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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

The start of our Trans-Siberian Trip

Days 696-697

It was time to leave Moscow for the start of our Trans-Siberian Trip. Train 70 here we come!

We were leaving #Moscow and our compact room we've been staying in for the past few days, above a supermarket. While packing our bags, I noticed a note in English stating that we get a real coffee each morning for free. Really? I went down to reception – yes, the coffees will be delivered shortly. And they were, very nice too. Damn, that’s three free coffees we missed each; important when you are on a budget.

Later that day we arrived at #YaroslavskayaStation to begin our #TransSiberianRailway journey. After baggage checks, we waited for the train to open and had a quick chat with four French travellers and two people on a tour with their guide from St Petersburg, a lady from Jamaica and a man from Australia. They were all going to Irkutsk, a good few days spent on the train.

When planning this trip, I had done quite a bit of research. Ok, I read the #LonelyPlanetTransSiberianRailway. We thought it would be nice to see a bit of Russia rather than sitting on a train for days on end. Using as a guide to the length of each journey helped us figure out where to disembark. Now, some people do stay on the train for the whole journey. Over six days in a small compartment with a shared train toilet and no shower? No thank you.

Our tickets and passport were checked by a friendly Provodnitsa (female train attendant). Friendly? I was led to believe that they were very surly and you needed to bribe them with sweets for a smile.

We climbed onto #Train70, Coach 6 and found our small compartment, 7ft x 5ft with 2 bunk beds and a table by the window. We settled down onto our nice comfy seat. Tim had the top bunk and I had the lower one and were given two white crisp cotton sheets, pillowcase, hand towel and a blanket each, not that the latter was needed, it was toasty on the train.

We shared our little room with Vladimir, a 73-year-old aero-mechanical engineer who was returning from a business trip in Tunisia. Also a captain in the Russian Army, who was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Notre-Dame on the front and kept speaking to the Provodnitsa in French, with a twinkle in his eye. I had an inkling that he had a great sense of humour.

Luckily for us, Vladimir had good English. We enjoyed chatting during the journey about the usual; family, travel, a little bit of politics. When I asked him how life had changed here in Russia, he didn’t want to discuss this and insinuated that life carries on whatever the political regime.

We had planned to eat one of the freeze-dried meals we’d brought from the UK, however, our Provodnitsa announced that we had a meal as part of our ticket. Well, I never! I must admit, when I booked these through the Russian site, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was booking!

The meal turned up. An interesting veggie option for me; grain with tiny pieces of vegetables, a roll and some cheese biscuits with no cheese. Tim had a meatball with buckwheat, salami, a roll and some chocolate biscuits. And we both had a small plastic bottle of water each – Grrr.

Soon after, Vladimir wanted to sleep; blind down, the lights off. It was quite nice being rocked to sleep by the rolling and the chafferchafchaf of the train cocooned with three men.

Suddenly I was woken up by Vladimir putting his light on at 3 am to go to the toilet; the disadvantage of going Kupe (2nd class). A couple of hours later I was aware of the other guy climbing down from his bunk and getting his bags ready to leave. I have not a clue where we were, it could have been Kotelnich or Kirov I suspect. I gave him a wave from my bed, he grinned.

Tim must have slept soundly as he had no knowledge of the light being turned on or our Army friend leaving. Breakfast was served – by Tim. Each carriage has the all-important hot water urn, so we had brought our own oats for porridge, tea and coffee bags. We had to be quiet as Vladimir was still sleeping. He didn’t rise from bed until past 10 am!

The journey flew by, much chatting, writing and reading. Vladimir gave us a cooked potato, hardboiled egg and a huge tomato from his stock of food. The Russians are known for their generosity. He then proceeded to give us Russian coins of each denomination. How lovely. I think we will keep these as a memento. He did ask if we had any foreign coins, and luckily Tim knew exactly where he had kept some euros, sterling and coins from Sri Lanka. Vladimir seemed thrilled with this swap.

When he discovered we were getting off at #Perm, Vladimir seemed bemused and asked us why there. I couldn’t give him a definitive answer; it seemed like a good idea. (I began to wonder, from his reaction.) It transpired that he was getting off there as well, so he insisted we got a taxi with him. How kind. We said farewell to the French, Ozzie and Jamaican travellers. They looked quite envious that we were getting off. A great start to our Trans-Siberian Trip.

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