Siberia, Russia

Today the train feels shaky, but we are making good time. We reach the halfway point early tomorrow morning so I can only assume that this is one of the faster stretches of the route. Today there are small towns of wooden huts, a few industrial settlements and a stop in Omsk – a large city and the place where Dostoevsky was imprisoned. 

  

I don’t know exactly when Siberia starts but we’re now in it and perhaps it’s the luxury of train travel but so far it’s not as desolate as I had expected: it’s green and treed and rather pretty. We’re also on the world’s busiest stretch of freight train route. We have a compartment that looks out on the south and are travelling on the most southerly rails so the freight trains only obstruct the view when we stand in the corridor to chat to our neighbours and swap tidbits of information from our guide books. 

Our guidebook, given to us by a fellow traveller in St Petersburg, has only a so-so track record for accuracy and completeness. Although, I had rather been looking forward to the matronly Russian carriage attendants it promised, I am by now quite charmed by the all-male Chinese staff who both provide less service and also charge for less than we had been led to expect. Especially their apparent amusement at people who could obviously afford to fly, but prefer to take a 5 day train journey, and their anxiety, each time the train stops that we all get back on before the train leaves again. This morning we asked our carriage attendant for a spoon he brought us chopsticks with an apologetic smile – we took it in turns to eat our porridge with the one plastic spoon we are carrying.  

Train platform food of the day: a sort of savory donut with a sausage in the middle — tasty but definitely from the “eat least” triangle of the food pyramid. I am also enjoying the pot noodles, instant coffee and crackers and tomatoes from our supply: it seems everything tastes better on the train. 

Football scores are hard to come by on the train – I don’t know how Australia did and can only assume that they are now out of the World Cup having lost and drawn in their previous rounds. Holland has convincingly qualified so there’s no need to worry about that. Perhaps if we spoke some Russian we could ask people on the train platforms. It’s kind of fun being on the road at this time actually, because it gives everyone a natural talking point. The Russians are football mad so it was no trouble to see the matches in St Petersburg and Moscow. One of the Russians we met said that her father was pleased that Russia hadn’t qualified, that way he could just relax and enjoy the games which seems a refreshing view after Holland’s fanaticism and Australia’s relative indifference. Mr K caught his fingers in the fan this morning while putting up the blind – very unpleasant for both of us but the injuries, though painful and a bit messy, could have been far worse. He has, by now, collected a few travel scars, bumps and bruises – many due to low ceilings and door frames but also some poorly finished room fittings – I am hoping this doesn’t continue for the whole trip or I’ll have to bring him into Australia in several pieces. My worse injuries continue to be blisters and these are getting a rest and a chance to heal now on the train. 

And, Anna K has by now arrived in Moscow, charmed pretty much everyone and departed again in a guilty hurry. 

 

 

 

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