We had a quick pitstop in Moscow to get ready to catch our train from there to Irkutsk. Having previously been to Moscow there wasn’t a lot we wanted to do except go and see Red Square. On our last visit it had been shut as our visit had coincided with Victory Day which is when the military gets out all their big artillery and drives them around the streets to celebrate the end of WWII. Well, the military were in town again on this visit and had taken over the square once again. Maybe one day we will get to see it properly!
All that left us to do was to get some provisions in ready for our 3 day train journey and meet up for dinner with a friend who lives in Moscow.
The next morning we were off!
We got off the Metro and we knew that there were 3 train stations in close proximity of each other and that we had to find Yaroslavsky. Let’s just say when you get there there are lots of helpful signs from the Metro pointing you in the right direction, once you get outside you are on your own! We could not work out where our train was going from. We could see platforms but didn’t know if these were Yaroslavsky platforms or ones belonging to one of the other stations. Fortunately we had allowed plenty of time so we went over to the information booth to ask where to go. The woman at the information booth in answer to our question of where to go wrote on a scrap of paper “13:30” which we took to mean our train was leaving earlier than planned and that’s why we couldn’t see it anywhere on the boards.
Off we went again. Still couldn’t see anything for a 13:30 train or a 13:50. At this point panic set in. The buffer of time we had allowed was rapidly expiring. In desperation we went to try and board a train which we knew wasn’t ours in the hope the lady on the door would point us in the right direction. Nope. She just ushered us away. No one seemed to want to help at all.
It was now starting to rain. Alan, sensing that my patience and composure were about to disappear, plonked me down under some shelter with the bags and went to see what he could find. This time he was more lucky and returned with a platform number for our 13:50 train. Panic over! We boarded the train and found our compartment.
On board the train we had our own compartment which was absolute bliss after 8 nights straight in dormitory rooms. We unpacked and settled down for our 3 day journey.
The neighbouring 2 compartments had some other English couples so we soon got talking. A bit later on we headed off together to the dining car for a beer. I had romantic visions of the dining car and us all sitting there relaxing as the world flew past the window.
It was not to be.
We got in there, I asked for “Piva” and the girl in the dining car pointed on the menu at a beer which cost 300 roubles, around £6. Alan asked for a different one which was 100 roubles. Nope. 120 roubles. Nope. She would only sell us the 300 rouble beer even though we could see the other beers behind the bar. Hmm. That and her completely unfriendly demeanour meant that I handed her back the menu with a “spasiba” and walked out, the others following me.
We weren’t to set foot in there again. The others did though and they ordered 2 lots of vodka for 200 roubles each and at the end were presented with a bill for 1,500 roubles! Cheek.
That wasn’t the end of being ripped off on the train. There are people who walk through selling food and drink to you in your carriage. We did get beer off of one woman who walked off to get our change only to never return with it. Needless to say we didn’t buy anything again off of her either.
It wasn’t all bad though. We got to know Natasha who was incredibly friendly and she didn’t pull any tricks on us. She became our lady of choice for food and drinks.
Occasionally at the stations there would be people selling their wares. We saw smoked fish, pies, potatoes, cucumbers and fur costs for sale. This didn’t happen as often as we thought it might do, but we would still jump off at the stations to see what was going on and what we could get.
The three days passed by quickly. It was good to have some enforced down time after all our rushing around through Europe. We would alternate reading with staring out the window at the scenery which didn’t actually alter that much along the way once we had left Moscow. Lots of trees, cute wooden houses and derelict factories once in the bigger towns. And then it was time to get off in Irkutsk for the next phase of our journey.