Thursday, September 13, 2007

Trans Siberian travel

Well.. the long awaited trans siberian trip started with a flight from London via schipol to St Petersbergh It was about 10C in London on the morning of Dec 12th. ON the flight met this local woman from St Peterburgh who was very friendly and told us taht its -12C out there. She also smiled wryly and said that she would have no clue how Siberia would be in winter, as its not the DONE thing by russians... Well we will find out wont we! Got to St Petersburgh and got a taste of winter in snow bound Russia. The pavements were frozen solid and very soon learnt why the locals shuffled rather than walk! Had to learn the trick though, and Paddy had solid fall before we did... He saved the video camera, but maged to hurt his ribs a bit! That meant, I had to carry the food bag in addition to the back pack. Am I glad we are doing this semi organsied :-) Yep had a meet and greet in everytown and a guide for half a day in each big city.

Next stop was Moscow and taht was no differnet. It gave us a taste for the soviet hotel... were you could take lessons from the receptionist on how to be the 'most unfriendly receptionist' in the world. Loved both St Petersburgh and Moscow. The red square was white though!

After a few days of getting used to shuffling on pavements we were ready for the big trip! The train was very cpmfy. 4 births to a copartment, and space for luggage below the seat. the seat actually came up and created a box for the back packs. In addition we had a little attick like place as well. The attendents were very good and gave us heaps of hot water for our tea and coffee. Glad we did bring some our ready to eat food! There was practically nothing vegetarian food on the train. The pav baji and
such along with the lovely bread we get here saved the day. So we ended up having lovely meals. The daytime in the train was like looking out at aone big moving picture post card! Sitting there in a Tshirt, looking at snow/ice bound villages was sensational.

Finally reached Ekaterinburgh in the evening. It was cold! Our hostess Natalia was very warm. The fare for us vegos was the repdictable Kapusta (cabbage pie) We had the pride of place in the living room on the sofa in their two bed apartment, in which lived three genrations of women. Our hostess (in her 40's) her mum and her young teenage daughter who did hog the bathroom making it a bit interestiung for us! The two older ladies coundt do enough for us. Natalia infact decied that my idea of layering myself and being about4 times my usualk grtith was not good enough, so she lent me her fur coat, and boy was I happy for that. Next morning, could not handle the frozen toes for more than 5 mins at a time, so made our guide take us to the market and he helped us buy Valenkis's a molded woollen boot, that somehow manages to keep the cold/and ice away. Not quite a fashion statement, but what the villagers in siberia wear. Well I went to the Opera with it :-) . The other highlight here was the dog sledging. This was really exhilarating. The dogs found the two of us a lark compared to pulling the big russians... So we really had to hang in there, and at the end of the 2 hour were frozen solid. The guide like any true blue russian had a bottle of vodka in his inner jacket pocket, and we found the antifreezing quality of it! YEP, it dfoes work, our hands that were aboslutely frozen solid, did unfreeze and we could feel the blood moving again! Rest of Siberia was the same. Very warm and friendly people and absolutely beautiful. The lake baikal, was strange sight, as it was steaming furiously before it froze over for the winter. This at christmas time, as it is 40mts deep... Apparently the trucks drive over it come Jan. We had a greatest ever christmas in Listviyanka where we went to the local pub for a celebration with the local guide company and met up with about 30 odd aussies who were doing the trip other way around. Ended up partying all night long. Was sepcial becuase it was totally unexpected, and realised how much we had missed not being able to talk to anyone else... English was welcome....

Here are some photos just to finish the article, that's lake baikal steaming away.

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