OR AN INTRO TO TRAIN LIFE! HOORAY!
ALL ABOARD! IT’S TIME FOR TRAIN LIFE. THE ONCE IN A LIFETIME ADVENTURE ACROSS THE HUGE EXPANSE OF SIBERIA AND MONGOLIA ENDING IN BEIJING. BETTER KNOW AS THE TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS!
MIDNIGHT EXPRESS MOSCOW IRKUTZ. WELCOME TO OVER THREE DAYS OF RUSSIAN TRAIN LIFE. WELCOME TO TRAIN NUMBER 20.
ALERT! THINK IS RATHER GARBLED AND FOR YOUR HEALTH I SUGGEST HAVING A LARGE VODKA BEFORE READING IT. IT WILL THEN MAKE PERFECT SENSE!
I was knackered! My fatigue was down to my lurking all day in Moscow worrying about my initial boarding of the TRAN SIBERIAN EXPRESS. I was fretting after I had read that the station was difficult and there were sometimes long queues. Yuriy from Real Russia who organised my tickets throughout for me told me otherwise. As many of these articles, it was wildly inaccurate. It is a bit rough and you do have security for your luggage before getting onto the main station then later for going onto your platform, but its really very easy and as a single female traveller I had no problems at all so was ridiculously early and had to hang around eating things I didn’t want out of boredom. Yes there were a few drunken Russians and it was a fair drive out of town but realistically it was a breeze. Once your train number does come up your walk to the platform is about five minutes. Time for a quick coffee after your second security point and then to go to the train that only opens its doors ten minutes before departing.
I was shattered when finally I boarded the number 20 train at midnight. It was a huge relief to finally be standing stock still in my cabin and moronically staring at what would be my everything for the next three days. I had shown my passport and tickets to our provodnik after an anxious wait on the platform and climbed the steep metal steps. There had seemed to be so few of us. The silence that comes with snow softly crunching beneath your boots and the twenty or so passengers makes everything feel surreal. Now I was in my cabin I froze. All had been leading up to this and I was stunned I was finally here, the beginning of my train adventur WOOO HOOOOOO. This was it! CHOO CHOOOOOOO!!!
OR LIVING ON A LEGEND and MAKING IT HOME.
I was given my towels and sheets and a ” PODSTAKNIK” see below! The huge samovar was shown to me and that was it!
The sleep of the innocent.
You make up your own cabin and fall into bed exhausted and sleep like a baby with the wonderful lulling swaying of the train, only to be woken a couple of times at stations where the tannoys nag at stray travellers. At those times you turn over in your rather narrow bed. Later on, I quote from my handwritten journal that has curled pages and now looks like a Victorian document but heigh-ho, it is highlighted in blue and repeats some of what I’m saying today.
The whole first day was settling in and kipping. When I woke it was all new and so beautiful. When I had my first look out of my window I was stunned. After peering out in the night leaving Moscow Station (nothing really to see in the dark after leaving the metropolis) it’s a magical surprise to have this speeding white beautiful landscape hurtling past. Exploring the train, unpacking and sleeping went in short bursts, it all was rather surreal after the stress and lack of sleep ( I woke early so only had about six hours sleep and, I personally, need eight.
Hygiene will be a challenge in general. There is no shower in my private loo just a tiny washbasin!
The restaurant car has a shabby chic art nouveau feel with wrought iron metalwork, dark wood and a stained glass door at the end. Apart from that it was rather drab and the food not all that, but the beer is good and very cold! When you walk along to it you have to traverse the open bits between carriages, with sliding metal plates which have small snowdrifts on them. This is the only cold air you get on the train which is incredibly overheated. If you’re thinking of making this life-changing adventure bring thin Tshirt and trousers for slopping around. You will thank me for this later!
EASY PEASY DON’T SWEAT THE TRAIN BIT. IT’S A PIECE OF CAKE GIRLS JUST CHECK BELOW TIP!
TOP TIP: These are mistakes I made a few times being a tourist in a very alien country. You don’t have to. It’s draining and a waste of time. Late departures always make me anxious but sometimes, as on the TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS, you have no other choice of times (Moscow departure midnight and that’s it). Try to be proactive during the day or have a sleep and build up your energy reserves! Also, go to a supermarket for supplies on the train it’s vital you pick up rye bread, cheeses, ham etc and some fruit and sweeties (include chocolate and bikkies!) Also tea bags, coffee and anything you fancy for hot drinks. These will be great for breakfast in your cabin and snacks during the day. Pay extra at your hotel so you can hang out in your room and reorganise your bits ( you’ll always be doing this on your travels!) Also ask them to give you a few freebies of milk and fruit teas and little kits. Sewing kits, beauty kits etc always come in handy especially on the train when you get a bit bored (it’s vital to clean out my sponge bag with a cotton bud don’t you know?!) Also remember, even if the station staff don’t speak English you just show your ticket! It’s that easy and they are very keen to help a maiden in distress. DON’T YOU WORRY YOU’LL BE FINE!
OR LIVING ON A LEGEND: FROM MY HANDWRITTEN DIARY.
” I’m finally on board the no. 20 Trans Siberian Express. It will stop briefly at various main stations to pick up and drop off passengers and food. We sometimes will have a maximum of 20 minutes to try out the freezing temperatures, stamp our feet and buy some dubious food from the friendly locals. “
We are now committed to at least three and a half days to this old birdie of a train. She will protect us from the bitterly cold Siberian winds and snow, provide our sleeping quarters, sustain our appetites for food and drink in her restaurant car and be pecked at a bit by her carriage “provodnik”. We will meekly obey them as a schoolchild obeys matron! Our new life is beginning at midnight from this cold Moscow platform.
“I was shattered when finally I boarded the number 20 train at midnight. It was a huge relief to finally be standing stock still in my cabin and moronically staring at what would be my everything for the next three days. I had shown my passport and tickets to our provodnik after an anxious wait on the platform and climbed the steep metal steps. There had seemed to be so few of us. The silence that comes with snow softly crunching beneath your boots and the twenty or so passengers makes everything feel surreal. Now I was in my cabin I froze. All had been leading up to this and I was stunned I was finally here. This was it! CHOO CHOOOOOOO!!!”
“I had bought 2 tickets to preside glorious over my coupe cabin, thus having it to myself! It was a wise choice, they are small and intimate and frankly, I’m too selfish to share all the things that would make my experience a joy rather than misery. After a couple of days, I was proven right when I saw couples looking grey and sulky after train fever tiffs emerging from their cabins, thin-lipped and furious from some minor altercation that had become big behind closed doors. Another reason you’ll love travelling solo“
“Now finally I have time to write! I’m sitting on the side I have designated as a sofa in my cabin, half the time gazing out my window at the mesmeric panorama that speeds past me. Strangely you don’t bore at this, it holds you entranced. Miles of silver birches in a magical snowy setting, that we are hurtling through at great speed. Bitterly cold winter wonderland which is mine for the next three days. An occasional cottage with heavy snow its roof and smoke coming from its chimney are the only things you see except for the trees My steaming tea is in its” podstakanik” that was provided for me and the hot water from the samovar at the end of the corridor Time now to go up to the restaurant car. I had packed chocolate, sweeties, coffee sticks and teabags, muesli and two apples from the Moscow supermarket, some instant noodles which I chucked!!“
MORE LATER! OVER AND OUT!!