Published: October 11th 2006October 4th 2006
Tuesday Oct 3rd 2006
This evening is the start of our LONG train trek across the vast expanses of Russia. We have a “soft sleeper” which refers to a cabin with 4 bunks in it that are about as wide as a gym stretching mat with far less padding. Sam and I are allocated the top bunks and meet the two ladies that are going to be our cabin mates for the next 6 days and nights. Sabrina, a PHD student on her way to Beijing for a Robotics conference is from Germany who, thank God, spent time studying in China and can speak the language and Hilda from Belgium will have to put up with us to the trip. We have discovered that there are no showers in the cheap section we occupy and the whole rail car will be sharing has a very smelly toilet. An online blog had alluded to a shower car that had our hopes up after not being able to buy the luxury 2-berth cabin, which shares a shower with another cabin, while in St. Petersburg because it was sold out. It was a myth and Sam was a bit disappointed. Good news though, all the boiling hot water you can drink! We can’t wait to get started.
Wednesday Oct 4th 2006 Day 1
With little to do during the trip Sam and I passed the time reading and playing cribbage. There was a food car but every time I went to it it was either full of 1st class people or in-between meals so I never had the opportunity to see what was available. Reading an on-line blog had warned us about the food problem so we packed in bread, breakfast bars, fruit and a ton of the “starving student favorite”, Top Ramen. Besides, less food equals less bathroom breaks. The bathrooms are not nice areas. They are a stainless steel box that is occasionally hosed down to lessen the smell and attempt to make it seem clean. They do not have a holding tank the human waste just hits the tracks below. As for the scenery, the Russian countryside was a beautiful forested landscape. The train stopped constantly at small train stations along the way allowing us the opportunity to get off and stretch our legs. At these stops there were vendors pushing carts selling food, water, beer and of course instant noodles.