Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
98Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
8 floor hostel
The ride from Moscow to Tomsk was roughly 56 hours. Upon laying on my shelf, I spent the majority of the first evening keeping out the way, reading and listening to podcasts. A big shout out to James Richardson, Danny Baker, Chris Evans, Ian Wright, Dave Gorman and Kirsty Youngs desert island discs. Kirsty has such a soft and soothing voice and makes every interview interesting. I typically slept listening to Karl Pilkington discuss monkeys, then dream about monkeys.
A full day on the train goes something like this: wake up, coffee, bread, read, music, podcast, bathroom, stare out window, tea, sleep, lunch, sleep, read, read, tea, chocolate, tea, read, music, podcast, food from platform, more tea, more sleep, more staring out the window. I am in my prime when needing to kill time. The journey is quite unique, a great achievement by the Russians in building such a vast rail network. But, also, a huge sense of pride knowing that you feel every mile of the ride along the Trans-Siberian.
I got told off a few times. Firstly using the red handle on the samova (large hot water dispenser) I should have turned the blue handle for hot water. Secondly, on the first morning, people around me were handing in their bedding. I joined in, not knowing that these people were departing the train. I thought it was odd that we got new bedding, especially in 3rd class. It was given back to me so I had to remake my bed.
For those who have never travelled on the train, it is a little like this. There is a mad rush to enter the train. Instead of a family saying goodbye to a relative on the platform, they board the train and cause further congestion. You are given a small space (3rd class) on an open carriage holding 60 beds. Two upper and lower beds around a table and perpendicular is another two beds, one on top of each other. There is a small mattress to unroll, a bottom sheet, and a sheet to sleep under. There are thick blankets but they are not needed as the carriage temperature hovered around 26 degrees C. You also got a pillow and pillow case. Above upper beds was a storage shelf, under lower beds was more storage. Each bed had a little rack to keep books, tea bags etc. You also got a tea towel size towel to dry with, I used mine to dry my mug, plate and cutlery. Each carriage had two attendants, a hot water dispenser and snacks you could buy. Two toilets on each carriage. There were a few plug sockets to charge phones. Displayed was a timetable of future stops and how long the stops were, so something to look forward to, to stretch the legs, grab some food or just some fresh air.
Opposite and below me was a large old Russian lady who snored like a pig who swallowed a piglet. It annoyed me the first night, but I slept more during the day (when she was awake) than I did at night. There were no English speaking passengers but everyone was pleasant and friendly. Every time I ate, the lady moved away from the table so I could use it to rest my plate on.
I loved the journey, adored the adventure and relished the time for reflection.
A point of interest for my family, as I'm sure no-one else knows this fact, the train was very similar to a particular element of my trip to France as a 12 year old. I'd thought you'd all (family) enjoy that!
I was ready to disembark at Tomsk. I had booked no hostel and after a couple hours of searching, feeling dizzy and faint, I found one in an apartment block. It was only a few months old. I had a long shower and rested for a few hours. Then explored Tomsk. Ate food at the local university, explored some more then crashed for the evening.
Tomsk is a lively, youthful and fun city. It was hard to believe that I was in Siberia. In some ways I imagined a derelict town, dirt roads, few people but again, I am so wrong. A large, bustling city, full of bars, cafes, department stores and buses, trams and Soviet style vehicles.
In time, I explored the edge of the river, the old wooden houses that partly sink into the ground. Again, everyone is wrapped up like it's December in the UK, all looking more stylish and modern than the travelling gingerman.
My last day in Tomsk, I met Nata, a couchsurfer, for coffee. She was unable to host me but was free to show me around. She showed me little cute duck ponds, significant buildings, churches and more wooden houses. When it rained, we headed for her apartment where she made me Kazakhstan food, it was delicious. Nata is from Kazakhstan and showed me pictures from a recent adventure. It looked amazing. She is a professional photographer, hitch hikes all over the country, including 5 days of hitch hiking to Moscow, lives with her husband and has two cats. The ginger one, Reggi was particularly friendly and it wasn't long before he was sat on my leg while I watched Nata cook. A very kind, friendly individual. She took me to a supermarket to help me pick up some treats for my next train and walked me back to my
I left Tomsk in the evening. We only had twenty minutes to board the train and AGAIN more non passengers boarded! I had a top bunk again, got myself sorted and switched on a podcast.
Next stop, 32 hour train ride to Irkutsk.