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L&L On the Road Lars & Louise on a world-sampling tour

Moscow to Irkytsk by Train, Oct 8-13

RUSSIAN FEDERATION | Tuesday, 13 October 2009 | Views [986]

Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod

On Wednesday evening, we boarded an overnight train from Moscow’s Yaroslavski station to Nizhny Novgorod. We had our first experience of a night in a hard sleeper (a 54 bed carriage) - alright for an overnight train, but maybe not that comfortable for a couple of days straight. We spent one day in Nizhny, which is a rather small town centred on a red Kremlin. It appeared as if it could be very beautiful in the summer, but when we arrived it was raining and the skies were grey. Good thing we brought wind jackets and beanies. Nonetheless we managed to find a great restaurant, where we spent the evening feasting on Russian culinary specialities such as cow tongue with horse radish and Volga pike, washed down with kvas (Russian soft drink) and vodka with horse radish - absolutely exquisite.

Nizhny Novgorod – Kazan

Another overnight hard sleeper and we arrived in Kazan. Kazan is the capital of the republic of Tatarstan (Muslim). At the station we are greeted by two very friendly Russians who thought it was interesting to see two Swedes arriving in Kazan on their way to the Far East. Apparently, most people who travel on the Trans-Siberian make very few stops and Kazan does not seem to be one of them. Kazan turned out to be a pretty sleepy town, but it had a fantastically beautiful white Kremlin (UNESCO world heritage). Inside the Kremlin there is a pretty mosque which we spent some time photographing.

Kazan – Omsk

After having strolled around Kazan for a day, we decided to gain some momentum and get on a train to Omsk, which is basically two nights and one day on the train from Kazan. This time we treat ourselves to a kype ticket which is basically a four bed compartment. Here, we made our first real acquaintance with Russian drinking culture as we shared the compartment with Albert, a train worker on his way home from Kazan. He asked me if we are ok with him having a drink before going to bed and I agreed. Soon, the compartment was filled with his buddies (i.e. other train workers on their way home) and the vodka, and associated nibbles came out. We spent the night drinking and talking until Albert became so drunk that I could no longer understand a word of his Russian. Luckily, he had already had a few before boarding the train so this happened well before I had had too much myself. Omsk, which we thought would be a major city (after all, it is supposed to have some 900K inhabitants), turned out to be pretty dull. We arrived at 5 in the morning, chilled at the station for a couple of hours and then took in all the sights in our guidebook by mid morning. The jazz club that we had been looking forward to was closed. Now what? After being informed that there were no tickets to the quaint student city of Tomsk, which we had been thinking about as our next stop, we decided to board a train all the way to Irkytsk.

Omsk - Irkytsk

Again, this entailed two nights and one day on the train so we opted for the slightly pricier Kype. This train (which is the Moscow to Beijing line – train 20) turned out to be much nicer than any of the previous ones. In the Kype, there was even a television – personally I think it ruins the experience slightly and so we never turned it on. This was a much calmer trip as the two other berths in the compartment were occupied by ladies and, alas, no vodka drinking ensued. Sadly, not much Russian conversational practice either but we arrived significantly better rested!

All the best, Lars

To answer various questions about hygiene on the trans-siberian – I believe it’s only a concern for those who do it all in one go! There are shower rooms for rent on most train stations (the Omsk one is really nice!) and you do get a small towel on the train… To use as one see fit!

Lou

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