So off we go, out in the snow!!! First stop lunch!! We were given a very 'traditional’ Russian lunch of solyanka soup, what appeared to be a boiled lamb and beef meat patty with potatoes and asparagus. To finish, nothing else but some pancakes. We ate in what would have been an old restaurant in the 18th
century. This was also our first stop, the open air wooden architecture museum in Taltsy. This is an old town built from wooden houses etc
. from all different eras in Siberia and gives you a good feel for how they used to live. As we had just had some fresh snow I was very interested in throwing snowballs at Steve!! Tried to build a snowman but Steve ruined it L we did however, get to play on an old school swing which you have to stand on. I wasn’t very good at pushing but Steve got the knack of it so I just went along for the ride. Good thing I didn’t have to pop to the loo whilst we were there as they don’t have inside or flushing toilets yet. Steve tells me the holes were nice and shallow though.
Then off to town for a city tour. We saw the oldest brick building, which was of course a church. During the soviet period the church was painted white, however, 2 years ago it was handed back to the church and they have begun to restore it. Whilst doing so as they were removing the white paint they discovered a mural on the outside wall as it appeared the white paint did not stick to it. This was regarded as a miracle by the followers of the church.
We went past some of the old houses in the city. These are made of wood and are now heritage listed properties. Back when the whole city was made of wood there were many fires, after the last major fire broke out they decided to start to build out of brick on the main roads and use this as a fire wall for the city, it worked and there have been no major fires since
. This got the city the nickname of ‘Little Paris’. The houses were given to families by the government in the early days of soviet rule. Most of these houses are sinking or need a lot of repair, as most of the families that still live in them cannot afford this, they are just slowly rotting away.
They have a statue of Alexander III in tribute to building the trans-Siberian railway. All the materials were bought from stops along the way and this was the only way they would have been able to build this monument. However, during soviet times the actual Alexander III part of the monument was melted down to make weapons for the soldiers and therefore is now a replica.
We were then left to our own devices for a few hours before heading back to the station for our next journey. We were on a mission to get a shot glass for Steve. On our way we found a very interesting phone booth, looked like it also doubled as a library?? There were loads of books in there as well and the whole thing was about double the size of a normal phone booth.
So a bit of pub grub for dinner and finally some cheap wine!!! I was starting to think this didn’t exist in Russia, but luckily for me I found it on my last day J
So we are now on our Mongolian leg of the journey
. So no more Russian trains and we join the only Mongolian carriage in the whole train. Well what a surprise this was. Frist of all our cabin was locked as the steward and her family (assuming this part but they seemed to multiply) had put their stuff in our cabin. So had that unlocked and out goes there stuff, well most of it anyways. Our guide then tells us to check under the seats as it is common they will buy food cheap in Russia and then take it to Mongolia which is not allowed. Checks under the seats are cleared. However, on the top bunks shelves there are boxes of stuff. We are told this will be ok as it is in the open. Hmmmmm, I am really not so sure now. Not happy Jan. After we take off the woman comes in and tells us this is mine, well yes sweetheart we know this so take them, but no she didn’t want them (even though her family had now found a new home). So Steve tells me to let it go so I try. Then when we try to put some extra blankets in the overhead storage the blankets don’t seem to want to go. Well what do you know we now have two trays of red apples with us as well!! Seriously not happy now and don’t trust a word the say or ask for. They don’t seem to be very nice either, not living up to the standard of Mongols I say as they are supposed to be friendly!! Now that rant is over, let me tell you about the train. Well it is exactly the same as the Russian trains but green on the outside and red décor on the inside. However, our toilets are in much better condition (not that it was hard to beat) and they appear to have a ladies and gents which is nice as there are only about 5 ladies on our carriage!!
However, they do say the Chinese trains are the best so let’s see what they have in store!!!
So early breakfast this morning so we are ready to rock and roll at 11am. Well so we thought, what is going on here, snow outside??? So we are stuck, now going to be picked up at 12pm. England would have freaked out!! Within 2 hours 2 inches of snow had fallen and it didn't seem to faze the locals. They were still determined to get the car out (even if it meant pushing it out of the garage and back again).