Yekaterinburg plusSeptember 12 in Russia ⋅ ☁️ 6 °C
This post comes from train number 100, Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk, travel time 53 hours, local time at destination three hours ahead of departure.
We hopped on this train in Yekaterinburg, after a couple of days looking around. Yekaterinburg is a bit dour and dusty; the cars and in particular the 1960’s (or prior) buses, trolley buses and trams haven’t seen any soap and water for many a year.
It is, however attractive around Istorichesky Skyver, the parkland around the expansive City Pond, and we enjoyed walking around, following a red line painted on the pavement joining the attractions.
The handsome Church Upon the Blood marks the spot where the last of the Russian Royal Family - the Romanovs - were rather cruelly done in by the Bolsheviks, and the city was, of course, the birthplace of Boris Yeltsin.
We rode up 52 floors to the viewing platform of the Vysotsky Tower, and enjoyed the views to all ends of the city from there, but in truth it was really just a big city without a lot to see.
We checked out of the pleasant Marins Park Hotel, with their free laundry service, and wandered over to the station to catch our next train. Due to some flaw in the system the Brickwoods actually checked out with still-damp laundry, which they proceeded to hang all around their compartment Chinese laundry style.
It was our third overnight train, so we were familiar with having people speak in Russian to us and send us on our way without knowing what on earth they were talking about or asking us to do.
We had smuggled some wine and beer on board, but naturally this was gone pretty quick smart, so from then we had cause to use the dining car, and that was quite interesting.
Not interesting for the food, perhaps, which would best be described as nourishing and rather bland (the sort you should have when sharing two toilets between 36 people, in fact) but eating out is all about the experience, after all.
We walked in for lunch, and a waitress with a set of metal front teeth to rival Jaws from the James Bond films plonked down a couple of wrinkled old menus and stood with her pen poised.
There was English on the menu, but it didn’t help really, as almost everything we pointed to she shook her head and said “Nyet”. For dinner we ordered three pork somethings and one chicken, and got two of each.
We ordered a bottle of wine, which arrived sans glasses, and every time we ventured up to tell someone they shooed us away. Then when you picked up your glass to have a drink the carriage would get up such a shimmy shake that you nearly lost all of it anyway.
At dinner time the dining car was a bit rowdy. It’s a requirement that you eat, so two funny young guys opposite were having a meal of potato crisps, washed down with endless beers to which they were adding some kind of mystery hooch. They were actually very friendly, if completely pissed, and we had a long and unintelligible conversation with them. They took one look at Don then used (probably) their only English word - Santa!
In fact, a few other people used the expression Santa when we left the train. Despite being completely innocuous and keeping entirely to ourselves (as indeed did most of our fellow passengers) we (or at least Don) had apparently made an impression. We were even given gifts by some of them.
At the next table were two older guys, already red eyed and staggering, settling down to lose a few more days with a freshly opened bottle of vodka.
Kim and Sharon asked to have their photo taken with the provodnista, who had been exceptionally friendly the whole way and insisted on putting her whole uniform on for the photo.
The scenery was amazing, particularly if you are partial to trees. Trees when you have lunch, trees when it gets dark, trees when you wake up. Trees when you wake up the following day. Winter comes early and hard so the leaves were already turning quite beautiful shades of yellow with the odd patch of red.
We slept pretty well, and our accommodation was quite adequate, but we are still looking forward to our next stop in Irkutsk, where we will no doubt be swaying for a day or so until we regain our land legs.Read more