A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: MikeinCairns

Train 139 to the Urals

Novosibirsk to Ekatarinberg accross two time zones

semi-overcast 24 °C
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Two nights, 1 day, and two more time zones on train 139 from Novosibirsk to Ekatarinberg. Although it is a really old train, the attendants were fantastic. They cleaned the carriage a couple of times including mopping out our compartment.

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The scenery is rural and flat. Much more evidence of farming (cows and wheat). And the railway now follows some major roads and civilisation. This will be our last journey in Asian Russia. Tonight we arrived at Ekatarinberg in the Urals (the mountain range dividing Asian and European Russia).

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Arrived Ekatarinburg early evening and caught trolley bus to the centre of city where we have an amazing AirBnB ($53 per night). View from our window:

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A star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png 4 star relaxing and reading day.

Posted by MikeinCairns 07:25 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Boring travel day

Tomsk to Novosibirsk Station

overcast 22 °C
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Well Tomsk was a real highlight. The timber homes, the university precinct and the huge bulivards. Also some excellent eating!!

But Tomsk is a pain to get to and from because it is not on the main train line. There were no outgoing trains so we caught a bus to Novosibirsk ($10). Stuffed around a bit to find the place to buy long distance bus tickets. Wierdly, the bus ticket office was not at the the bus stop but at the back of the train station(?).

5.5 hours later we were at Novosibirsk (3rd biggest city in Russia). Apparently it is quite nice, but around the station it is pretty dismal. We had planned to walk around a bit and get dinner, but the weather was drizzly, so just sat in the station for three hours and waited for our night train. The station was impressive (again), with chandeliers, palm trees and a classical piano player.

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Another good old train off to Yekatarinberg.

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Cavier is very common and cheap here so thought I might try this cavier dip. Not bad!

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Margaret had a cold so we tried this (chilli and honey spirit). At 40% alcohol it didn't fix the cold but probably knocked her out for the night!

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Overall an uneventful star.pngstar.png 2 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 06:29 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Tomsk timber homes

A day of walking around the old town

semi-overcast 26 °C
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An lazy start to the day, breakfast in our room, and then off for the walking tour of the old timber homes. Today was a real highlight. We loved the historic homes and spent all day walking. Within a few kms we saw hundreds of these old Siberian materpieces. The only difficult thing today was trying to trim down the number of photos.

These photos are from the internet....

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And these are mine....

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The most striking element of the homes was the windows:

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Ate at the wonderful cafe Praline restaurant and the amazing Myasanoye Kafe (translates to "Meat Cafe") ($20-25 for two)

A spectacular star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png 5 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 09:59 Archived in Russia Comments (2)

Taiga to Tomsk

On the local train

semi-overcast 25 °C
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It was a very early 4:30am rise this morning to get off the main line at Taiga. We caught a local train (2 hrs $3) to our final destination of Tomsk. Tomsk is a university city of 500,000 people (100,000 of those are students). It was one of the first cities in Siberia and has a lot of interesting history.

It is famous for it's solid and decorative timber homes, and its Siberian culture and cuisine. We booked a hotel in one of these beautiful old houses (Abajur $50 per night)

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We walked around the town to get our bearings, had a brunch then returned to the hotel for a nap.

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In the late afternoon we walked around the university and main centre.

I love Tomsk:

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The Institute:

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The State University:

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The city centre:

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For dinner we went to a traditional Siberian restaurant but did not enjoy it much. We had frozen raw fish for entree, and grilled venison and dumpling soup for mains.

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Another great location and a star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png 4 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 09:53 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Russian train travel

Our experience and recommendations

semi-overcast 26 °C

This is our longest journey - two nights and a day. As we are sitting on the train all day there is not much to report. The scenery is changing a little. Up until now it has been hours and hours of uninhabited taiga (pine forest); today we are seeing some small towns and our first signs of agriculture. Late in the day we went through some beautiful mountainous country with hill side-villages that could have been in Switzerland. On dusk went through Krasnoyarsk a city of 1 million people.

I haven't talked yet of how we booked the trains and worked out the logisitcs.

Firstly we used the brilliant RZD (Russian Railways) web site and mobile app, both available in English. Using the official web site gives the cheapest possible prices (about half the price of going through a foreign booking agent). If needing an agent then Tutu.ru is the one to use. They only charge small commissions on top of official RZD fares. Two other web sites that I found very helpful:

https://russiau.com/getting-russian-visa-australia/
https://misstourist.com/russian-trains/
https://www.seat61.com/Trans-Siberian.htm

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When using the RZD web site to make a booking you choose from 1st, 2nd or 3rd class. 1st class is a private cabin with 2 beds. 2nd class is the same but has 4 beds (2 up 2 down). 3rd class is like a backpackers dorm; beds are in groups of 6 and all in an open carriage. We opted for the privacy of second class but discovered that it was possible to book all 4 beds to secure the entire cabin. this was significantly cheaper than taking a 1st class.

The prices vary enormously. Eg Vldivostok - Khabarovsk (1 nights) the fares are around $20 per bed for 3rd class up to $300 for the deluxe 1st class. As we booked all 4 beds in a 2nd class cabin, we payed around $50 per bed.

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The price of the tickets are cheaper (usually) the earlier you book. You can only book 90 days in advance. Ticket prices are in blocks from 90 days, 60 days and 30 days, getting more expensive. Since Russia only issues 30 day visas and we wanted to see as much as possible we pre-booked everything 90 days prior and stuck to a tight intinery.

But not all trains are the same. Trains are all numbered. Single digit trains are modern, with aircon, bio-toilets, power points and USB charging. Two digit trains are older, three digit trains are very old. The older trains do not have bio-toilets, so toilets are closed at the larger towns and city. Local trains are typically four digit trains and cannot be pre-booked.

The other consideration for us was departure and arrival time. For most destinations we were travelling overnight but had multiple choices so we tried as much as possible to leave late in the evening to maximise the sightseeing. And we always tried to arrive at a reasonable (not too early) hour of the morning.

For the conventional Trans-Siberian route through the large cities, foreigners typically opt for the new single digit trains. Because we were doing the alternative BAM route and stopping at small towns we usually ended up with old three digit trains. So far we have not encounted any other foreigners and today I was dragged into a cabin to talk English with a group of Russians which they thought was a real novelty!

Everyone is really relaxed on the trains and they all get comfy in their pjs and tracksuits (see previous blog about tracksuits). Some typical travellers..

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When boarding the train there was no need to show tickets. Just walk up to the correct carriage and present passports. After a very thorough check you are allowed on the train. The Provodnik/Provodnitsa (attendants) let you on the train and travel the entire journey. For the long journeys the rotate 12 hrs on duty then sleep for 6 hours. As we travelled in summer holidays many attendants were uni students.

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We made use of the hot water available in every train and drunk a lot of tea, and ate cupa soups and noodle. We also carried cereal, milk andfresh fruit to keep us going.

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Relaxing star.pngstar.pngstar.png 3 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 09:20 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

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