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.

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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)

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