00:35… Time to board the famed trans Siberian and start the journey part-way across the world!
The train pulled up and it was a rather standard affair getting on, a quick inspection of the passport and ticket by the ‘provonista’ also known more affectionately by us as our ‘carriage attendant lady’ and you were on board with all the other hordes trying to locate their cabin and turn the bizarre pop music blaring out, off (that may have just been us but it was ruddy awful). We located our cabin, our ‘home’ for the next 4 nights and had our first encounter with a local Russian lady. Though we were in a 4 berth cabin we only had one room mate for a fair while, the first for just a few hours. She wondered off around 5 am so I relocked the door. Which was a mistake as not long after there was banging on the door to let another passenger in. It was 5 am so not the time to be acquainting oneself with the newbie so I quickly scurried back to my slumber and did my best ‘honest I’m asleep’ look (used frequently – and perfected – over the duration of this journey).
Come morning I woke up a little bleary eyed to be greeted with the chirpiest Russian lady going. We were roomies for the next day and night and we shared (in broken English and hand gestures) stories, and countless songs and videos of the lady’s favourite bands, her dancing and photos of her family. It was a great way to take a look into the life of a local and we had a good giggle. The lady was exceptionally generous and shared her food, gave us a jar of honey from her brother’s garden and even left us a little fruit parcel. We shared our grub and have her a stash of Yorkshire tea bags to take on her way.
This was the general set up of the whole journey – walks of life come and go and there are a few general exchanges.
Perhaps the most important thing, right?! 4 days and 4 nights on a train means that food must be given a lot of thought!! At the end of each cabin there is a samovar (water boiler) providing constant clean, drinkable and boiled water. With this in mind we armed ourselves with tea bags (the aforementioned Yorkshire beauties), soup and a couple of the dreaded (and disgusting) pot noodles. Alongside this we took bread, cake, fruit, biscuits, crisps and cheese triangles. Oh and a huge jar of Nutella which was heavenly.
On the platforms at longer stops you can hop off and buy some goodies. For us, we stuck to ice cream because we couldn’t be sure whether anything was veggie friendly or not… Back on board, there is a restaurant car serving a few bits and bobs which is not great but if you fancy something hot and the luxury of being sat at a table then it can be ideal!
… The dreaded subject. When reading up about the trans Siberian before making the decision to do it we were aware that cleaning facilities (think shower) were non-existent. We saw pictures of the toilets and are glad to say that when we inspected them on-board, thankfully they were not bad at all. Our carriage lady kept them in tip top condition and there is a little sink which even gives out hot water! Perfect for an awkward attempt to wash your hair a little bit. The only thing to note is that the toilets would be locked just before rocking up into a station, throughout the duration of the stop and a little while after. For the longer stops one should time their tea drinking accordingly…
Did not appear to set in! What a result. There is only so much boredom you can prepare for… And I was most surprised to find It never came! I was too busy taking in the experience, looking at the ever-changing scenery, chatting to various people and, of course, eating. I barely found time to read my stash of books let alone begin to suffer from a dose of psychotic maddening due to being enclosed in the same, tiny space for 4 days straight. In short, fear not, if I can get by without turning into a fruit loop and actually enjoying myself, then so can you!
So, that is life on board the transsiberian in a virtual, blog-post shaped nutshell. Find out about our second Russia city of Irkutsk and our trip to the biggest freshwater lake in the world next…