A new month and a new journey
01.07.2011 - 01.07.2011 23 °C
Trans-Siberian express, Russia
As the schedule promised our Yekaterinburg train arrived some 20 minutes before it’s 00:30 departure time. Innovation on this sector of our journey allowed us to board using an electronic ticket. All we need do was produce our passports. Oh, that Russian bureaucracy were that easy to conquer. With the majority of passengers boarding our carriage with a ticket our Carriage Attendant or Provodnista told us in very expressive Russian that we could not get on the train, without a ticket. Given the late hour where we were to secure the said ticket was not apparent. With growing concern our attempts to understand how we might resolve the problem met only with unintelligible Russian and no helpful hand gestures. This could be an interesting night!
Our concern was, somewhat, abated when a Russian speaking couple were also given the same lecture about apparently requiring a paper ticket. Whilst they also looked concerned they did not make a run for the Ticket Office (if they had I would have followed) but produced a stream of what one can only guess was extremely pertinent comments about the lack of organization. Finally, with departure time nearing a paper list was produced. Our names upon it we were allowed to board. Next time we will just get the paper ticket, like we have for the rest of the journey!
Our four-berth compartment was very similar to that we had in the Ukraine. Yet, this time we would have to share. Prior to boarding Trey had been concerned about sharing with someone who might smoke (which is not allowed) or had a personal hygiene problem (which is a very common issue in Russia). What we faced was worse. A young lady, travelling with her father, daughter and cat! Trey is extremely allergic to cats I am allergic to small children keeping me awake all night! In a four bunk compartment this might still be an interesting night. As it was our time in the small compartment passed pleasantly and without problem. The cat hardly moved which helped with Trey’s allergy and the little girl just smiled every time she saw us. Indeed, later in the journey we played a jolly game of peek-a-boo (or cuckoo it would appear in Russia) much as my little niece enjoys playing, back in England.
Entering our compartment, hand gestures and smiles were enough to get our baggage stored, beds made and the lights out. Thirty minutes after departure we were both fast asleep, rocked by the gentle sway of the train as we headed to the east.
Waking later that morning after what must have been one of the best nights sleep I have ever had on a train we could lie in our upper bunks watching the ever changing but constant scenery of pine and beech trees pass us by. Infrequently, we would pass small villages of wooden houses apparently locked in a century different from the one we had left in Moscow. Most stops were for a few minutes yet at various times each day we would stop for thirty minutes or so. This allowed us to stretch our legs, purchases any essentials and partake of the food stuffs being sold by the many Babushka’s we were to see. Potato bread, eggs, pastries, fruit, ice cream and complete meals were often available. A lack of Russian was not a problem here. Hand gestures and pointing soon secured the desired produce. With provisions of our own and those available at stops, such as this, we were not going to starve as we crossed the time zones and landscape of Mother Russia.
It was during this first day on the train that we fell into the relaxing schedule of rising late, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, reading, partaking of a mid-morning nap, luncheon, reading, mid-afternoon nap and supper. Clearly, the toils of Moscow needed us to re-energize and so on this first day on the train we spent a happy day snoozing, eating and watching the forests of western Russia pass us by.
By late afternoon the restaurant car, a beer and supper called but not necessarily in that order. On this train the only menu offered was in Cyrillic. Not ideal. As we prepared to start acting various animal noises an English speaking tour group arrived in the restaurant car. Slightly loosened up from an afternoon of drinking vodka this small party of Australians and a lone Canadian provided us with welcome social intercourse for the rest of the evening. Even more importantly they brought with them a bi-lingual guide who could translate the menu for us. With her help we were soon tucking into ham and eggs, chicken and potato and enjoying a local beer. The food was not cheap but the pleasant company and ever changing landscape more than compensated.
Before long a few hours and many more miles had passed and we were once again ready to retire. Yet at one of the stops that evening, whilst we were enjoying the restaurant car, our compartment companions had departed the train. Their luggage gone all that remained of theirs was a small white napkin with ‘Goodbye’ written out in a child’s block letters. Sad that we had not said ‘goodbye’ to our Russian friends we settled in for a pleasant night, alone in our compartment for the first time.
With gentle slowing and acceleration sleep on the train fell relatively easily. Unlike many overnight trains that we have taken the line is very smooth and our bunks became a pleasant end to a busy day of doing nothing. Yet during the night one does stir. Dark outside I awoke to the sound of voices in the compartment. Baggage was being brought in and the bunks made. For a few hours we had been alone but now we had new companions. Far too late and dark for introductions I rolled over and was soon fast asleep, waking up the following morning on the very edge of Siberia.