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Train ride to Moscow

RUSSIAN FEDERATION | Saturday, 29 December 2007 | Views [452] | Comments [1]

Hello again, this time from Moskva!!  I can't believe I actually made it, not because of any misadventure this time, but because it took 78 hours on the train from Irkutsk!! 

I got to the Irkutsk station with plenty of time to spare, and actually found my carriage and berth this time ;)  There were plenty of grumpy Russians on board (I don't know why they have an aversion to smiling) so I was relieved to see Gabriel 'Frenchy' walk into my berth. I could actually spend the next 3 days with a friendly face and someone who could speak English!  Woohoo! :)

As far as the journey itself went, there was lots of the same stuff every day. The provodnitsas like to keep a clean and orderly train, and there extra services on this leg, my favourite being the free daily coffee which I think they serve with a scoop of caramel instead of sugar - very yummy! The food on the dining cart was pretty bland and there wasn't much laughter coming from there, so I tended to stick to myself and live off the noodles and apples I picked up earlier.  Frenchy and I hung out in the berth either reading, chatting or doing crosswords to pass the time, but I enjoyed watching the Russian landscape roll by my window. Hour after hour, the pine forest and thin woodlands all cloaked in 3 feet of snow or more would pass by, only to be broken up by small villages of wooden houses (also buried under snow). We'd stop at the larger towns for some fresh air - too damn fresh in one case as it was -25C outside - but it gave me a chance to stock up on sausage or choclate from the babushkas on the platforms.

Keeping track of the time was a bit of a game as we moved through 5 hours difference between Irkutsk and Moscow. That also played havoc with my sleeping patterns, if you could call it that, being broken up by various station noises and the rocking of the train along the way. It always seems dark as the sun doesn't rise until about 8.30am and then sets about 4.30pm so being in a half daze was probably typical of train lag?

Anyway, Frenchy and I celebrated the crossing between the Asian and European continents with a vodka and some chocolate before retiring for more hours of reading or crosswords :).

The whites, greys, browns and blacks of the passing country side continued, and I couldn't get the melody of Pieter and the Wolf out of my head. I expected to see wolves bounding through the thick snow chasing rabbits or birds, or fleeing from huntsmen! The imagination goes a little haywire after 3 days in a small space :) In fact the only wildlife I saw were the small finch-like birds pecking for scraps on the platforms! At one point I could also imagine the poor souls being sent to the Gulag on a similar journey many years ago, albeit without our modern comforts like a blanket!

So it was with some relief when we arrived. I was met by my transfer driver, a burly bloke who probably moonlights as a club bouncer after hours, and he hurriedly escorted me to his car (without carrying my bags, hmmph). It was peak hour and I was daunted once again at the size of this city - its massive! My driver lightened up a bit when I told him I was from Australia, and in broken Russian, English and bits of German we managed to get to the hotel without too much drama. Except I led him to the wrong building! The Izmaylovo hotel was built to hold the athletes in the Moscow olymics and boasts over 8000 beds in 4 massive blocks, making it the biggest hotel in Europe! So when he left me at one building, and I found out it was the wrong one, I lugged my 20kg of gear around to the right building, got past the security checks and finally rested my tired arse on a decent bed on the 23rd floor. It has great views but not of the city centre :)  After a welcome hot shower and shave I grabbed a quick snack from a cafe downstairs, watched a few minutes of tv, then crashed out.

Today I have to figure out how to get into Red Square and as nothing is in English, I might pass on taking the 'Metro' (local train) and taxi it instead. I'll keep you all informed :)

Tags: On the Road



Mattso, so glad you made it to Moscova on your diet of noodles, apples, sausage and chocolate. Was that your Christmas dinner? Enjoy the city and keep up with your writing.

  Mum Dec 29, 2007 10:39 PM

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