The journey to Yekaterinberg was less than fabulous. We managed to make lots of people angry as described here and travelling 3rd (AKA platskart AKA cattle class!) was not quite as we had expected…
For your background knowledge, here’s how the carriages work:
2nd class / Kupe. 4 beds in a compartment off a corridor, al la James Bond / Murder on the Orient Express stylee with a lockable door, storage under the beds and above the door and a little table between the beds. :
Tthe 3rd class (Platzcart) is one big corridor, similar to kupe but with an extra 2 beds by the window and no doors. Platzkart has been lovely and quiet at night, I think this is because the normal Russians are all travelling about and there’s not many tourists. But after a couple of days of people all living in close proximity the carriage smells of a millions lunches / dinners / breakfasts and everyone’s stuff is everywhere. It is however a good place to meet people – when there’s good neighbours that is! – as described here!
After the comparative luxury of 2nd class we were completely unprepared for the top bunks on 3rd to be too low to sit up on. This meant that unless we wanted to lie down all day – which meant of course that, lulled by the rocking of the train and boredom(!), we would sleep the whole way (as indeed several passengers did) – we were dependant on the people on the bottom bunk being a) awake and b) willing to let us sit on their bunk.
Now, having travelled in South East Asia where the carriage attendants put you off the train / out of the carriage and change the beds to seats, I was expecting the same thing to happen so that everyone could sit in comfort during the day. However this being Russia things happen somewhat differently to everywhere else and not only did the beds remain out, people joining the train were immediately given bedding regardless of the time of day.
Stef and I were separated on this journey, in the same carriage but different sections.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now neither stef nor I had the generous sit-on-my-bed-and-be-comfy type of neighbours. In fact they were of the breed who sleep all day, so we were displaced like train bed refugees drifting from carriage to carriage trying to find somewhere we wouldn’t get moved on from. We sat on an empty bunk until its rightful owner got on the train, we tried the restaurant car but could only sit there so long before we were in danger of ordering 15 coffees each (not a problem for stef but I have a limit) we even walked the length of the train passing through 2nd, 3rd and the restaurant car until we reached the final carriage where the kind provodnitsa (carriage lady) allowed us to take photos through the back window although I’m sure she thought we were completely mad.
In the end we had a pleasant surprise. Neither of us had taken into account the time difference between yekaterinberg and Moscow so we arrived 2 hours earlier than our watches said we should. This was a journey of a mere 998 km sending us over another time difference line, gaining another hour so we were now 6 hours ahead of the UK.
At some point on the journey we passed the white stone Europe-Asia Border Obelisk which marks the continental division at 1777km placing us firmly in Asia.
We made the mistake(?) Of walking to our hostel. Directions said it would take around an hour making the distance about 2 miles or so. With our bags the time was closer to 3 hours and we arrived at 11pm hot, sweaty and very tired only to be told there’d been an overbooking and there was no beds for us! Cue holding head in hands in exhausted despair until the lovely girl who runs the hostel reassured us we did have a bed with her friend in the apartment next door. They were trialling his place as an extension to the hostel so set up an airbed, and made us very comfy indeed. In the end it was one of the best places we’ve stayed so far. Spotlessly clean, filled with lovely people and an almost private room. All for free!
The walk to the hostel was actually very pleasant taking us past churches and fine buildings. It also took us past a large number of camping,hunting, shooting, fishing shops and stores full of fur coats. A distinct reminder that summer is short, winter is cold and we’re in siberia now where the outdoors is very close indeed.
Our day in yekaterinberg was spent seeing the sights of this pretty little town, including the very random Beatles tributes.
We also sent some stuff home via dhl. It seems no matter how much stuff you get rid of there’s always more “absolute essentials” you can do without.
We had an evening filled with music; a quick stop at a blues festival that turned out to be more country and western. On the train our travelling companions were absolutly lovely, so different to the last lot. We met a band see Stef’s Post for songs.
Total Trans Siberian distance travelled: 1814km
Total distance nottingham to yekaterinberg:7884km