So it was time. We’d been travelling for 3 weeks already but everything before was building up to this. Our Trans Siberian adventure. It had been in the back of my mind ever since we had entered Russia – I was very excited but also a bit nervous because it was all unknown. What was it going to be like?
We made our way to Yaroslavsky station thanks to a helpful guy at our hostel letting us share his ‘bomber’ – a private car that is flagged down to give a lift, like an unofficial taxi. It happens all over Russia. It was certainly nice not to have to navigate the Metro again!
After stocking up on last minute noodles, snacks and vodka, and buying some ludicrously expensive station food (the prices looked good until I discovered they must have meant per 100g or similar) we finally boarded our train, the 056. The first thing we noticed was how modern it was! Although some popular trains are well documented, there are so many different ones that run the Trans Siberian route that it is hard to find details of them all online so it was all a bit of a mystery!
We found our cabin and immediately met our cabin mates. One was a quiet Russian soldier, around 30, and the other was a Russian gentleman in his 50’s who right from the start was very eager to talk, despite his complete lack of English and our lack of Russian!
Around half an hour into the journey he decided that we needed a drink and came back with half a litre of Vodka, and insisted that we both did some very large shots of it, which of course we accepted as we didn’t want to be rude! Soon after this we discovered why he had been quite so talkative as he was face down in his bed sleeping for the rest of the night – let’s just say I don’t think that Vodka was his first of the day!
Vodka man disembarked during the night (surprised he managed to wake up for his station!) and we had a quieter companion in his place, so we spent the day relaxing, drinking tea, eating noodles, reading and marvelling at the snowy Russian countryside.
So what was the train like? I’ve added some photos below, although I didn’t take very many on this train, I took far more on the others. It was very clean and modern – the best one we used out of them all. The bottom seats swung round into a bunk and the top bunk folded down from the wall, and there were some useful storage compartments underneath the headrests. The beds themselves were comfy, and we got a surprisingly good night’s sleep!
And as for the dreaded toilets? They were spotless, the provanista did a great job, she was even mildly friendly, which is the exact opposite of what we were prepared for!
Soon 26 hours were up and we were packing up and disembarking in Yekaterinburg. The temperature gauge told us it was -21 outside…
We got out of the station into the Arctic conditions expecting to be able to jump into a taxi. In reality we found it almost impossible to find one, with the few present suggesting such high prices it seemed like they couldn’t even be bothered with the fare. After about 20 minutes, irritated and fingers frozen, we found a willing driver finally, and made our way to the hostel.
The hostel was another apartment style one, only this time even smaller than the Moscow one. They had made up our room for Valentines day, which was a nice touch (we had forgotten what day it was!). We went out for food, and waited around an hour for the most disgusting pizza we’ve ever eaten before retiring to bed. That was our Valentines day, how romantic.
The next day we walked around for about an hour in the cold and just to make it worse it was snowing. We saw a few churches before admitting defeat and dashing into Subway before we got frostbite, the only place we could see to get a drink and warm up, before heading back.
That night I was determined to get a nice meal, we searched for a grill which Greg had looked up,unfortunately it was more of a sports bar, and because of Russia playing USA it was packed to capacity with loud drunk people.We were on our way back when we saw an Italian the people at our hostel had suggested the night before. It was a nice place, there was a screen for the Olympics, but it was far less busy. We had our first bottle of wine since Paris! And ate some tasty food. It was to be our belated Valentines day.
And that was it for Yekaterinburg. There isn’t much we can say about it really, it seems like a nice enough Russian city, but we were there for such a short period of time and it was so bitterly cold it was hard to enjoy. Thankfully it was the coldest place we would experience – the temperature and enjoyment would only go up from here.