This section of our journey was only about twenty-four hours, and the most uneventful yet. The most interesting thing that happened was that the train was late. So far, no train we’ve taken in Russia has been late, not even five minutes—Russian Railways runs a very tight ship.The train was supposed to arrive in Yekaterinburg around 4:30 a.m., so in preparation for the ride, we had stayed up all night in the train station. Trains come and go at all hours of the night, so there were plenty of other people in the station. At some point, the station TV played two back-to-back episodes of X-Files, dubbed into Russian but without the English soundtrack being removed, so I watched those and then eagerly awaited the train’s arrival. And waited… and waited. It ended up being an HOUR late, so as soon as we boarded the train, we gathered our sheets from the provodnitsa and made our beds—she had to help me, because I was so tired I was becoming clumsy—and fell asleep.
Shortly after leaving Yekaterinburg, we crossed into European Russia. It was strange to think that we’d entered another continent, because the scenery looked pretty similar to Siberia. We’d passed through the Ural Mountains, but we’d been sleeping, so we’re not sure if they were visible from the train. This was our first view of Europe:
Yep, pretty similar to Siberia. Our train was called the Yenisey, and had been traveling from Krasnoyarsk, meaning most of the passengers had been on it for a day or two already. The woman in the berth across from Bob literally slept all day. She didn’t even get up to eat. Maybe around 8 p.m., we saw her go to the bathroom, and then come back and immediately go back to sleep.
Seriously. Don’t believe the Lonely Planet when it says the Trans-Sib is a party on wheels.
We arrived in Vladimir very early in the morning, about 4 a.m. Major train stations in Russia have resting rooms, and we’d hoped to take advantage of the ones in Vladimir station for four hours or so. However, when we finally found them, the sign said they were full for the night. So we ended up sleeping in the train station for a few hours. There were about 50 other people doing the same thing. At 7 a.m., a train station employee came to wake us all. Two straight nights sleeping in a train station does not make for a happy Katie and Bob. Vladimir has some wonderful World Heritage-listed churches to visit, but the first thing we did was get coffee.
From here, we diverged a little bit from the Trans-Siberian: after spending half a day in Vladimir, we took a bus to Suzdal (off the train line) to visit this wonderful fairy-tale village, and then bussed to Moscow, thus ending the official Trans-Mongolian journey. Our train travels are not over, however; as we’ll be traveling by overnight train to St. Petersburg, then back to Moscow and on to Kiev, Ukraine.
Verdict: I’m glad we did it. This was something I’d been looking forward to for years. Would I do it again? Yes, but I’d do a different route. I’d also wait several years. Like, 20. After I learn Russian.