Mosow to Irkutsk, 15th-19th July
Irkutsk Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Got dropped off at the front of Moscow train station at 10pm. The station was like Kings Cross at rush hour with a really pungent smell! We had no idea which platform we should be heading to, and obviously couldn't read any signs, but after a little bit of sign language with a station attendant, we negotiated our way round the the drunks and beggars (taking a couple of them out along the way with the large rucksack I wasn't yet used to carrying) to find the train.
The train wasn't leaving until 11.25pm, so we had a bit of a wait before we could board, but at around 11pm we were able to head up the platform to find our carriage. Our tickets were checked by the matronly provost as we climbed on board and made our way to our cabin.
First impressions??....quite pleasantly surprised actually.....there was a reasonable amount of space for 2 people and the cabin was pretty clean too. The cabins are actually designed for 4, but we opted to pay for 'first class', which really means buying out the other two seats/beds to ensure we had the cabin to ourselves. Definitely a wise move if you suffer from claustraphobia!
As the train pulled out of the station, Smurf and I toasted the trip with some champers courtesy of a very nice flight attendant on British Airways. Clearly not quite in hard core traveller mode at this point, but at least the fizz was in a tin cup and not a glass flute!
After unpacking and making my bed for the next 3 nights, I trundled off to the toilet to brush my teeth. British Rail should take note! The loo was clean, there was paper and hand towels, and only a minor smell of wee.
My first night's sleep wasn't too great - the train was pretty noisy and the bed rather hard, but I still managed to sleep until about 10am. I woke to a fresh brew from Smurf - such a well-trained travelling companion....Shame I fell asleep again before I could drink it!!
Day 1 on the train consisted of familiarising ourselves with the train timetable, which we discovered on a leaflet in our cabin. This made life a lot easier, because it told us how long each stop would be, which meant we knew how much time we had to get off the train to buy more supplies.
Our lunch consisted of the first of what was to be many meals of salami, guerkins, cheese and bread... quite tasty really but it kinda loses it appeal after the 6 consecutive time on the menu.
We hit our first train stop later that afternoon.... It was quite increadible...all these vendors seemed to appear from nowhere. To my surprise, they were mainly selling cuddly toys, which is clearly very useful merchandise for people on a 3 day train ride!! However, among the blue and pink non-fire resistant bears were a few old ladies selling what I call proper organic strawberries and raspberries - complete with catepillars for extra flavour. We had to buy some of those, and I expect paid 3 times the price, but who cares, they were still dirt cheap and pretty tasty too. We even attempted to make cocktails with them later that day - not quite such a success....
The story is much the same for the next couple of days...We read a bit, slept a bit, played a fews games.
Anyway, in terms of the scenery....not a huge amount to talk about really...The landscape was pretty flat but very green and did start to get a bit more interesting the further into Siberia we got. We passed through quite a number of Siberian villages... The houses have very slopped roofs, obviously for the snow to fall of easily, and are made from wood. Can't say they look too warm though, given that it gets to -50 degrees in winter!!
We had to wake up pretty early on the Thursday to be ready for our arrival into Irkutsk.
On arrival in Irkutsk, we were met by a tour guide and headed off by mini van with 6 others, to a small village called Bolshoe Goloustnoye on the edge of Lake Baikal.