waiting for our last Trans-Siberian train
Yekaterinburg waiting room - complete with chandeliers & murals depicting the history of the city
This is our final stint on the Trans-Siberian – a mere 24hrs and we'll be in Moscow. As we set off I'm ready with my Eye-Spy guide but I'm confused - we've only been going 10 minutes but the km markers are reading km1650, Yekaterinburg is at kn1816 – very odd. Its takes a while to figure it out; there are 3 train route between Yekaterinburg & Moscow. The old northern route via Rostov-Veliky, the main route via Nizhny Novogorod and the more direct southern route via Kazan. Seems we are on train #15 “the Ural” which takes the southern route via Kazan. Now we've got that sorted we can relax and watch the scenery go past.
Soon after leaving Yekaterinburg we also leave Asia and re-enter Europe, the scenery doesn't change. I'm expecting big grand mountains, after all we are passing through the Urals the mountain range that divides Asia from Europe. But what we get are gently rolling hills covered in forest. Doesn't seem right, it should be more dramatic.
We've only been going one hour when we stop for our first engine change In the tiny town of Druzhinino – seems strange, the train started in
Yekaterinburg so why change the engine after only 1 hr???
As we'll be in Moscow tomorrow morning you expect everything to be getting more urban and industrial but the opposite seems to be happening. The forests are still just as thick and frequent with the usual small villages full of wooden houses with potato patch gardens. In fact the scenery is surprisingly similar to that of the entire train journey. There are a few industries around but they seems neater and more contained. Somehow they doesn't sprawl across the landscape – they are suddenly there, within their fence, then they are gone. There are a few changes; some 2 storey wooden houses, a few satellite dishes, an entire herd of cows, the occasional giant wheat field full of round hay bales. But we also see some ladies, in head-scarves, cutting the open grassland with scythes.
We seem to stop at less stations than usual – I suppose that's because we are on the Moscow-Yekaterinburg Express train of which the locals are very proud. “the Ural Express has a good reputation and a very friendly staff. It is the pride of the Ekaterinburg city administration which aspires to make
it may be a posh new train but somehow it lacks the character of the older compartments with their frilly curtains and homely touches
it one of the best trains in Russia. Some of the carriages have Internet access and satellite TV and of course, the train has a nice restaurant car.” It is indeed a very smart, modern train but somehow lacking the character of the older more rattly trains with their frilly drapes and wooden panels. We head off to check out the “nice restaurant car”, its bright red and purple, very psychedelic. As on the last train, there are no Russians in sight, just some French and us but the food is good.
As it gets dark we pass through the city of Kazan and cross the Volga River on its way to the Caspian Sea. This sparks another round of reminiscences of our bike ride and the night on the 'train ferry' across the Caspian. That's the nice thing about coming back slowly on the train, you relive the bike trip section by section.
This morning we woke up in thick forest. Moscow is only 2 hours away but we are still in thick forest, I'm still expecting an urban landscape . We started off 6 days away from Moscow so being 2 hours away it feels so
The Urals in Asia
gently rolling, forested hills. Not the great, towering Continental Divide that you imagine
close yet there's no sign of big cities. What there is is a thick haze blanking out the sun – is it just early morning mist or is it the smoke from the forest fires that's blanking out Moscow (remember the blog is well behind so we're talking about the Aug forest fire's in Russia). Worryingly it smells like smoke – is it going to be like this from now on? Luckily an hour later its cleared and there are clear blue skies over the ever present forest.
Its not until we're 30 mins from Moscow that we start to see brick built villages and pass lots of small stations. Then all of a sudden the forest goes, tower blocks appear and we are pulling into Moscow Kazanskaya station – it happens really quickly. After 6 nights on the train (with a few stops along the way) we have made it to Moscow and it has actually been great fun We've passed more trees & forests than I ever knew existed and met some interesting characters. There's only one problem - it was too green!!! I imagined Siberian being bleak and it just wasn't like that. Mind, in the
The Urals in Europe
pretty similar to the Urals in Asia
winter its probably a different story – we'll just have to come back again when it all covered in snow (and you can drive across Lake Baikal).
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