Saturday 7th to Monday 9th September: Trans-Siberian
The next three days travel seemed to merge into one as we continued across Siberia getting closer to European Russia.The scenery was pretty similar forest, farmland, grassland, small villages, and rivers repeated over and over.
I started to look forward to the stops more, enjoying the 20 minutes or so to get out of my compartment, have a stretch, maybe buy a drink or snacks and say hello to a few other people.
As far I could work out I was one of eight people who were travelling all the way through from Beijing to Moscow in one. Four Japanese guys, Tracey and Travis and a chap from Hong Kong who lived in Beijing. I had expected a bit more life on the train, but it was nearly empty. I had the whole carriage to myself from Ulaanbaatar and most other carriages were pretty much empty.
Each carriage has two conductors to look after the passengers and the carriage. One of the things you can’t help but do is observe how they fill their days. As there were hardly any passengers it didn’t seem very busy. Although I’m not sure this would change even if the train was full. All the conductors on the train were Chinese going all the way to Moscow before returning to Beijing.
There days revolved around eating, one of them would be constantly cooking in their little kitchenette and producing quite elaborate multi-course meals for their colleagues. Rolling out pastry for fresh dumplings, stewing lumps of beef and chopping vegetables kept them busy. While not cooking or eating they spent their time asleep or smoking which they would do exclusively indoors with the windows closed, never on the platform. They did not spend anytime cleaning especially not the toilet.
There other main job was to keep the boiler stocked which ran on a coal fire heating the water I used for coffee and noodles everyday. My day started with those everyday and some dried fruit. Then for lunch hopefully some russian pastries stuffed with mystery meat, potato or sometimes jam sold on the platforms at little kiosks. That’s if I could come find them, otherwise it was back to noodles.
In the evenings for a bit of a break from the isolation in my compartment, I’d join Travis and Tracy for some beer and perhaps some food from the restaurant cart. The options there diminished everyday as we got closer to Moscow. We did mange to try a variety of beers over our trip, all lager apart from one very sweet fruit beer.
Much excitement, well in my compartment (after 48 hours of trees) anyway when we crossed from Asia into Europe, 1777km from Moscow. There is a small monument marking the occasion that I managed to capture. The whole Russian route is marked per kilometre rolling down to zero in Moscow. With a guide-book this makes it easy to work out where you in reference to any points of interest or next towns.
As I arrive in Moscow, I’m looking forward to a bed that doesn’t move, a shower, shave and hopefully not as much solitude as I’ve had for the last 4 days.This has been the longest I’ve been off-line in quite some time and it’s been quite enjoyable, something I should probably do more often. All in all it’s been a great train ride, comfortable and especially for the first three days amazing scenery. When the scenery died down a bit I was very glad of a book to read. One last shot of a happy to arrive Tom, my beer buddies Travis and Tracey and the sign we had been waiting for.
Now to explore Moscow!