Mongolian border – Novosibirsk – Moscow aboard TransSib Express
~ 3500 kms in 24 hours
Having decided on the new route and drawn it into a map, brought some mind-relief.
Now, I am in a better position to share my impressions of Novosibirsk with you. It is the third-largest town in Russia. Novosibirsk, but relatively ‘young’ – see here. Novosibirsk claims to be the geographical centre of Russia. In the city-centre stands an old small church, right in the middle of a super-busy road. This church indeed IS the geographical centre-point of Russia.
Here should be a picture, but it just disappeared in the Apple-hole. One of many I am afraid and a much-frustrating example of the up-load problems i have had in the past months. This explains the ‘back-log’ ……
Neil’s friend in Adelaide has contacts here and we were offered to stay in an unoccupied flat in Novo. Sounded great! To see it, actually find it, we met Anna, a friend of a friend of a …… Anna would turn out to be a huge help during our stay in N.
She met us the next day to drive us to the flat. It was more at the outskirts of N and the public transport into N was a tad complicated for a non-local. We declined and Anna confirmed to us that our hotel’s location was much more central and allowed us to walk to most interesting parts in this town.
Anna checked-in every day to see we were alright. She explained things, acted as a translator, guide and overall looking-afterer. We met her son and her husband, Arkadiy as well. Without Anna’s and Arkadiy’s support we could not have dome what unfolded …
Meanwhile I checked out the city, got a much-too-shirt shave at a ritzy-looking barber, had many walks through town as the hotel was rather central.
The thought had grown to try out the Trans Siberian Railway. After all we were at one of its major stations, had about 3500 kms riding to Moscow through monotonous landscape ahead of us. I favoured the train option as it brings a welcome change from riding. My ‘meandering’ was never intended to be done by a single mode of transport. Rather as many different as were on offer was the thought, underpinned by the majority of the route done on the bike. Thus far I had covered plane, bike of course, ship, camel, 4-wheel drive car, not counting the many public busses and Metros taken in various cities.
So a possible experience a Russian train was an enticing option, but what to do with the bike? Could it be taken on the same train – ideal solution – or on another train or trucked to Moscow?
Traveling a leg on the TransSib, from Novosibirsk to Moscow covers a distance of almost 3500kms. On a bike this would take at least two weeks travelling. Doing a rough calculation of cost for train ticket and shipping, versus riding the entire distance showed expenses would be on par, even a little less using the train!
Moreover, the train-trip would take two days, so I further would gain time.
It so happens that Arkady, Anna’s husband had excellent business connections to a transport company, the largest one in Russia. So he offered his time and influence to make this part of the arrangement easy and no doubt more cost-effective for Neil and I.
Arkady, and Anna accompanied us to the trucking yard, where the bikes were to be palleted, wrapped and shipped from. Once they were off our hands, and conformation about their shipment (about 6 days) was on paper and paid for, we now could purchase our 2-bed cabin train-tickets very conveniently at the desk in our Hotel.
All up, it took two days to organise and seal everything: the bikes ready to be packed & trucked, the tix were in our pocket.
The more relaxing part could now begin: walk, explore, try out Novosibirsk,its sights, tastes, business and surrounds. This included a rather unfortunate visit to a ritzy barber ending in a far too-shot beard trim ….. made me look like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
The Trans Siberian Railway trip itself was an interesting experience.
Honestly I had expected a little more from this. It is widely booked by international travellers and Russian alike, but certainly a tourist drawcard in Russia, some travelling all the way to Vladivostok. I had already met some travellers, who used this mode of transport, hopping off-and-on to stay at various towns and take in their sights.
Our 2-bed cabin, top of the range available, was just above ‘spartanic’.
Clean alright and the Provodnik looked after us very well, after I appeased her with a little present.
However, the word ‘Service’ does not appear in the Russian vocabulary. It seems as if the interests and needs of any guest come only second to the convenience of when and how the staff want to do their chores. Chores they must be, as almost, actually ‘everybody’, puts on a most miserable facial expression.
No signage other than in Russia, so Google Translate camera action came in handy. But the most intriguing for me was the restaurant car and its staff! Three, or were there four stout women ruled the roost, initially in uniform, for the remainder in civvies, but just at the penultimate stop changing back to uniforms . The info about opening times on the menu were simply over-ridden by these women’s needs. I walked into the car at 8.30 expecting to take a breakfast, when all kinds of underwear were spread over every seat for drying. “Niet”, the restaurant car opened at 9.30 I was told, despite the fact that food was delivered into other compartments. What was I not understanding and/or missing out?? Well, I shall die wondering …
Food served was basic, a little disappointing as I had pictures in mind of a more royal, Zar-like environment with black Caviar and champagne sitting on red velvet, lushly upholstered chairs seeing the landscape slowly go past …. “Puff!” goes another phantasy.
My reality was drawn double curtains, which despite some dis-approving looks, I relentlessly pulled open. Boxes of onion supply on the seat next to me. Caviar was not on the menu, neither champagne, so I order beer and skittles instead. Naaah, not skittles, now bowling on this train. Instead I went for the Russian-exotic meal option: sampling the likes of bear, elk and boar meat in various forms. Unfortunately I was not able to differentiate which one was which, it all came served on a single plate. The staff didn’t understand my questions seeking clarification, so no help from there – what a surprise !!?? It tasted alright – all of it! I would have it again, but shall demand to recognise what is what 😉
In the evening these women were joined by men, travellers, husbands, lovers or else – I wouldn’t have a clue. I just was amazed how boundaries are blurred, non-existent, but that is Russia. The women clearly enjoyed some groping, but – to their defence – it may have been their husbands or lovers – anyway it is their groping not mine – so I shall not pass judgement, rather report my bemusement.
48 hours are almost a tad too long, but Neil and I had plenty of other things to occupy our mind. We even watched a movie using our new mobile plan (unlimited date) for 16 bucks/month to the fullest. At the various stops, some short others longer, we left the train and – time permitting – got some food from the shops in front of the railway station.
Eventually we arrived in Moscow, got a Tourist travel card (recommended) and soon had found out accommodation, only a 20 mins walk away from the red square.
What can I say?! I shall keep it for the next report, giving me a better catching-up feel ….