On Saturday, we took a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The train was comfortable and fast. We arrived at a station on the north side of the city and took public trains to get to our Airbnb on the eastern side. The trains looked like they were built in the 1960’s.
On Monday, we visited Red Square, the main attraction in Moscow. The Kremlin and St. Basil’s cathedral are located in Red Square. I didn’t take any pictures of the square because it was super crowded. The crowding and all the tourist shops made it the type of place Tasha and I really don’t like. We snapped a few pictures of the cathedral and left. We went to a coffee shop near the Bulgakov museum thinking we would be there for an hour or so and then head to the museum. The one-hour expectation turned into 2 or 3 hours. We had been on the move the last few weeks and were both hankering for some computer time to catch up on things. The neighborhood was residential, and so it took a bit of wandered to find a place for dinner.
The next morning we visited our new favorite Georgian restaurant for breakfast and took a train to the main station to start the Trans-Siberian railroad.
Our first leg from Moscow to Yekaterinburg took about 33 hours. We were in 2nd class and shared a birth with two other men. We had the top and bottom bunk on one side of the birth. The train ride went by surprisingly quickly. We played some card games and read. I had to catch up on the master’s class in energy and development, so I spent a reasonable amount of time reading through sections of that course. This was perhaps not exactly what I planned on doing. I imagined long train rides through Russia would be filled with drinking and serious contemplation on life, though neither of those things were had. I did particularly enjoy listening to audio books and podcasts while staring our the window.
We landed in Yekaterinburg around 10 pm and struggled to find our hostel. Apparently, they didn’t have availabe beds at the location of our reservation, so someone picked us up and took us to another location. It was definitely not what we wanted to be dealing with after spending 33 hours on a train, but it all worked out in the end.
We had just a day in Yekaterinburg and spent the morning walking around the city. Highlights from the morning included seeing a coffee shop called Coffee Annan and the disappointment from finding the mineral museum closed.
During the 1917 revolution, Yekaterinburg is where the Communists took the Romanov family and where they eventually executed them. The Russian Orthodox Church liked the Czar, and so they build a big church in remembrance of the family.
We spent some time walking along the river and visited a coffee shop in the afternoon. For dinner, we visited a cute french-style restaurant. It was yummy.
The next day we got on the train to Irkustk. This was going to be a long-haul 54 hour ride in 3rd class. We wouldn’t have our own compartment, but rather two beds in an open carriage.
This trip was actually more fun than the first leg. While being in 3rd class presented its own problems, it actually felt more private and less contained because we didn’t have share personal space with strangers. We picked seats that were on the hallway, so that we didn’t have to sit face-to-face with anyone. The time also went by much faster than I expected. We spent our time in a similar fashion as the first leg: reading, cards, listening to podcasts, and staring out the window; a pretty great existence if you ask me. I met one person on the trip. An 18-year old russian and I chatted about Apple products and how cold our hometown were.
I took some videos out the window.
We decided to stay in a small village near Lake Baikal instead of the bigger city of Irkutsk, which is about 40 km from the lake. Staying in Utulik, the small village, was a great idea. You’ll see more pictures of it in next week’s post.
The owner of the guesthouse didn’t speak English, but his wife did and so she wrote out a text for us so that we could identify him. It was kind of a surreal experience. We were the only people on the platform at midnight. He was hard to miss.
The video below is from our van ride from the station to our guest house in Utulik. It’s a little disorienting, which what it felt like at the time.