Train grotting

Trip Start Jul 02, 2010
Trip End Aug 02, 2010

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Trans Siberian Railway

Flag of Russia  , Siberia,
Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 1

I'm not really sure how to write a blog about our journey on the 3.5 day train ride since it isn't actually listed as a destination but anyway, here goes.

After packing up our bags, having breakfast in the boiling hot dining room and picking up some more supplies, Ted and I waited in reception for our transfer to the station to arrive. John and Carla are traveling to Yekaterinburg today so we bade them farewell and hoped we would have some other people on our tour. We ended up meeting two Aussies who are on the train with us for the whole 87 hour journey – Jessie from Sydney and Seb from Melbourne who are traveling together. Our individual transfer drivers came – one driving a DHL van – and took us to the train station.

We waited around on the platform until our luxury train arrived and we could board. One definite advantage – it is much cooler than our train from St. P. Although when I asked the carriage attendant when the air conditioning would start, she pointed to the window. The next carriage has it so I’m guessing that’s the first class carriage?

There isn’t a shower on board but we did bring a shower head with us to use. But the water from the taps has a strange metallic smell so we decided to forego that idea. One of the smartest things we did was paid extra to have a 4 berth room to ourselves. Seb and Jessie are sharing with an elder Russian couple and the lack of room they have is really obvious. Trust me – it’s worth the extra money!

As soon as our 5185 kilometre journey started (not kidding), the four of us decided to check out the restaurant car. Service there was typically Russian (no explanation needed) and we weren’t even allowed to take photos. We ordered chicken and plenty of beers for lunch, but the food was pretty lame so I doubt we’ll be eating there again. One thing we’ve noticed since getting here – drinks are rarely served cold. Even Pepsi has a lukewarm feel about it. We met some Aussie ladies from an Intrepid tour group. It was reassuring that we weren’t the only non Russians aboard this local commuter train.

We tried to settle down for a nap but the excitement of the situation kept us awake. We played some games of UNO in our cabin until we arrived at our first major stop Iaroslavl. We were hoping to buy some food from the babushkas that are frequently on the platforms, but there weren’t any. We settled on an ice cream instead. Our second stop Danilov didn’t have any either. It was a good chance to talk to the locals on the train, including a Russian lady who could speak English.

We couldn’t exactly go out partying so we settled down early for the day ahead.


Today was our first full day on the train. Neither Ted nor I slept that peacefully. I think I woke about 20 times trying to get used to the movement and noise. We crossed the Ural mountains, which explained why we needed blankets in the middle of the night. Not that we’re complaining – we love the cool change.

We haven’t been able to charge the laptop using the power points here, so our big idea of watching movies hasn’t been very successful. Instead I read the book "Fish" which unfortunately you can read in an hour.

When we arrived at Balyezino, waiting for us on the platform were the world famous babushkas. These are old Russian ladies who sell all sorts of supplies, generally food they have cooked in their own kitchens, which is really good and cheap too. Ted and I bought some eggs and nuts as well as cooked meals, mainly steak and potatoes. They also sell plenty of beer, fruit (mainly raspberries), smoked fish and even stuffed toys if that’s your thing.

We met some of the other travellers in our carriage today, including Olga from Kazakhstan (an outgoing, hard drinking and smoking character), as well as Sveta and Anna, 17 year old twin sisters from Yekaterinburg. We offered a round of Tim Tams since we had no vodka yet to share. Not the same thing, but everyone liked them regardless.

When we reached the town of Perm, we raced out and bought salami to break up the monotony of Nutella. Our diets have been total chaos since we started this train trip – Nutella and bread for breakfast, salami sandwiches for lunch and pot noodles for dinner. With beer and Tim Tams in between.

When we arrived at Yekaterinburg, we were slightly remorseful. When we originally booked this tour, we had the option of disembarking at this town before continuing onto Irkutsk. We rejected the idea to save time but are now wondering if it was a smart idea?

After photographing the Europe/Asia border, Seb and Jessie came around to play cards before we were told by the carriage attendant to keep the noise down. As we’re heading east, we are crossing a total of 5 time zones during this trip making the days shorter each time. So I guess time flies when you’re having fun...


We slept better last night so maybe we’re finally adapting to this life-on-a-train schedule. Our daily routine involves either eating in our cabin, playing cards in the dining car, napping, talking to others or looking out the window. Although Ted did complain today that he was getting bored.

One good thing to pass time is the Trans Siberian Handbook by Bryn Thomas. All along the Trans Siberian route there are markers showing how many kilometers you are from Moscow, every kilometre. So this book is great in highlighting sights and significant histories of towns along the way.

Jess and Seb are not having any luck getting a cabin to themselves. After the Russian couple moved out last night, they were replaced with two giant Russian bears complete with snoring, body odor and flatulence. So they seem to enjoy hanging out in our cabin.

We reached the town of Omsk today. We went outside our comfort zone and walked out the front to take some photos, but then had a panic attack as we remembered reports that Russian trains frequently depart leaving passengers behind. Ours didn’t but we’re still trying to avoid it happening!

We avoided the dining car today – the service is very dour, and they cranked the air conditioning up (possibly to deter those who don’t buy food). Just as cold was the town of Barabinsk. Clearly this side of the Urals is a lot more pleasant. Another landmark was reached today as we crossed the halfway mark on this leg of our journey – we still have our sanity intact!

To break up the noodles monotony, I had instant buckwheat for dinner (as tasty as it sounds). We met some more of our fellow travelers, including Jonathan from Belgium and a whole group of Dutchie students in 3rd class. All this excitement assured we would need an early night tonight.


We had a really bad night’s sleep from the noise of the train last night. I’m not sure whether it’s just this train or all trains, but there was a lot of banging noise from below, which guaranteed a lousy night of rest.

Ted and I have the only cabin in our carriage where there is only the 2 of us in a 4 berth cabin. So it has become a real hive of activity with other people coming around to play cards, eat or just talk. We don’t mind – the company is always good.

We visited three towns today – Krasnoyarsk, Ilanskaya and Tayshet, which are easier to spell than they are to pronounce. All this train life has made us restless – we talk often about what we are craving most. Mostly a shower, followed by a real bed, a real meal and a sense of freedom!

Seb and I walked down to the 3rd class cabin to visit the Dutchies we had met earlier. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make it to see them – the smell from there drove us back. To give you an idea, these cabins are just a whole heap of bunks placed above and next to each other with no dividing walls between them. We half expected them to be playing harmonicas in there.

We had some really great scenery today as we headed further east. It was a great opportunity to photograph some smaller Russian villages but it wasn’t always easy as a train from the opposite direction seemed to always block your camera view. We met some more fellow travelers in the dining car (mainly Americans) over a few beers before retiring to our second class sleeping quarters. We arrive tomorrow – Hallelujah!
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elke jerome on

Hi guys, sounds like ur having a very interesting time, wish we were there with u. Good thinking having the cabin to not into sharing personel space with strangers, we r enjoying your travel blog very much. luv and hugs xxx

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