Day 17: 48 Hours on a train (Part 1)

Is the four year old boy in the next compartment running on Moscow time?

At around midnight this seemed a good question to be asking as Little Legs was racing up and down the carriage outside my compartment and his mouth never stopped working.

He was having the time of his life.

Meanwhile, I was wondering whether his parents decision to refuel him at Maslayanskaya was the best decision of their lives.

The Foo Fighters claimed at Glastonbury 2017 that “they could play all night”. This kid was action, as well as talk.

I watched the traders in the kiosks carrying out their business. Food and goods were displayed on shelves in front of the counter window. The kiosks are glass walled so you can see all of the stock on offer too.

The night market on the platform.

As the queues dwindled and passengers returned to the train, the traders lifted the goods back inside, closed the little window, drew screens across and turned the lights off.

The kiosks are open for business as long as their buyers on the platform.

As the train moved further East, Moscow time was slipping further behind and Little Legs was soon living in a time zone three hours behind the rest of the train.

The train reached Omsk and one of my new friends left. I was pleased to have woken up to be able to say goodbye. Another woman took her bunk and at Barabinsk at 7.35am, we were swapping teabags.

Still no shared language, but she introduced herself as Galia and we had arrived in Barabinsk.

This was where I discovered we had moved forward a time zone.

In the UK, we deal with postcode boundaries. One street can have two postcodes and one neighbour will receive one set of services and the other neighbours receive a different offer. What happens in your street is divided by a time zone?

Is one person leaving their house to go work at 8am while their neighbour is pitying their ungodly start time and thinking about having breakfast because, for them, it’s 7am?

Barabinsk, according to my guide book, was where Polish Jews were exiled to in the 19th century. The excellent Polin Museum of Jewish History in Warsaw had also covered this topic.

As the train moved out of Barabinsk, the land became more grassland and wetland. It was very very different to the preceding days of endless forest.

In terms of the train, it rocked far more than the one I tralled on from Vladimir. While it was more comfortable (i.e. newer) it was either moving faster or the suspension (do trains even have suspension?) was shot.

Lying in my bunk (bottom one again, no ladders, thank you), it was like lying on an extremely violent vibration table. There had better be some serious muscle toning as a result.

Warmth was not an issue either.

Eventually, one of the other women opened the compartment door as the heat was becoming unbearable.

I also discovered that the ‘double thickness’ sheet is supposed to a be a duvet cover. The one I had on the train from Vladimir was sealed on all four sides, presumably in error.

However, with the heat in this compartment, I was pleased to be using it as the base sheet with the other covering me. There was no need for a duvet.

We were heading for banya temperatures.

I discovered the apples and pears I bought at the market in Tyumen yesterday had been quietly stewing on the compartment’s heater.

Over breakfast, Galia queried why I was on the train so I showed her a photo of my map which shows my year’s trip.

She read an article from the newspaper to the other women. They all muttered, seemingly in agreement.

The land around the train became more prairie-like.

Around noon (after crossing another time zone so now six hours ahead of the UK and four hours ahead of Moscow), the train crossed the river Ob and pulled into Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and third largest city in Russia, pub quiz challengers.

Seriously, come for the train stories and stay for the trivia.

The train was going to stand here for almost an hour and Galia asked me if I was going to go for a walk. The other two were. Galia would stay and keep an eye on all of our stuff.

After the drizzle of Tyumen, it was nice to be in hot sunshine again. The platforms are vast and numbered… I can’t tell you how relieved I was to spot this.

I crossed the tracks to see the main building and the two statues marking World War Two which show families waving off their loved ones as they go to fight.

A man races across the tracks into the station’s main building, almost greeted by the waving statues.

This was the main departure point for Siberia’s soldiers.

Novosibirsk’s station is huge – an enormous peppermint green building. Inside, there is marble as far as you can see. There also appeared to be a period costume exhibition taking place.

I watched another carriage and engine being attached to the train and inspected the kiosks, before wandering the length of the platform. I needed some exercise.

The train had 19 carriages and while I had to contend with Little Legs in the carriage next door, the end two carriages were full of a school trip. My journey could have been so much noisier, though to be fair, you have no idea whatsoever about what is going on in the neighbouring carriages.

You usually have no idea about what is going on in the next compartment, unless there is a Little Legs singing his head off in there.

He had livened up, or perhaps woken up,around 12 noon, 8am Moscow time which rather confirmed my theory that he was in a different time zone to the rest of us.

I decided to get back on the train.

The good thing, about being ( no matter how embarrassed) at the centre of attention because of the language barrier, is that the provodnitsa remembered me. She smiled and waved me on.

After a couple of hours snooze, I woke up just as a different provodnitsa came into the compartment for a fairly lengthy conversation with Galia, that they both initially intended to include me in.

Not a clue.

Once she left Galia was most concerned at my lack of ordering meals from the provodnitsa. Was that the conversation? But I was not alone in bringing my own food and snacks on board. Plus I was getting a meal later.

The more familiar provodnitsa arrived, to wash the floor. Was that what the conversation had been about?

And then three police officers wandered down the carriage.

Little Legs played on, joined by his little sister who has toddler up and down the corridor playing ‘fetch’ on her own with a traditional style Russian fur hat.

The afternoon passed, drinking tea and completing a puzzle book. Have I mentioned the samovar?

Now that is a work of civilisation. An urn of free piping hot water so that passengers can add water to their instant noodles or, more importantly, make as much tea as they can drink.

I was sent, by my friends in the UK, totally equipped for this trip with plenty of teabags.

I have to confess. I haven’t used them since arriving in Russia. I really like Russian black tea which is just as well because I probably would have struggled keeping milk cold on the train for this journey.

The journey through Siberia was more varied than through the more Western parts of Russia. Still lots of silver birch forest, their white trunks sparkling in the Autumn sun amid the red and orange leaves. There were fields of cattle and prairies and more towns.

My meal arrived! I have to say I felt a little underwhelmed. This was not the chicken and rice I had been promised the night before. I decided to see if this was a starter before the main course as the other women in the compartment had received two boxes the night before, not one.

Contents: a bun, 40g of salami, a chocolate biscuit and a bottle of water.

After we left Marinsk the rest of the meal arrived… not the most appetising in appearance but it smelled and tasted good.

Chicken and rice

Featured Photo: The fabulous station at Novosibirsk, capital of Siberia.

More photos on my Instagram page.

Categories: Public Transport, Russia, Trans Siberian Express, TravelTags: , , , , , , ,

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