Monday, Day #1 – main stop Nizhny Novgorod (Moscow time + 1h): I’m texting this lines after the first day/night on the train and I can tell that is has been a very intense experience so far. Anna and Olga came to wave us good-bye at the train station in Moscow and at 1.35 pm we took off directing towards Irkutsk – a travel passing through 5 time zones lasting for almost 4 days. On the train it was quite hot yesterday (in comparison to today – it’s fortunately cooling down a notch), but we made the best out of it in the cabin and happened to meet a German speaking Russian girl named Victory. She studies in Poland and got on the train in order to go to her hometown. With her help we were able to communicate with the Russians who welcomed us to their cabin and shared vodka and food. These men are going the whole way to the Chinese border (travelling time about 12 days) near Vladivostok to work there. They are very curious about foreigners and welcoming at the same time. Today they even woke us up with some breakfast mainly consisting of cookies and cakes. I think that we are going to try the dining wagon for the first time in the afternoon although you can buy very nice authentic food from babushkas (older ladies selling stuff) at the train stops or in the wagons.
Philip originally was a little concerned about a lack of space in the cabins but it turned out well for him, although not being able to stretch out completely. The first night was quite ok everybody seems to adapt quickly to the monotonic noises of the train.
Tuesday, Day #2 – main stop Yekaterinburg (Moscow time + 2h): No vodka for us on the second day. The Russian guys seem to be pretty fond of us and keep on telling us the same stories and visit our cabin randomly. Exhausting at certain points… Nevertheless they are giving us presents all the time and want to share food and drinks, or simply want to participate in our dice/card games. We tried the dining wagon, which is quite ok, but much more modern than initially figured. Also the cabins on our wagon #10 are actually top-standard, so there’s a little lack of Transsiberian feeling (on the other hand I don’t know if I would have been able to cope with ‘platzkartny’ – 3rd class for 4 consecutive days).
Running in and out loads of train stations seems getting monotone at some points. At some of the stops you can get out in order to catch fresh air and buy food at the little shops or matrushkas. The toilets on the wagons are very basic and plugs are rare (the ‘schaffner’ are the masters of the charging process therefore – very sad for me and my old ipod that needs to be recharged every two hours).
Wednesday, Day #3 – main stop Osmk (Moscow time + 3h): Before I started to recapture day 2 we sat together with the Finnish guys Maya and Mikko in order to figure how to continue travel from Irkutsk/Ulan Ude to Ulan Bator. We all don’t have train tickets so far and were told that they are supposed to be pretty limited. We’re not very concerned about being able to reach the capital of Mongolia it might just need a few alternatives and flexibility to arrange that properly. In Irkutsk we have one night and in Olkhon Island two nights figured out before heading to Mongolia. We already had to postpone our hostel bookings in Ulan Bator and Beijing a little as we can’t completely keep to our itinerary. Nonetheless, we are optimistic that everything will turn out well for us. Currently I feel being caught between several time zones. We just made some instant soup with sausages – Mahlzeit!
In the evening we mainly spent our time playing Yatzee and drinking in the dining wagon with some other internationals.
Thursday, Day #4 – main stop Krasnoyarsk (Moscow time +4h): Leaving behind another time zone and waking up after the third extremely comfortable night we discovered that Philip’s camera was stolen while we were sleeping. It is an expensive one and the recent pictures from the train ride not saved yet – very annoying. We were thinking about the criminal rate on train being quite low, but as we discovered you never know for sure and that it’s very naïve trusting anyone here. The thief must have been directing exactly for the camera as our other valuables are still here. It is just a pity that we have to cope with all the bureaucracy stuff now.
At the next train stop the police got on the train in order to check the crime scene. The whole train was upset by that and from then on everybody knew that there was trouble going on with the Austrian foreigners 😉
Friday, Day #5 – arrival at Irkutsk (Moscow time +5h): Arriving at Irkutsk in the morning after days of horrifying and tight train ride with russian company we immediately bought tickets for the ride to Mongolia on Monday evening. After that we checked in at the hostel and strolled through Irkutsk, a not at all exciting place. Next two days heading for Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal. Gonna be more awesome!