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Farewelling Siberia

From Tomsk it’s an bum-numbing 50 plus hours to Moscow. It’s difficult to work out exactly how long this trip will take us because the train runs on Moscow time and Tomsk is a couple of hours ahead. As we travel along we go through three timezones.

We’re prepared though with plenty of supplies for in-carriage picnics. The dining car sounds like a good idea for a change of scenery but on the first night of the trip we get stung for over a thousand roubles including separate extra charges for tomato and cucumber slices. So we opt for self-catering mostly.

It’s really easy to hop out at stations and do some hunter-gathering. There are stalls, carts and hawkers selling beer, roast chicken and even pre-cooked meals at a cart optimistically labelling itself pectopah (restaurant). There’s plenty of time as stops last up to 30 minutes – even longer if the provodnitsa (carriage attendant) has to finish their cigarette.

The provodnitsa can make or break your trip. Mostly they’re overblown characters with garish make-up and white-blonde hair from a bottle. On this leg we thought we struck it lucky with a sweet woman who even smiles when we get on. We wonder if she’s really Russian. When we go for hot water from the coal-fired samovar, she asks if we would like noodles or biscuits. Then halfway through the first evening she transforms into Mr Hyde – an ogrish guy who grunts when we ask a question, sighs if we ask to lock our cabin and thinks we’ve deliberately not learnt to speak Russian just to bug him. We’re just getting used to his grouchiness and expecting nothing when he’s replaced in the morning with Miss Hyde. We try to organise our questions for when Miss Hyde will be there. She mimics a kangaroo to show she’s understood our where we’re from.

Milestones flash past as the train gathers speed. Just after Krasnoyarsk, we pass a white obelisk half buried in snow that marks the halfway point of the Trans-Siberian from Vladivostok. While we’re sleeping we pass through Tyumen, the official start of Siberia. And just after Yekaterinburg, while we’re busy making lunch, another obelisk marks the border between Europe and Asia.

Comments

  1. Such a stylish trans Siberian picnic. Is there anything you two don't have a flair for? I love the tea cups.

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