Our journey to YekaterinburgSeptember 1, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C
Our train is called and we go through boarding formalities with our Providnista who is the lady who will look after our carriage for the next 26 hours.
We’re pleased with our compartment. There’s no first class on this train so we have a four berth second class compartment booked for just us (i.e. we have bought four tickets for the journey). Most other couples are sharing and there is no doubt that spending 26 hours in a confined space would be an interesting way to meet total strangers, but certainly not for us! We are not sure that with us and our luggage there would be room for anyone else anyway!!
Now our Providnista is a very important person as she is ‘Queen Bee’ and responsible for everything in our 36 berth environment for the next day. We have read much about the perils of upsetting these ladies, but ours appears to be very friendly and we established a smiley relationship with her from the start.
She does not speak a word of English so we had a very interesting situation shortly after departure when she sat down with us holding a pen and paper and rattled off questions in Russian. Don’t ask us how we got there (iPhone translate assisted slightly) but we finally established that everyone in second class is entitled to either a complimentary dinner or lunch, however, as we had bought four tickets for the journey we would get both and these would be served to our compartment at 6pm and midday.
Dinner came, airline style, and was OK with a salami starter and a chicken and rice main. John ventured 5 carriages down to the restaurant/bar car where he bought a couple of local beers to go with the food.
As darkness fell we read for a while, enjoyed a couple of vodkas (mixed with lemonade - a secret! Don’t tell the Russians!) and then prepared the beds which were already made and cleverly fold down. Lights were off about 11pm and we both slept pretty well through to 7.30am. There were a couple of stops during the night including 40 minutes at the city of Kazan (6th biggest in Russia), but we weren’t disturbed much and the gentle rocking of the train on a comfy bed did the trick and we awoke for a nice cup of (English) tea feeling refreshed.
Now after the Providnista the most important thing on the train is the Samovar, a piece of equipment housed in every compartment which provides a constant source of boiling water for travellers to use for tea, coffee, soups, pot noodles etc. These are a long standing tradition on Russian trains and the water is still heated by a coal burning boiler which sends the water through the carriages at over 100F.
Life on the train during the day is enjoyable. Looking at the views of the countryside (no shortage of trees) and seeing village life passing by makes the time drift by. Most people leave their compartment doors open daytime so you pass acquaintances and are able to get a view on both sides of the train and stretch your legs. By the way, sorry to disappoint some of John’s friends, but the toilet is absolutely fine and kept spotlessly clean by our Providnista, with hot and cold running water.
By the way, much to our surprise (following our negative pre-trip research), our compartment has it’s own power sockets so we have been able to keep all of our electrical devices fully charged up. We should mention that we had a real result at the beginning of the trip when we purchased Russian SIM cards for our old iPhones for £12 each - amazingly cheap. This will provide us with unlimited 3G internet throughout our time in the Country. Reception is intermittent away from civilisation but it has allowed us to keep in touch with home regularly via WhatsApp, FaceTime and email and even when we’re on the move.
Lunch was delivered to our compartment at midday and what should it be.......surprise surprise, exactly the same as dinner last night, a salami starter and chicken with rice. Fortunately we had some mustard with us so mixed it into our meal to make it more palatable. Washed it down with a Budweiser (turn in your grave Lenin) as the only Russian beers left in the bar were a bit too strong for lunchtime drinking.
Unfortunately the weather forecast has proved accurate and during our journey on Monday the blue sky gradually disappeared until by mid afternoon we were travelling through dark skies and steady rain. As we had unbroken sunshine for 6 days on arrival we will live with a couple of poor days and then hopefully things will pick up again as we travel further east across Siberia later in the week.
Following lunch it was an afternoon coffee, Picnic bars (a real treat), a bit more reading and then our 26 hour journey was in it’s last couple of hours. Where has that time gone? Our first long train journey has been enjoyable and encouraging.
Our arrival in Yekaterinburg is 30 minutes late at 8.45pm. We say goodbye to our lovely, but nameless, Providnista and look forward to a swift hotel check-in and quick turnaround before having a meal and drinks in town (we have plans on where to go). Then it’s two busy days of sightseeing before we board our next train.Read more