Childhood dream fulfilled! First train on the long journey to Moscow conquered!
Flooding along the Amur River – on the border between China and Russia – unfortunately meant it was best to skip some of my planned riverside destinations. I’ll just have to come back! This lead to a 66 hour sleeper train from Vladivostok to Ulan Ude – another dream destination of mine.
No hard seat this time – they don’t even have them – but third class sleeper. 50 odd people in one open sleeper carriage sharing two loos, one boiling water dispenser and space. Forget showers, meal service (unless you head to the restaurant car), wifi and cabins!
The whole thing ran like a dream.
First, these days you can pre-pick your train date, class, time and number, and check seat availability, online. Then, either book online or, as I did, write the details on paper to hand to the train station lady. . . Some of whom may be less than cheery!
I also noted whether I wanted an upper or lower, and aisle or standard, berth – all in Russian using the good old Lonely Planet phrase book – and had a backup train and bed type in case of unavailability. Any language difficulty solved, and in some countries, this can help you get served in a crush!!
As well as being cheaper and a good chance to mix with the locals and language, third class is also said to be the safest budget option for women on their own. You are not locked into a four berth cabin with people you might not be comfortable with. Safety in numbers!
Every carriage has a ‘provodnik’ or ‘provodnitsa’ who keeps things clean and ordered and safe. Lights are out at ten p.m! I loved it!
I have an invite to my providnitsa’s house for later! A young guy who’d just finished military service gave me his dog tag as a present! Food, tea and syrupy homemade rose’ wine were shared. No vodka was sighted although the odd slurring slouching man was aided along the aisle.
Autumn in Siberia is yellow, yellow, yellow! Rivers and streams pop up and then meander away. Villages of dark wooden homes with brightly painted blue and green roofs and window shutters mesmorise.
The train rattled on through a two hour time difference (all train timetables run on Moscow time which makes sense but requires maths… +7 hours for Vlad departure, +5 for UU arrival, adjusted by two hours). Three sleeps and two whole days.
Time out! I just wish my playing up phone pics did the trip justice!!