Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Trans-Siberian Railway

Amazingly, we all made the train the following morning after our big night out. Marina got us and all our gear to the station in time for our early morning departure - ready for 4 days on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Armed with dehydrated foods, other random snacks, some very expensive packets of pistachios, and bottles of vodka, we had no real idea what this journey would be like. Allocated 2 cabins for the 7 of us on our Vodka Train tour, we settled into some patterns fairly easily - a lot of chatter, banter, sharing of stories within our group. Games, tunes, some reading (not much, I think only one of us actually finished a book!), and then, by mid-afternoons....vodka!

Our group, and a group of Spaniards, and another group of Portuguese, were the only non-locals on our carriage. This train carries the Russians from town to town as part of their everyday - and thus, this was real life. Walking from the front of the train where the open space carriages were, I saw families, couples, settling in for the journey to their destinations.

Back on our carriage, Jonesey introduced us to the locals, after initially thinking his attempt at a Russian good morning went unheard. He was invited into a cabin for drinks with a group of Russian strangers next door, including a Russian solider traveling days to see his family in the middle of Russia during his break.

The pace of vodka, beer, vodka, beer soon made this second afternoon on the train turn into one of the best times of the whole trip. The non-verbal/attempted verbal exchanges, the food exchanges, and the general humanity of having drinks with locals and our group in a shared space, was amazing and one of the most unique experiences I can imagine. This night, our little party on our carriage and in our cabins, and the interactions with the locals, was the very essence of this long dreamed trip across Russia.

Jonesy had become an expert in figuring out the timetable, in terms of stops and how long they would be. This allowed us to jump off and wander the platform, and usually buy some random food morsels from the local sellers. Saved us from the options of noodles, or instant mash. Needless to say, I don't think any of us will eat 2-minute noodles again for sometime! The first discovery of the 5 litre, cold bottles of beer sold at some stops was a hit!

With Russian countryside, towns and cities, farm land, and village life passing by our windows, we took it in, we got to know each other in these small living spaces, and figured out how to pass such extended travel time.

We definitely shocked our Provodnitsa on the final night, when she investigated the noise coming from our cabin, only to find 11 people in there. We were playing an international version of celebrity head, sharing around several bottles of the 5lt Bag Bier...and weren't anywhere near as loud as the previous nights!

Our lowest point on the train was probably when the group had studied the timetable, and put together that we were not in fact getting off at our next destination the next day as we had thought, but actually the following morning. But regardless of the no showers, no space, and the random encounters along these 4 days, this experience was one of the best things I have done.


  1. Sounds like a fun way to pass the long journey, with lots of conversation and vodka!

    1. Was awesome! That International Celebrity Head will go down and one of the most amazing things I have done....such a funny night in the middle of Russia!


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