Life on the Train through Siberia

I was so happy to wake up and feel good again! The dining car didn’t open for several hours, so I had a cup of instant hot cereal for breakfast. I thought it was oatmeal when I bought it, but it was not. Nonetheless, tasty and filling. Coffee would have to wait until the dining car opened.

The dining cars are not popular on these trains, apparently. Most prefer to bring their own food aboard. We like hot meals, so decided to see what the menu on a Russian train had to offer. It was interesting…Clayton wanted pancakes. We found pancakes – pancakes with squid, that is! No thank you!!! The menu was quite extensive but the translations were not necessarily accurate. Entertaining reading if nothing else. On the children’s menu we were able to locate pancakes with jam, so went with that. I didn’t need anything further to eat since I had my cereal earlier, so just went with a cup of coffee.

Notice anything odd about the ingredients in the chicken Caesar salad?

We were seated next to the most interesting Chinese man. He kept saying, “Sorry, so sorry” to the waitresses. I assumed it was his only English phrase! He took his shirt off for awhile (not sure why) and then decided to get dressed again. He ordered enough food for several people, including a bottle of champagne. I watched him pour a bottle of whiskey into the apple juice that he ordered. He pulled an enormous wad of Russian rubles out of his bag; I guess to pay for his food and drink. But, he didn’t eat any of that food!

Eventually, we were joined by a woman on our tour, Pat, who was traveling solo. The Chinese gentleman pointed at me and asked where I was from. I told him, “America.” He then asked Clayton and Pat where they were from (she is Canadian). He had a few English phrases he used on us. He told us he was from New York (not), then Beijing, then Moscow. Then, he ordered apple juice and pistachios for us. Next thing we knew, the waitress had sat down with him and was trying to open the champagne. She had a tough time getting that bottle open. She eventually succeeded, but champagne shot all the way up to the ceiling. She poured champagne for all of us and we toasted before drinking. I don’t usually drink champagne at 10 am, but hey, why not?

This is our longest stretch on the train – about 2.5 days. It will take us from Siberia (Asia) to Europe. The Ural Mountains divide the two continents in Russia. The scenery throughout Siberia is pretty consistent – mostly flat with many forests of silver birch trees. There is the occasional pine tree as well. It is pretty but after a while, one loses the impetus to stare at the scenery when it tends to be all the same view! There are occasional villages composed of very small wooden houses. The train stops for brief amounts of time as well. Fortunately there is a schedule posted in the hallway so you know how long you have at each stop. Most are only 2 minutes; some are up to an hour. We had read that at these stops there would be babushkas (grandmothers) selling food so you could stock up on snacks that were homemade. We did not see this at any stop. There were small shops selling packaged snacks and there were ice cream vendors, but that no babushkas. To be fair, a younger woman was selling rolls along with ice cream, but she was definitely not a granny!

So, what do you do to pass the time? Eat, sleep, read, play games, and talk. I will say that this particular part of the journey had more train motion than any train we have ever been on. It would sway from side to side in a way that would make the motion sick queasy. We always take meclizine “just in case” and were very glad we did. Since I was still getting over my stomach flu, the motion sickness medication was a lifesaver for me.

By the third day on the train, a definite aroma of BO had settled over our train car. I felt positively greasy after not being able to take a shower for a couple of days. We would be debarking the train at 10 pm. I think most people in our group would be taking a shower as soon as we checked in to our hotel.

We had breakfast in the dining car. The title of this meal is “scrambled eggs with meat product”. I guess you could call them scrambled – they scrambled the meat with the sunny side up eggs. At least it wasn’t scrambled eggs with squid (another tasty menu option).

I noticed that there was a teapot with a bottle of vodka next to it. Obviously, the breakfast of champions here in Russia! Soon, the owner of the vodka returned to his booth. He was an extremely friendly drunk Russian guy. He offered to share his vodka with me; I politely refused. He kept trying to engage us in conversation but he only spoke Russian and we speak only English. He bought Clayton a beer but Clayton didn’t want it. No problem; drunk Russian guy just poured his vodka into the beer and drank it himself! He provided endless entertainment with his drunken antics. The waitress kept dragging him away from our table to keep him from bothering us but as soon as her back was turned, he would come back. Someone in our group claimed they saw him passed out in his cabin shortly thereafter. It would not surprise me a bit! Apparently he had been partying with some of our tour group the previous night. My guess is that he had continued the party into the next morning.

Our Chinese friend from the previous day’s breakfast dropped by our cabin later to invite us to eat with him. Sadly, we had just finished eating so had to turn him down. He was such a sweet man.

The day dragged on and on and on. Finally, we arrived In Yekaterinburg. We had to go through a security check to get out of the station. Strangely, we never had to go through security to board the train. Seemed a bit backward to me! We were driven to our hotel and collapsed in bed.