Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Life on the rails .... part 2

With the weather very firmly now changed from bloody freezing to warm and humid, it's time to head back to Yaroslavki Station for the beginning of our epic train journey across Siberia to Mongolia. In and around the station is definitely the worst part of Moscow we saw, "full of crazies" is no understatement. I drew the marginally shorter of the 2 straws and left Mel in the waiting room, surrounded by drunks and rough sleepers (occassionally being beaten awake by the police - nice) and headed out into the surrounding night market to stock up on supplies. As with everywhere in Russia so far, if you make the effort then people are genuinely warm and helpful. So I was soon performing a series of mimes to describe which goods I wanted to buy from the people staffing each kiosk (no self service here) - much to their amusment. I got a bit delayed, because the pot-noodle seller decided he needed to practice speaking French to me. Only in Russia ..... So after 2 hours of what is possibly the most intimidating train station on the planet ... we finally boarded the legendary train 4, bound for Beijing. Not all the way in one hit, but we'd be spending the next 5 nights aboard so decided to go for the luxury 2-berth Kupe compartment. As it was a night departure, we missed the picturesque spires of the golden ring cities completely, waking up to scenes of Western Siberia. Bascially 2 days of this... And occasionally one of these ... And that kind of sums it up really. Our guidebook had assured us of plenty of opportunities for taking on supplies at stations, sadly we found this to be a slight exaggeration and were almost immediately on emergency rations -apart from a very occasional visit to the awful and ludicrously priced Russian restaurant car (even GNER could learn how to profiteer from these guy's). Without a doubt the most fun I had in the first 2 days was watching Mel trying to eat her pot-pasta with a drinking straw - someone had forgotten to pack a fork ..... although exacty who it was is still a matter for debate ....

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