Brian & Katherine's Trans Mongolian trip 2013 travel blog

Yekaterinburg train station.

Refreshments on the river bank. It was a very hot afternoon.

One of the more unusual sights, the QWERTY sculpture.

The banks of "snow".

It's hard to pick up on the photo but there are seed...

Katherine behind the Romanov Memorial.

The Church of the Blood.

Chapel of the Revered Martyr Princess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna.

Me in front of the Romanov Memorial.

The Afghan War Memorial.

An exhibit from the Military Museum, remnants of U2 shot down in...

Outside the Military Museum, it's in a slight state of disrepair.

We didn't have to be up early next day (luckily) as our train departed in the late afternoon. It was just as well as the day dawned wet and miserable. The rain kept up a steady drizzle for most of the day. We had a leisurely breakfast before checking out. Took a last stroll around down town Novosibirsk (in the rain) before finding a pleasant cafe for lunch. Then back to the hotel to collect our bags for the walk back to the station. By this stage, thankfully, the rain had stopped.

At the station we found the departure board and waited. Five minutes before the train arrived, the platform number went up and we moseyed out and waited. The train pulled up, a few passengers got off and we were on. No problems. I don't know what Katherine was worried about! Of course we had the right tickets.

On board we found that we again had business class tickets entitling us to meals on the way. We shuddered at the thought but more on that later. This sector was 1,519 kms in a touch under 22 hours, bringing the total distance travelled so far to 8,720 kms. We got comfortable and settled in for another overnight leg.

We were only underway for a short time when there was a knock on the door. Next moment this young, rather well endowed blonde wearing a (very) low cut blouse and mini shirt walked in. Turned out she was from the restaurant car and was there to explain the menu options to us.

She sat down beside me and started to go through the menu. Given she had no English and we had no Russian, it took some time but it was fun. I kept getting distracted but we finally worked out what to have and placed our orders. All up, much better than the surly bloke on the previous leg. Needless to say, when the food turned up later, it was actually very good. Much better than on the previous train and very tasty. They even included wine with the meal, even if the white was at room temperature.

We finally arrived in Yekaterinburg the next day around lunchtime and made our way to the hotel. The first thing we noticed was the change in temperature. It was sunny and hot, over 30c. After checking in, we decided to have a quick stroll around to get our bearings. After a short while, Katherine wasn't feeling that well so we found a place by the river to stop and have refreshments. We just put it down to the heat and thought nothing more of it.

Later that evening we went out and found a nice German restaurant serving cold Bavarian draught beer, sausages and pork knuckles. All washed down with a nice Italian dry white. Delicious.

It was the next morning that the problems started. Katherine wasn't feeling the best and got worse during breakfast. As she was in some pain and quite a bit of discomfort we thought it best to seek medical advice. We went down to reception and asked if they could direct us to a doctor who could speak English. They told us they would make some calls and let us know so we went back to our room to wait.

About an hour later there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find two paramedics and the Guest Relations Manager from the hotel. Turned out the paramedics couldn't speak English so she was there to interpret for them. It's amazing how difficult it is to interpret between languages when you're discussing a technical subject and your English is limited. The translation app on the net book got a right work out I can tell you!

Anyway, after what seemed like an hour of Katherine being prodded and poked, various four way conversations between us, the translator/interpreter, the paramedics and unknown voices at the other end of the phone (never did work out who they kept calling), we got the diagnosis.

They weren't sure what was wrong with Katherine! They had some ideas but couldn't be sure without further tests. They suggested going to the hospital so they could run some blood and urine tests. We reluctantly (nervously) agreed. We both remembered our tour guide at Lake Baikal. His wife was expecting soon but he had made arrangements for her to travel to Thailand to have the baby as she would get much better medical treatment there. In his opinion, the quality of medical treatment available in Russia was seriously sub-standard. Not a great confidence booster! Anyway, we didn't feel we had any other option so we packed up a few things and went downstairs to the ambulance. Unfortunately I forgot to bring the camera with me so we weren't able to record any of it for posterity.

It was a little disappointing they didn't use the siren on the way. Just took their time with the rest of the traffic on the road. We eventually pulled up to what looked like an apartment building but turned out to be the rear entrance to the hospital. We all got out and went inside. It all seemed a bit confused and disorganised but maybe that was because we had no idea what they were saying or what was going on. There seemed to be an endless stream of doctors and nurses parading through who would all come in, fill out some forms and disappear again.

In the middle of all this they took some blood and urine and sent the samples off for testing. At one stage there were eight nurses/doctors crowded around. The biggest problem (obviously) was language. Again, the translation app got a work out. Eventually they suggested an ultrasound (they thought it might be kidney stones) so off we went to the eight floor for that.

Finally, the results were in. Nothing serious, just an infection that could be treated with drugs (lots and lots of drugs as it turned out). Now we had to pay. Given that we had the ambulance, a battery of tests, an ultrasound and what seemed like half a dozen doctors on the case I was expecting the worst. All up it came to just over 3,600 roubles. Not unreasonable considering.

The next issue was paying. I offered to give them the cash there and then. That wouldn't do at all. First we had to go to another section of the hospital (quite a way a way) to fill in the forms detailing the tests etc that had been performed. Next it was to the admin area where it was all entered into the computer, printed and signed. Next, off to the cashiers area where the payment was made. Then, back to where Katherine was patiently waiting. It seemed to take only marginally less time than the examination and tests had. They do love their forms and paperwork here. The staff at the hospital were great though. I was impressed at how they looked after Katherine and struck me as caring and professional.

We thanked the staff and left to catch a taxi back to the hotel. Once there, the girl from the hotel who had accompanied us as translator, volunteered to go to the pharmacy to fill the prescription for us. We thanked her and went back to the room and waited.

An hour later, a knock on the door and she was back with the medication - all five lots of it! They had prescribed Katherine with three different lots of pills and two different sachets to take. Can't help thinking they may have over prescribed the meds but it's a bit hard to argue when you can't speak the lingo.

As Katherine was tired and still in some discomfort, we had an early dinner in the hotel restaurant and retired to bed.

Next morning Katherine was felling much better (obviously the cocktail of drugs was working) and was up for a little bit of sightseeing. We only had time to see the Church of the Blood, a memorial to where the last Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918, and the Military Museum, which contains an exhibit on the U2 incident in 1960 (including pieces from the wreckage) as we had to leave by lunchtime. Unfortunately we weren't able to extend our stay as we had only confirmed our onward travel and hotel booking the night before Katherine took ill.

At times, walking around the city, it looked as if it was snowing. As the flowers and tree buds pollinated, the seed pods floated everywhere. From a distance it looked like snowflakes swirling in the breeze. It also banked up in piles on the ground like snowdrifts. Never seen it so extensively before. It certainly played havoc with Katherine's hay fever.

We then went back to the hotel to check out. At reception, the staff surprised us by giving Katherine some gifts as a reminder of Yekaterinburg given that we didn't get to see the city properly. It was very thoughtful of them. We may not have seen all Yekaterinburg had to offer but we have been left with a number of memories. Then it was back to the train station for the next leg of the trip to Nizhny Novgorod.

Until then, take care and have fun. Rest assured, everything here is going tickety boo.

Brian & Katherine

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