Since St. Petersburg, we’ve spend 90 hours in the train and we’re not even half way our train journey. We have not even left Russia! Can you imagine? It’s a true experience. You can’t do anything and believe it or not: time flies. Well, there are a lot of things you can do. Read, talk, listen to music, eat, drink, sleep, sit, stare and not to forget we found a way to do sports exercises and having fun with silent disco. All of this easily fills up your day. For us, the trip between Perm and Irkutsk is the longest non-stop train trip we will do. 64 hours. 3 Days and 3 nights. For us this was Kingsday (a Dutch national holiday) plus the full weekend.
A man in Moscow told us, the Transib is mainly used by tourists. Maybe it is during the high season…, we, however, only came across a Dutch guy who got out somewhere in the middle of Siberia. Other than him, we are together with Russians and Mongols. Zero tourists. Instead of hearing other people’s adventures, play cards and drink vodka as per typical Transib image, we do not get further than practicing our five words of Russian (we have not started Mongol yet…). It’s ok and probably better for us, as we still have to complete the last phase of our ‘detox program’, to come completely in the ‘traveler relax status’.
Life on the rails follows a routine. You wake up when you wake up (love it!). You try to be the first to get one of the two plugs in the wagon to charge your phone. Yes, that phone you don’t need at all in a train in Siberia, but at least we did not miss all the crazy Kingsday pictures from back home :). Next, you go to the toilet to do your morning stuff. Sometimes, you better wait till it is cleaned, which luckily happens more often than expected. Each wagon has namely a ‘provodnitsa’, who is basically the ‘wagon manager’. The provodnitsa is the only reason why the wagon remains a good place to live with 36 people (max). Each day he or she is even vacuuming your cabin.
Our day time provodnitsa, smiles all the time. Our night time provodnitsa does not and she is the first cliché Russian grumpy face we experience. She is actually a bit scary and jells at you for nothing. When you open the window, when you pass others who are sneakily smoking and let them do that, when you ask for the key to lock your cabin. No clue what she is saying, but it feels like you better not disturb her.
During the day you do whatever you feel like to do. I love to stare out of the window. You see trees, trees, trees, little bit of snow, village, trees, trees, grassland, village, trees, trees, cargo train, trees, trees, and so on. The nature does not change much between Moscow and Irkutsk. After three days of traveling we still see the same trees and same Russian wooden houses. Somehow it remains interesting. Just imagine how huge this country is.
At six o’clock you get a meal. We get white rice, white chicken with white sauce and a dry white bun in a white box. The tasty high light is the red ketchup. Everyday. This could probably have been better, but we only understood the word курица (the first three letters are similar to the word chicken in Dutch). At least we can be proud of our Russian skills! It’s not that bad, and at each station there are little shops where you always can rely on instant noodle soup. Easy to ‘cook’ with the hot water which is non-stop available in the wagon.
The train stops regular and every 3 to 4 hours the train stops for a longer period, where everybody gets out for some fresh air. This is a welcoming change. Inside the train it is warm, and everyone is in the highest state of relaxation. This is how it comes why you see in the middle of Siberia people standing outside with Hawaiian shorts, naked bellies, shorts with business shoes and pajamas in all colors – the winner is someone in a pajama with colorful cats :).
Unexpected is the timing of the train. I know German punctuality very well, but never heard of Russian punctuality. At least when it comes down to train arrivals and departures. They are super punctual. We must have stopped around 100 times by now and have never seen the train arrive or leave one minute too late or too early.
Every evening ‘we go out’ and walk all the way to the restaurant wagon – which is the next one – to have a so called ‘Siberian Corona’. Followed by the best moment of the day: sleeping. Sleeping in a train is great. The rocking motion of the train brings you easily to sleep, while the train rumbles closer to the next destination.
Living on the rails, an experience on its own!