Andy's Meanderings 2008 travel blog

So I left Irkutsk with a heavy heart. I had enjoyed the company during my stay and felt I could have stayed longer. But alas the world awaits!!

Got to the station with no issues and found my carriage and cabin easy enough, but did feel very alone! An old man was in my cabin also but he moved once we took off, probably complained to the provodnitsa about smelly feet or something. Either way it was an amicable divorce. I'm sure I was doing as much for him as he was doing for me!! Two happy little train riders!

I just wrote about 30 mins worth that has been written off basically so now I'm really pissed off that I have to do this all again, so bare with me folks, I'm not too happy at the present moment!! hahaha!

Its amazing what 45 to 50 hours on a train does to your mind! Apart from looking out the window, reading, sleeping, drinking, (by yourself), smoking or trying to ring/txt the people you love and not getting thru, its quite boring!! Your mind wonders in mysterious ways! So now you know..... its actually totally fucking boring!!!

The scenery outside is interesting, at times, if you like snow, cypress and birch trees and railways. It gets boring, but then you see a building and you get excited! Then a whole town and its amazing! That just picks you up no end! I'm being harsh, it was OK. I was amazed at the amount of disused or abandoned buildings and even towns I saw on the way. Incredible really. So many skeletal buildings, that at one time must have been home to thousands of people, have just been left to rot in the middle of nowhere. I also saw a grave yard of old Soviet Army gear. Masses of Rocket launchers that had been left to rust. And I do mean masses! It was amazing. I managed to get a photo but not sure how it will turn out!

So once you get bored with that you can read my book about the journeys of one Henry Mauhot, (Think thats his surname) the man that found/rediscovered Ankor Wat in Cambodia. A French Anthropologist that decided to voyage to far flung lands in the 1800's and one who Renata and I paid homage to when we were in Laos. His grave is outside Luang Probang and we risked life and limb to find it, but it was well worth it. A great man but not really riveting reading, if you know what I mean! Can't wait for the end because he dies a terrible death and the last bits in his diary explain the horror and pain!

So, let me explain a little about a train junkies life! I'm learning fast! You need to bring on board food, drink, smokes and whatever else you fancy. I had no other fancies so mine were the before mentioned! Its hot, damn hot! I had my shorts and thongs on and a t-shirt, going for smoke is murder, but if you don't you would die of heat exhustion! Seriously! No windows to open and the Provodnitsa must feel the cold. Always women on my trips so far, so probably true! Anyway, no one else on the train but you and Russians, which is fine, your in Russia, what do you expect. No one on the train speaks English, except the drinks man, who gave me cold beer and who I tipped well the first time so every time he went down the hall he looked into my cabin with a big broad smile or knocked on my door and said "cold beer" even at 8am in the morning!! Nice man! The dining cart is not a meeting place. Its where you go to get what they call food and drink in some parts of the world! And then leave, no one stays to socialise. I went on my first night to break the boredom and maybe meet a friend. I had beef stroganoff. What I got was a plate full of fat with some stroganoff at the bottom of it and I found some burnt chips along the way as well, which was nice! So no more trips to the dining cart. I had read about it and people on my travels have also advised, but it was just one of those things that you have to try yourself! Like scrapping your finger nails down a blackboard!

I bought some food on with me, the usual noodles stuff. But before I left Irkutsk I went to the shop to stock up and bought what I thought were noodles. When I showed Helen she just sort of smiled a little and didn't explain exactly what the writing said, maybe thinking I knew what I wanted. Anyway I added the hot water and let it sit for a few minutes and you know the sensation you get when you expect one thing and you get something totally different, like a "what the fuck is that" type of feeling?? Thats what I got when I saw mashed potatoe in my tub! Here's me expecting noodles with beef and I get mashed fucking potatoes and some bits of meaty stuff in it!! Was nice though, but it needed to be... I'd bought three of the fuckers!! hahaha!

We stopped somewhere and I got off the train expecting it to be really cold, seeing so much snow you'd think it would be, but it was really mild. I was thinking maybe I had crossed that border between cold and warmth. I was expecting to be packing me thermals up and sending them home at the next available stop! Wishful thinking!!

You see tons upon tons of timber logs being transported around the country. I can't begin to explain how many, its incredible! More wood than..... whatever the saying is!!

So as you can see an exciting trip was had and I was relaxed and ready to battle Yekateringburg. This is what the good book says about Yekateringburg. And I quote!

"From the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918 to the high profile mafia killings in the 1990's, Yekateringburg is notorious for its blood history".

So why, I hear you ask, am I hear! I was asking my self the same fucking question to be honest! But the main reason was the Tsar murders. I wanted a place to break the journey up and this seemed like just the place. I had learnt about the Tsars at school and was always fasinated with the history of it all. Apparently the country was in turmoil and the Tsar was losing his popularity (bit of an understatment really seeing as they killed him, his family and his servants!!) with the people. So the Bolsevik's came to be and decided they needed to oust him. He was sent to Yekateringburg to a sort of safe house but the Bolsy's found out and rode here from the West and killed him. The thing is, its shrouded in mystery because not so long ago they dug up the so called remains and found that a boby was missing. At first they thought one of the daughters had escaped, the amazingly beautiful Anastasia (You must see a photo of her, amazing eyes!) but then thought maybe a son. Either way it was all a big mystery. They sent remains to London for Scotland Yard to check DNA etc but it all seems to still be a mystery. And, a woman later turned up claiming to be Anastasia also, but has since died so no one is none the wiser, and neither am I so I'll just shut up! And noone here can tell me anything else about it!

So that was why! So... I get here and plot the path to my hotel on the map and lug my gear about 2k down the road. And its cold, colder than Irkutsk, I saw a clock today and it said -1!! Believe it or not!! I reckon the government have set all clocks to say -1 so all the locals walk around saying "does it feel colder than -1 to you?" Eventually find my hotel and book in. Not a great place but enough to keep me happy at about $50 a night or less, but no shower, and man do I need a shower! Wont get one till Moscow now and thats another 36 hours away!! Plus the rest of the time on the train so add that up and you'll know why no Russian person wants to speak to me!!

The hotel is... shall we say "Bland!" A cross between Stalag 13 and Pentridge! The guards are hostile and the corridors bring imagines of showers and things that men shouldn't be doing with each other! Needless to say I have settled in quite well and the guards are now all my friends!! NOT!

So I asked the girl at the desk if the Yekateringburg Tourist centre was still open and if I could book a tour for the next day. The idea of staying here was to be close to the Tourist center, it was supposed to be in the hotel! Its moved! To the hotel across the road from THE RAILWAY STATION... where I just lugged my pack and bag 2 or more k! No worries, I'll go tomorrow and check that out! Next question. Do you know where I can find an internet cafe? Yes we have internet on the 4th and 6th floor of our prison! Great I'll go and check it out shall I? I spoke to the guards on the 4th and 6th floor and nobody had even heard of internet let alone had one!! I took my leave and headed out the door hoping the German shepards wouldn't wake up!! The good book would hopefully look after me once more and deliver me to the required place!

Needless to say I did find it and wrote yesterdays dribble, doing todays now in case you hadn't noticed!!

After yesterdays dribble I went and got pissed at a British pub which is connected to my prison. I was dreading any appel calls coz I was having such a wow of a time with the other inmates, or maybe vistors, not sure, but it was fun trying to strike up conversations with people. One guy even came over and started talking Russian to me. I thought great stuff here we go. All he wanted was a fucking smoke!! hahaha!

So anyway, I planned my day whilst getting intoxicated and had a great day planned for today. So up earlyish and out to go back to the Tourist center to see if I could organise a trip to the country side, supposed to be really nice. I ask a question and get "Sorry no English!" But the good book says you speak English and your keen!! "Sorry!" No one else that can help?? "Sorry!" OK thanks. Bye! By this stage my ears were so cold and my face was like ice, I even had ice in my hair and it wasn't from the snow - just sheer and brutal icy wind!! And get this... I went to several shops to buy a beanie and the closest I got was a swimming cap!!! Fucking mental!!!!

I went to look at the church that is now built on the site that the Tsar met his fate and thought it would be a museam of some sort, but no, just a Church. Right up my alley!! So I moved on to another museam, Photograhpy! Nice and wasted a few minutes but not that good. Then I decided I'd go to the Military Museam!! Urg urg urg urg!! As Tim the tool man would say!! I found it but its no longer there! What? An old lady, and I'll give her credit for trying, took an age to show me on my map where she maybe thought it had moved to. Things change here so quick, the good book is now 2 years published so that would make the info closer to three years old, thats a generation here! Anyway I follow this old girls instructions and found a military looking place, statues out the front and what not. I walk up and this young kid in full uniform with massive machine gun with bayonet sticking out the top opens the window, not in a challenging way by any means, but still!! I walk over and ask if this is the Military Museam. Silly question really!! So I thought fuck this I'm going to have a drink. So since then I've done a pub crawl around Yekateringburg's British pubs! I've seen England Ireland and Scotland and I managed to sneak in a Yellow Submarine Beatles pub, that one I was looking for in Irkutsk is actually fucking here!! hahaha! Needless to say i'm ready for bed and need to be sober for my march back to the station tomorrow ready for my invasion of Moscow!! Another 24 hours of reading about Henry and hopefully his death!!

Thanks for listening/reading, this is good therapy for these down times, which I'm sure I will see more of. I'm actually not as bad as I make out, its been fun if not frustrating at times. The city is nicer than Irkutsk and does have some amazing buildings and stuff. Much cleaner also, lots of people cleaning and I even saw a bloke painting a bin today! Loads of bins everywhere! Which is strange, coz in many places I've been to its hard to find a bin!!

Anyway I have to go now because I need to pee!! Goodbye!

Take care.

Cheers Andy.

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