So what is three nights straight on the train like? There were highs, there were lows. Or more accurately there was sleep, eating, turning back clocks twice a day, more sleeping, choosing mysterious dishes from the dining car, being chased by babushkas on the platforms, sleeping, eating, getting depressed by the misguided decision to read the Gulag Archipelago, getting depressed by the sheer volume of unattractive Russian men with their shirts off, sleeping, eating, changing clocks and then arriving in Kungur, in the Ural mountains for brief respite.
A small town of about fifty thousand maybe, our tour skipped the ever popular Ekaterinburg, instead choosing to bring some foreign tourism to an otherwise often passed place. After a much needed shower and change of clothes, we embarked with a local guide on what became the dawdling tour of Kungur, where we snailed around the town,viewing the Russian classics of statues in squares, churches and views of rivers. After being cooped up on a train for 3+ days, this was not really what the doctor ordered. Thankfully the next stop was, lunch in a local home.
On the fifth floor of a Khrushchev era apartment block, we we're greeted with
the usual array of Russian first course food: potatoes, fish, bread, soup, mayonnaise salad, beet root, cabbage. I thought all was lost, when the host brought out some of the tastiest roast chicken of my life! I am not proud of my table manners after that, but I was very satisfied after that.
With that full belly, it was off with warm clothes to the ice caves, the main attraction of the town. In a seemingly normal hill there lurks a series of caves, where the stalagmites and tites are made of ice. Very beautiful, and very cold! But getting less cold and icey as the caves progress.
Next on our jam packed schedule - gingerbread 'masterclass', in another local home, this time a lovely artist and her family. After mixing up the gingerbread, we carefully selected a mold (hand carved by the artist), and set about lining it with a thin layer of gingerbread. jam homemade jam, then a final layer of gingerbread, before unmolding it and baking. Then some songs from the family and some viewing of their amazing home.
The gingerbread is ready! But in the post baking treatment the nice local artist decapitates
my carefully made pony. The real tragedy here was this pony was meant to help me find a husband according to local tradition, where once baked I was to tuck it into my armpit and go off to find the man in question, then present the armpitted gingerbread to him, which he would be unable to resist. I managed to salvage the horse's head, so all is not lost, presenting an armpitted horses head to a man isn't creepy at all.
After a nights sleep not on a train, we then had a school visit. By this time I am pretty sure we had met nearly everyone in this small town. Then off to Perm to get on the train to Moscow!
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