Bound for Siberia

Moscow Travel Blog

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A babushka selling food and different wares at one of the stations we stopped at on route to Irkutsk
Due to the lack of food and excessive alcomahol the night before I was well hung over when I woke up for my last day in Moscow. Somehow I had to make it to the Tretyakov Gallery for my last stint of sightseeing in Moscow. It was a struggle of epic proportions to get out of bed and out the door. But being the soldier I was, I battled on and made it there. Enjoying some of the best Russian art for close to 1.5 hours.

We then caught a transfer to the station to catch the 14:40 train to Irkutsk. Which would be our port of call to reach mystical Lake Baikal. Okay being the naiive  traveller that I am.
Random building at a train station
I didn't realise what 4 days straight on a train would entail. I knew it was 4 nights. But it didn't really sink in what that meant really. It's hard to say how much you will eat in 4 days. And more difficult to only buy food which doesn't require a fridge or any utensils to consume it. So rather than be a pioneer in train food and break new ground. I decided to stick with the tried and test. Pot noodles (as they have hot water on the trains). We all stocked up on pot noodles and pieces of fruit. I even chucked in a loaf of bread and some processed cheeses and other little nick nacks. I don't think its possible to carry all you need for the train in 2 shopping bags. As you can't fit anything in your backpack. 4 Litres of bottled water itself is one shopping bag. Anyway I didn't get enough food at the grocery store to cover me for the trip and had to resort to the babushkas on the platforms when we stopped daily.
Inside the cabins. Pardon the mess.
It was foolish of me to try really. My tip for anyone trying is not to. The food offered by the babushkas is fine, and will cover you. If not just head to the restaurant cabin.

A few hours out of Moscow and I'm already bored. God knows how I will survive 5 days and 4 nights. Luckily I did what all tourists do on the Trans-Siberian. I bought myself a copy of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy before I left London. Let me just say its essential reading on the Trans-Siberian. It not only puts alot of stuff you see in St Petersburg and Moscow in perspective, its actually a very entertaining book. This book and my iPod saved my sanity.

I think that struck me and was a whole new experience for me was waking up without anything to do for the day. So we would sleep in, wake up and think hang on a sec I've got nothing to do.
A dog doing his business in the middle of the train tracks
Nothing to see. Looking out of the window into the vast white canvas before us, is not entertaining at all. It might be different in summer, when you might actually be able to spot the different flora and fauna outside, which had been covered with a wide white brush when we were there. Another trait of travelling on the Trans-siberian is the people to meet and talk to. Since we went in Winter, there were limited tourists. So conversation with fellow travellers was limited. We didn't have any other travellers on our train except Russians who spoke little or no English at all. So there is a lot of card playing, a lot of reading and a lot of soul searching. With nothing else to do, it leaves you a lot of time to reflect on things.

In case your wondering about our vodka supplies.
The train to Irkutsk
We consumed the bottle on the first day whilst playing cards. We didn't think we needed that much. The funniest thing is that Russians consume a lot of Vodka. Back home, I would be the first to tell someone they had a drinking problem if they were polishing off a bottle of vodka a day. So it was bizarre sitting in the restaurant car playing cards whilst watching the guy sitting at the table next to us drink one bottle of Vodka by himself with his meal. That's crazy.

After a few days the days started to blend together. Without looking out the window it was hard to tell what time it was. And the fact that you can sleep in, your sleeping patterns turn into this wierd beast. You take naps throughout the day, and can be up reading in the middle of the night.

The funniest story on the train to Irkutsk was when I was woken up to screaming one morning and a black glove trying to open our door.
Preparing to board the train
The girls decided to tie a belt around our door handle to prevent people entering our cabin in the middle of the night. Althought it has a lock. As you do. It turns out the provonistas (sic) wanted to vacuum our room. After we undid the belt tied to the door she told us off as best as she could in broken english not to do that in future. I did spot a slight smirk on her face when she left our room though. She was probably just thinking silly tourists. It was definitely a weird way to wake up in the morning. If it wasn't the radio playing crazy Russian music, it was the provonistas waking you up.

By the end of the train journey I had nearly finished War and Peace and I was sick of pot noodles. It was inevitable after consuming it for close to 2 meals a day. I am also suffering from cabin fever. Prior to this experience I thought cabin fever was one of those made up things, along with the Lochness Monster and Leprachuans. It's hard to describe. It's like your going insane. Your brain slows down and you can't concentrate and can't sleep.
dfoo says:
Ok. Well it is an amazing experience, travelling by train never really appealed to me. But this changed all that. It really is a matter of the trains rather than the destinations. Meeting crazy people on the trains and getting cabin fever its all part of it.

I just wished I made the itinerary more epic now. In hindsight I would love to have done it for 2 months and added a few more cities.
Posted on: Apr 19, 2009
dyevushka says:
I rode the train from Moscow to Smolensk a few years ago... I haven't ridden the Transiberian (YET!) :)
Posted on: Apr 19, 2009
dfoo says:
When did you go?
Posted on: Apr 19, 2009
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A babushka selling food and differ…
A babushka selling food and diffe…
Random building at a train station
Random building at a train station
Inside the cabins. Pardon the mess.
Inside the cabins. Pardon the mess.
A dog doing his business in the mi…
A dog doing his business in the m…
The train to Irkutsk
The train to Irkutsk
Preparing to board the train
Preparing to board the train
This provonista was quite nice act…
This provonista was quite nice ac…
View from the cabin window.
View from the cabin window.
Moscow
photo by: eefab