Life on the Trans-Siberian train falls into a steady routine
04.07.2011 - 04.07.2011 20 °C
Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia
Awakening to our regular routine we enjoy tea and coffee from the Samovar along with breakfast in our upper bunks. At the end of our bunks a shelf extends into the space above the corridor. This serves as an excellent pantry and storage space. It is starting to feel very much like a temporary home, from home. Daily life on board continues to resemble camping, although, as the temperature starts to drop and an adhoc rain shower passes over, the permanence and resilience of our roof, over canvas, is appreciated.
Our first, thirty minute, stop of the day is Krasnoyarsk. This provides just enough time to view the Lenin mural outside the station building. Whilst we know the schedule of the train leaving her behind, with most of our worldly goods on board, is still a little disconcerting. For that reason, with pictures taken and fresh bread for lunch we return to our compartment, with plenty of time to spare.
As in previous days, with the train back in motion we return to the restaurant car mid-morning for a cup of tea, a comfortable seat and a catch up on blogging and reading. Walking down the train reveals the track flashing past us as we hop between railway cars. Whilst a walkway exists it is not completely enclosed, as we have seen elsewhere. As has become common the restaurant car is deserted apart from two rather bored and sullen looking attendants. Whilst the service is somber, if not rude, the view outside of forests and arable lands passing by continues to provide interest.
We are now halfway to Beijing, having travelled some 2,500 miles of our 5,000 mile rail journey. As morning passes into afternoon the railway skirts the foothills of the Sanya Mountains, endless taiga forests (northern pine, fir, spruce and larch forest) and a real sense of wilderness and remoteness is generated.
In places the taiga forests become broken by large swathes of mildly hilly arable land, the landscape resembling that of North Yorkshire, where small wooded copses dot the landscape. It was surprising to find such a visual reminder of home in, what is often portrayed as, the barren Siberian wilderness – which so far has failed as an accurate descriptor.
Later in the afternoon we stop at Nizhneudinsk (we think!) where Cossacks first built a small fortress in 1649 and for over two centuries served as important centre for gold and fur traders. Yet, with the temperature of the train kept at a pleasant 21c but the chilly outside temperature dropping below that we limit our exploration to purchasing water and a rather tasty waffle stick, filled with caramel, from a local Babushka.
Outside of these small towns, the villages and hamlets pass us by periodically. With a general mournful and sad looking exterior their typically wood buildings with corrugated iron roofs look inhospitable in the height of summer. It is difficult to understand how their residents struggle through the privations that a Siberian winter must bring. What vehicles we see on the road are generally extremely old and uncomfortable looking. Ex army vehicles, mix with dilapidated buses and a multitude of old 1980s style Ladas, for it is the latter that appears to be the made of most common use, if not choice, in Siberia. The large black limousines of Moscow are now long gone. This is Asian Russia a land that time appears, genuinely, to have forgotten.
Returning to the restaurant car for supper, Trey is fortunate that her first choice – an excellent garlic filled meat Borsch – was available. None of my choices could be supplied by chef, that evening, so yet again I am relegated to a cold picnic, later in the compartment. Tomorrow, we will leave the train in Irkutsk for what we both hope will be warm food, a warm shower and a WC that is not constantly bouncing.