Trans Siberian Express -next stop Khabarovsk....Ulan Ude...we hope!

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July 6th 2012
Published: July 11th 2012
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The Trans Siberian railway deserves a blog of it's very own. Our first experience was the overnight journey from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk.

We had already collected our tickets the day before so knew the layout of the railwaystation but waited in the central seating area for the number of our platform to be displayed and number 1 duly came up.Luckily this was only down one flight of stairs and through the doors so was relatively easy.We located our carriage,number 12,and the provodnitsa (attendant) who was a bit bemused by our e-ticket but let us on so we boarded our first Trans Siberian train at 7pm.The locals have to show their passports to board the trains but so far we have not had to,maybe we're not quite blending in with the locals yet.

We found our four berth 2nd class compartment and had beds 7&8 although nobody else got on with us at Vladivostok which enabled us to sort ourselves out.We were supplied with a mattress,duvet,pillow & case, 2 flat sheets and a small towel so we made up the beds up before it got dark. Each carriage consists of 9compartments,a toilet either end and the samovar-a coal fired stove-that provides boiling water which is obviously vital for making tea.The four berth 2nd class compartments have 4 bunks,2 either side and there is aladder for small people to use to reach the top bunk.There are storage areas under the bottom bunks and next to the upper bunks in a shelf over the corridor.There is also a table next to the window,each bunk has a small light and there some foldaway storage nets for smaller items.There are electrical points for re-charging i-pods,camera batteries and kindles etc in the corridor and the carriages have air-conditioning/heating.The toilets have a flushable loo and small sink.Smoking is banned inside the carriages but there is an area at each end for smokers.We had the obligatory cup of tea and went to bed - one top and one bottom bunk -happily trundling along when at about midnight there was a knock at the door and a father & his teenage son appeared having joined further down the line.They were obviously used to the train and managed to construct their beds quickly and in hushed whispers.The train doesn't hang around and runs exactly to schedule with station stops ranging from 3-30 minutes.People often get out at longer stops to stretch their legs or to smoke.In the morning we stripped the beds and left happily having survived leg one of the epic journey!!

I am composing this while on leg 2 of the journey in our first class compartment on the 007 train-yes really !-from Khabarovsk to Ulan Ude.This journey will take 48 hours and take us through 2 time zones thus gaining another 2 hours meaning we will be 8 hours ahead of the UK rather than 10.Our first class compartment consists of 2 lower bunks mirrors on the wall,a smaller but still adequate table,plusher decor and more lights and carpeted floor, but is otherwise the same as the previous train. The bunks had already been made up which was handy and it's a lot quieter as there are less people.Some compartments only have 1 person in them but this could change en-route unless they have bought out the entire compartment.We have done this for our other 2 night journey in a 2nd class compartment so that we can spread ourselves out over the 4 bunks and have more privacy.The lower numbered trains i.e. 007 are reported be more comfortable and have less stops so making them more popular.

There is a 3rd class carriage and this is an open carriage with bunk beds everywhere,needless to say we haven't booked anything at this level!It will be interesting to compare the different trains after we have travelled on all 9 journies.

We have got a lovely lady, Lubuth, who is walking up and down the train with a snacks trolley. She sells juice,water,beer,crisps,freshly made savoury rolls made from a sweet dough-very nice especially as they were warm-biscuits,pringles and chocolate. We however have come ready prepared courtesy of English and Russian supermarkets.We have a wonderful array of Heinz soups in handy sachets-sounds dodgy but actually very good;rich tea biscuits; raspberry go ahead bars;crisps;cold roast chicken;bread rolls;chocolate croissants;bread;raisins;bananas;cereal;blackcurrant school bars;packet soup and milk for the copious cups of tea.We have plastic plates&bowls;plastic mugs;teaspoons;sporks* and a swiss army knife.*sporks are a great invention-they are a single plastic piece of cutlery with a spoon at one end and a fork with a serrated end at the other. There is a restaurant carriage and these vary from train to train so we thought we ought to be well prepared. There are also rumoured to be people selling edible goods on certain station platforms but after almost 24 hours these have not materialised yet but I have promised Steph fresh raspberries so I am keeping my fingers crossed!! **STOP PRESS**It's not a rumour , we have just stopped-midday 5th July-at Amazar in Siberia where the locals were selling freshly cooked food at the side of the station platform. I have bought some traditional Siberian 'pelmeni' which are pasta dumplings usually stuffed with pork or beef ( the filling in ours is yet to be determined!)boiled potato, a boiled egg and 2 sweet pastry surprises.

The compartment windows are ideal for watching the world go by. It is wonderful sitting back and doing just that!
The landscape has been very green with some areas of flat fields and others of hilly areas with the odd splash of colour from rogue daffodils or several swathes of colourful flowers that wouldn't look out of place in an English meadow. Mostly though there are lots and lots of trees. We have crossed the Amur river, gone through several tunnels including the first on the Trans Siberian route built through perma-frost and been past several villages with traditional wooden houses as well as a few industrial areas.
The train stops at stations every couple of hours - sometimes for a couple of minutes and sometimes for half an hour. It is, unsurprisingly, a busy railway line with other passenger and goods trains rattling past.
In such a vast country, the railroad system is a vital part of Russian life. The route we are following is 9289km,almost 6000 miles, from Vladivostok to Moscow which takes 7 days non stop to travel. The train is full of a cross section of society-soldiers, families, business people but few tourists. Many people (including us) have walked up and down the train to have a look at the other travellers.

We have been really lucky with the weather so far it's generally been fine during the day when we've been walking around and then heavy rain some evenings. Temperatures have been in the upper seventies and humid with blue skies or haze, so far so good.

Hygiene-small children and those of a nervous disposition look away now........only kidding. We have come armed with babywipes, toilet rolls, handgel and bottled water for the train and then make use of the hotel bathroom facilities.We will have to do some washing when we reach Ulan Ude but the travel gear these days are a doddle to wash and dry plus we have 2 days so plenty of time.

We will shortly be entering Siberia and , contrary to popular belief, it is warm and sunny. Mind you I don't fancy being here in the middle of Winter when it has been known for temperatures to drop down to -60.It might be very pretty but.......The change in landscape was quite marked with large areas of forest and hundreds of butterflies
-mainly white but some yellow and orange. The architecture has also changed, most people in the region seem to live in brightly decorated small wooden houses with small fences as a perimeter around very neat and well tended plots of land. We’ve also seen a lot of derelict buildings, mainly industrial and some very large. These are just left as disgarded shells, some with huge rusting oil tanks, others resembling bomb sites.

Overall the scenery has been breath taking and vast.


11th July 2012

Hi Coral This is something I'd always thought would not be me but it sounds fantastic maybe one day?
13th July 2012

Happy Birthday Coral
Well Done ladies! You're doing so well & glad to hear all going according to plan, although sounds like it was well worth being prepared for things in advance!! What an experience for you both & good that you're managing to get it all down in writing for future reference. Wish I had done something like that for some of my holidays. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday Coral - from both Angela & I - hope you have a brilliant day whatever you're getting up to!! Hope you manage to find a cake somewhere, although probably not the candles! Weather over here is still pretty dire for Summer - off to the Farnborough Air Show tomorrow, so hope the rain stays away for the displays atleast. Rock Choir news - just received email from Caroline to say that we have been awarded the Guinness World Record (so those of us singing in Winnersh weren't penalised for starting a bit late then) phew! Hope all continues to go well for you both - keep safe.
15th July 2012

No internet either!
Really enjoying all this detail and the photos ladies, looks great! Have been slow to keep up with your blog this week having been at our house in Wales which has less internet than Siberia!

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