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Published: August 6th 2007
Arrive back in Novosibirsk around 5pm. Get some travellers cheques changed no thanks to evil lady in bank no 1 who is as helpful and friendly as a cobra, only without the charm. Head into downtown Novosibirsk and are a bit surprised to see what seems to be the entire Russian army marching into the main square from all sides to stand under the watchful gaze of the omnipresent flapping coat Lenin statue. Realise that the soliders are fairly relaxed - chatting and laughing - and that passersby are taking photos so nothing sinister is going on (note to self - stopping reading books about revolutions). Eventually the influx stops and we count at least 3000 soldiers in battalions of around 100, plus cadets and marching bands. Turns out they are practising for Victory Day (end of WW2) celebrations on 9th May. Looks impressive. We watch for 30 minutes or so until the drills complete and the soliders scatter across the square, many using the opportunity and no doubt the dashing uniforms, to pick up girls' phone numbers on the way past.
The sky starts to yellow and we hear the distance rumble of thunder. Wise to siberian storms following
Ploschad Lenina, Novosibirsk
Parctising for Victory Day celebrations on 9th May. We counted at least 3000 soldiers.
the Tomsk experience we leg it to the internet cafe and settle in for some serious emailing - its been nearly a week and I have been having withdrawal symptoms for days. A few good emails received and replies sent we hit the supermarket to stock up with supplies (bread, cheese, chocolate and cucumbers - all the major food groups covered). Our leisurely stroll back to the station and discussion on which of the stations' restaurants to eat in is slightly disturbed by the realisation that we have gotten the time zones/clock/Moscow time thing wrong by an hour and our train is leaving in 15 minutes. Frantic dashing up and down stairs to pick up bags, find timetable, find platform, find carriage, find tickets ensues and we are in our compartment on the train, sweating and redfaced, about 2 minutes before it pulls out of Novosibirsk station. Eeek.
For our 32 hour journey to Irkutsk we are sharing our 2nd class, 4 berth cabin with Pawel, Russian soldier in his late 20's on his way to pick up new recruits in Irkutsk and Ludmilla, an comfortable mum-type lady in her 50's heading home to Khabarovsk after a visit to
her sister. Pawel opens a can of beer and smilingly introduces himself to us in English, to Ludmilla in Russian and then Ludmilla (who speaks no English) to us. At first his English is hesitant but he soon warms up, encourages Nico to have a beer too (not easy), and the conversation flows with a few dictionary interjections and a lot of sign language until until well after midnight . Topics range from family (two children, 2 years, same birthday - what? ahh! twins!! - they didn't realise it was twins until they arrived and when he asked what sex the baby was the nurse said one of each. Don't think that would happen often in Ireland these days, how exciting though!), work, music, Russia, travels, languages and what on earth we are doing in honeymoon in Siberia. Ludmilla can't get her head round it at all, nevermind the fact that we are not with a tour group. She points to a Russian word in the dictionary the translation of which is 'savages', and laughs. We laugh too and I point out that we wouldn't have met her if we'd gone on a tour which she agrees is a very
The fabulous Ludmilla and Pawel
Ludmilla travelling to Khabarovsk - didnt speak any english but Pawel (going to Irkutsk)did all the talking and the translating with Ludmilla providing dictionary support on the tricky but essential words like 'garlic' and 'elk'.
good reason for travelling as we are😊 Eventually Ludmilla and I start to fall asleep and Nico and Pawel take their beers into the corridor and I hear snatched fragments of their conversation as I drift off. What in the name of god is a 'forest cow'?!!*
All day spent in the usual talking, eating, snoozing, dictionary-hunting, reading, staring-out-the-window haze. Pawel and Ludmilla are perfect travelling companions and the time passes in a really relaxed, cosy and comfortable way. Finish Dr Zhivago, one of the most incredible books I have ever read, gutted that it's over, then retell it to Pawel who saw a bit of the film and wants to know the ending. Good nights sleep, tumble out of bed at 6:30am as we pull into Irkutsk and say bye to the lovely Ludmilla who has another 3 days on the train still to go. Pawel brings us to the tram stop, organises a Russian lady to get us to the bus station and after swapping email addresses heads off to literally round up the troops. Very sad to see him go - very good craic and very decent person.
One tram change and some stumbling Russian
It really exists, despite my total inability to buy a ticket to get off here.
later we are on the bus for the 1 hour journey to Listvyanka and Lake Baikal, worlds deepest lake.
*An elk apparently
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