She Who Must Be Obeyed

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March 12th 2017
Published: April 14th 2017
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First day on Trans-Siberian RailwayFirst day on Trans-Siberian RailwayFirst day on Trans-Siberian Railway

Just kidding! This was part of our interactive experience at a 3D art gallery (2D art became 3D at certain angles for photography). Khabarovsk.
Дoбpый дeнь (Dobri dyen) Good day.

Education is light. The lack of it is darkness. Russian Proverb.

The Provodnitsa (attendant) is the boss. She’ll ensure that all will be well and that all will comply. Resistance is futile. She must be obeyed…

Our favourite Provodnitsa was during our first-class train trip from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok. She was our travel mom, our carriage attendant, she checked on us, gave us food and towels. She even told Theresa to get her shoes off the bed, keeping with the standards of first class travel and first class riders. Behave or be disciplined. And never stare her in the eyes!

Riding first class is the way to go. We had our own comfortable cabin for our train rides as we trundled across Siberia. Many an hour was spent looking out the window at a vast area of relentless and unforgiving taiga forest backed with mountains, save for only a few small tracts of empty steppe. Small railway towns and several remote outposts were dotted along the route, but otherwise this part of the planet is void of people. It’s a climatically hostile and unfavourable environment for humans to exist.

The Siberian city of Chita (Читa) was a wee bit
Big gunsBig gunsBig guns

Military surplus at a city park in Chita
rough around the edges, with its crumbling housing units, litter strewn streets and stray dogs. We did however, find some interesting things just by walking around. There was a lot of military surplus, especially tanks.

We did have a very nice hot chocolate in Chita though.

We were hesitant at first to order after our previous cup in Ulan-Ude...

Theresa: "What if it's brown sludge again?"

Dave: "It can't be worse than the other brown sludge we had!"

Theresa: "Agreed! We shall chance it."

A very nice hot chocolate indeed!

We departed Chita at around midnight, and for the next forty-odd hours we were transported through time and emptiness.

The train trundled to a stop in Birobidzhan (Биpoбиджaн) in the Jewish Autonomous Region where there was an unexpected sight of many signs and shop fronts written in Hebrew. A nice place for a decent leg-stretch. We had other short stops in the small settlements of Mogocha, Amazar, Belogorsk & Obluche. All Soviet built railway towns, all very similar and quite grimy in appearance, but nevertheless, fascinating.

Eventually we arrived in Khabarovsk (Xaбapoвcк), a colourful, artsy city in Russia's Far East.
Decemberists MuseumDecemberists MuseumDecemberists Museum

Closed when we visited, but a very important time in history where women protested and improved the treatment of men in prisons.

We encountered another honourable provodnitsa in the city museum in Khaborovsk. As we walked into one of the many rooms, she ordered us to leave the museum as it was closing in twenty minutes. Even though we did not understand her words, her motions and tone of voice were enough to make us comply.

Theresa: “We must obey her.”

Dave: “Indeed. We must go.”

Theresa: "Like, right now."

Dave: "We're getting the eyes!"

We scurried out of the building without question… We were unscathed by our encounter with 'she who must be obeyed'. We were sure that 'order' had been maintained within the museum.

Back on the train we noticed a lever…

It was labelled: CTOП KPAH (STOP KRAN). Does this mean that by pulling the lever - Theresa stops? Or is it a command to stop her?

We shall never know, as neither of us had the courage to ask the provodnitsa… She would have given us the look. The eyes!

The overnight train ride took us to Vladivostok (Bлaдивocтoк), pretty much the furthest east you can get on the Russian rail system, and 9300 km from Moscow. The
Crumbling sidewalksCrumbling sidewalksCrumbling sidewalks

Khrushchevkas, in Chita
city is built on hills that twist around rugged bays, it is a rather stunning location.

A visit to Russia would not be complete without a night at the opera. Russians love a night at the opera, so we got our friend in Vladivostok to get us tickets to see the Italian opera, Tosca, by Giacomo Puccini.

The classical music was exquisite and the sonic landscape of the human voice was powerful with emotion. It was sang in Italian, and the subtitles were Russian. We read the brief outline of the story in English beforehand so we could better understand the dramatic, and often tragic scenes. It was very well done...

It was our first ever opera. We really enjoyed it.

“I have lived for art, I have lived for love." Tosca

“And the stars were shining, and the earth was scented. The gate of the garden creaked and a footstep grazed the sand... Fragrant, she entered and fell into my arms." Tosca

Our friend Sasha is a local resident of Vladivostok and he toured us around for a few days as we soaked up the mild weather on Russia’s east coast. Vladivostok was the only place where we didn’t need to wear hats and gloves all the time. We did need to carry them with us though...

Russia does indeed possess much of the hemisphere's deep, cold winter... But the buildings are heated,
Trains and KhrushchevkasTrains and KhrushchevkasTrains and Khrushchevkas

The background apartments were known as Khrushchevkas, named after President Khrushchev of the Soviet Union. Chita.
the trains are cozy, and the people are warmhearted.

"In Russia we have the biggest microchips in the world". Sasha telling a Russian joke.

Travelling through Russia in winter had its challenges, the cold temperatures, the darkness, and being the 'off-season' to name a few. Then there were the challenges of travelling across Russia's immense geography - its distances and time-zones. It seemed as if every time we got out of a vehicle, our watches needed adjusting...

But the thing we missed most about this trip, was sitting in a city park with a packed lunch and watching the people. There weren't too many folks in the parks, often the benches were buried in snow, and although we were prepared for the cold - it is sometimes tough to dress for a city in the winter. Dressing to be inside and outside at the same time is still tough for us to master...

Дэвид и Тереса (David and Theresa)

In the past, Russia needed liberty to live better; it must now have it in order to survive.… The challenge of our times is an overhaul of the system of values, the forging of new consciousness. We cannot build a new country with the old thinking.… The best investment the state can make in man is Liberty and the Rule of Law. And respect for man’s Dignity... Dmytri Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

P.S. The provodnitsas are really lovely ladies. We really loved having them around! But you must obey them at all times!

Additional photos below
Photos: 44, Displayed: 26


First ClassFirst Class
First Class

On the Rossiya, Trans-Siberian train
The Constant ClatterThe Constant Clatter
The Constant Clatter

Every ten minutes freight trains rattled past on the other track. Note the overhead electric lines. The entire 10,000 km St Petersburg to Vladivostok is electrified.
Station BreakStation Break
Station Break

Local lady selling hot snacks
Railway settlementRailway settlement
Railway settlement

View from the train
Station breakStation break
Station break

The temperature on the 3rd class carriage was so warm, many people still wore their shorts outside, despite the temps of minus 20 to minus 30 C outside, at station breaks.
Soviet-era settlematSoviet-era settlemat
Soviet-era settlemat

View from the train
Window viewingWindow viewing
Window viewing

from the train
Ice roadIce road
Ice road

View from the train
Trans-Siberian BridgeTrans-Siberian Bridge
Trans-Siberian Bridge

View from the train
Railway TownRailway Town
Railway Town

View from the train
Cold and Frosty MorningCold and Frosty Morning
Cold and Frosty Morning

Railway town. View from the train.
Freeze-dried laundryFreeze-dried laundry
Freeze-dried laundry

View from the train
Harsh ClimateHarsh Climate
Harsh Climate

Weathered buildings. View from the train.
The sign of LeoThe sign of Leo
The sign of Leo

Signs of the Zodiac sculptures in Khabarovsk
Who you gonna CallWho you gonna Call
Who you gonna Call

A three dimensional, interactive experience at an art gallery, where all art was actually two dimensional but at certain angles it looked 3D! Fun day in Khabarovsk!
Look ma, no hands!Look ma, no hands!
Look ma, no hands!

3D art gallery... No, actually that was really me doing this stunt!

14th April 2017

Obey the Provodnitsas!
You had me laughing, as I too learned quickly that no one messes with the Provodnitsas, or the ticket booth woman, or the grocery lady, or the shop clerk. I had many stand offs. So cool to stop off at the different towns to experience the Siberian life isn't it? I really enjoyed reminiscing through your trip. Thanks!
14th April 2017
First day on Trans-Siberian Railway

Too good to ignore
Maybe part of an interactive 2D or 3D display...but hey...putting yourself out there gotta get some kudos!
16th April 2017
First day on Trans-Siberian Railway

Love the humor
Fantastic trip!

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