Russia and the Baltic travel blog

Station stop


More Train Observations

The last train on our Trans-Siberian journey, the one from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk, is jerkier than the previous ones. For some unknown reason, a lady brought us a "business lunch" that she insisted we take. The first course was good chicken soup and a roll. As we were slurping the soup, there was a sudden and huge jolt and Andrew wailed like a banshee (Ruth's term). His entire bowl of soup had leaped off the table and onto his lap, Ruth's trousers, the floor and a bit onto our seat. It was a huge mess! Both the provodnitsa (female attendant) and the prodvoknik (an exceptionally handsome, tall and shirtless male attendant) came to help. (Ruth and Grammar were particularly taken with the provodnik, who turned out to be married to the provodnitsa. They share the shifts.) With the assistance of the two staff, Andrew got somewhat mopped up although he fetchingly spent the next 12 hours in his fancy striped pyjamas. He even wandered out onto the platform in this outfit at one stop. [Andrew wants it known that he was also wearing his down jacket - not just the pyjamas!]

As noted earlier, we have seen very few animals. Grammar spotted a hawk yesterday and a couple of flocks of farm geese, both white and grey. This morning we saw a pack of naughty-looking biggish dogs with high, curled tails, taking themselves for a walk. We also saw six horses and two goats - not a lot of animals for such a great distance.

As we go east, the land has more lumps and bumps and hills. We passed a town called Taiga and Grammar took a photo for Jamie Bastedo. Indeed we did see a finger of spruce forest there.

The towns that have falling-down factories in them, likely from the Soviet era, appear pretty sad. They seem to have big apartment complexes that are now abandoned. The towns that have active lumber mills and agriculture have more modest buildings, mostly of wood. They seem well kept. Almost every small house has a recently tilled garden or two behind it; many have plastic-hooped greenhouses. Everyone has a very large pile of neatly stacked firewood.

The logs in the lumber mills look like matchsticks to me. It does not look as though the trees could be cut unto anything bigger than a 2 x 4 board. All the houses and fences are made of very thin boards. Sometimes the wood is set in decorative patters like zig-zags. Often the small windows have pretty frames and many are painted blue while the houses themselves are dark brown, maybe stained with something.

Oh my, we just passed a lumber yard with wood about twice as thick! We have been seeing a few larch trees; so maybe these are larch instead of the more common birch, spruce, fir and poplar.

Recently, we have seen several large and very colourful cemeteries along the rail line. They have flowers (likely plastic) and ribbons on all the graves.

To the south, just peeking over the horizon are some big snowy mountains. Andrew, with his multitude of maps, tells me that these are the Sayan Mountains on the border of Mongolia.

Now that we have figured out the system for water on the train, we drink lots of free tea. We ordered a first cup that we paid for and then we kept the nice glasses with the metal holders and handles. We simply refill those cups with our own tea and very hot water from a giant modern samovar.

Smoking is not allowed on the train; so every time there is even a two minute stop, swarms of people, mostly young men, pour off the train and inhale their cigarettes swiftly and deeply!

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