Odd Job and the Mongol Traders

Trip Start Feb 13, 2006
Trip End Aug 29, 2006

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Flag of Russia  ,
Thursday, February 16, 2006

The noise of the train and in particular the door that was broken and thus rattled continuously kept me awake for most of the night, also due to the window that wasn't properly sealed the temperature in the room had plummeted. It was so cold in fact that it hurt to breath, I put my fleece on and got out my sleeping bag. The water that I had bought the night before had frozen, so it was definitely bellow freezing in the room. The Russian provodnik (attendants) got out the coal and the room went from one extreme in temperature to the other. The scenery out the window was much the same as last night. I had not got bored of starring out the window though and did so for the first part of the day. I was surprised to find out a third of the worlds tree existed in Russia. The Mongolian traders were very noisy shouting banging doors and their favorite activity opening our door and starring at us. At first we thought they had just got the wrong door, but this continued throughout the day so there was no chance of it being a mistake. One such Mongolian was huge, he waddled down the corridor with authority, he look like odd job from James Bond fame. We kept meeting down the corridor, I would be force to move out his way as quickly as possible. Walking between carriages was a skill in itself. Two metal plate resting on each other we all the was separating us from the ground. The train would rock back and forth the plates would rattle and jump and you could clearly see the ground below. Matters were complicated further by the ice that had formed on the plates making them very slippery. Lorraine and I went down to the restaurant cart to see what delights were on the menu. The menu was extensive, you could have anything you wanted as long as it was chicken, chicken or chicken. There was also Shnizle but that also turned out to be chicken. The first stop of the day was Kirov and a chance to get out of the train briefly and have a quick look around. We could judge how long before the train was to leave by the movement of the Mongolian traders, who all jumped off trying to sell their goods to any unsuspecting customers, unfortunately there were none. That didn't stop them shouting trying to sell to each other, like a practice run honing their skills. Each trader wearing 5 jackets each, carrying a further 5, odd job at one time was wearing a fetching pink woman's jacket, no one dared laugh though. Strangely enough the only people they didn't bother trying to sell to was us. Not wanting to push our luck we got back on the train. We pasted the first time zone, it was clear this would make life quite confusing in the coming days. The day past relatively quickly I spent my time reading up on the next stop and looking out the window at the points of interest listed in the handbook. We arrived at Belezino, Paul, Lorraine and myself got off to try our luck getting some goods from one of the kiosks. Pointing and nodding got us some of the way, settling for anything close was good enough. We stocked up on dry goods as there was a free supply of hot water on the train. On closer inspection it turned out that most of what we had bought turned out to be out of date, I figured that dried goods would be ok though, hopefully. The next stop was Perm, 1436 kms from Moscow, a city of just under 1 million inhabitants. The Mongolians were out in force again as they were at every station. Scared looking Russians trying to move out of their way not liking the hard sell. It was about time to try the local tipple so I bought some beers from a kiosk. The beer was actually quite nice but was soon gone. Yekaterinburg the next stop was one that I wished I had some time at. The birth place of Boris Yeltsin, the place where the Romanov family was murdered, their remains being found near by in the early 90's and the place where the U2 spy plane was shot down. Parts of the plane and Gary Powers survival kits were proudly on display at at a museum there. By now feeling brave Paul and I got off and made a run for it under the underpass and to the front of the building to see what we could see. A thought ran through my head that the guards would not let us back on after leaving the station, we didn't even have tickets. It was too late for that we just had to hope for the best. There was not much to see at the front of the station so we took some photos and ran back, getting on the train ok. It was 2 in the morning Moscow time 4 local time, but for some reason I still didn't feel tired. We had 70 kms left of Europe, before passing over the Ural mountains and into Asia. A further 230kms from there was the start of Siberia. I managed to stay up long enough to see the beginning of Asia, but had to leave the sights of Siberia for another day.
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