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Trans-Siberian Journey

Eric with Provodnitsa

There isn't much to do on the Trans-Siberian except relax and watch the scenery go by. Our “provodnitsa” (cabin attendant) gave us hot water and kept the hall and bathrooms clean. Every few hours the train stopped for long enough to get off, walk around and buy food from vendors. Food quality varied. Sometimes there were only instant noodles. Elsewhere there were prepared meals, such as fried chicken and potatoes, served in a plastic bag. Once we bought a beet-cucumber-tomato salad from an old lady. Sometimes we resorted to do-it-yourself, buying the raw ingredients, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, dill and green onions, and cutting them up in our compartment. Best were cold beer and ice cream, especially since it was hot. Yes, we traveled across Siberia in early May with the windows wide open! Filthy soot blew in and covered the upper berths.

Dave and Eric in Cabin

Mainly flat, rolling plains are visible are visible from the train windows. Thin forests of birch and pine as well as muddy, open bogs passed in succession. There are shanty villages, each house with a vegetable garden. Once in a while the train would pass through a large, industrial city, usually accompanied with a wide river. Our guidebooks gave us background information keyed to the kilometer markers that whizzed by, barely visible through the windows. At kilometer 1192, for example, might be a factory that produced most of the skis in the Soviet era.

View from the Train Window Soviet Industrial City

To pass the time, we read, relaxed, wrote, listened to music, drank vodka and conversed with each other and the other passengers. Despite not having showers, we managed to keep clean. Strangely, there were no other tourists on the train. The timetable with the next stops, posted in the hallway, always gave us something to look forward to. As we progressed eastward, the schedule, on Moscow time like all railway timetables in Russia, became more and more out of phase. Our average speed was something like 60 km/hour. Five days is a long time to sit on a train, but it passed quickly enough.