This was our first journey on the ‘Trans Siberia Express’, which is more of a route than an actual train. Our first journey was also a relatively short overnight one, arriving at Khabarovsk a little after 7AM.
After arriving at the Vladivostok station with all of our luggage, and after passing through the metal detectors, we stared blankly at the information board trying to work out what platform our train departed from. In an attempt to not miss our train, we came an hour early. However, in doing so we arrived before the system was ready, and we were left to contemplate the flashing question mark next to our train (which was all in Russian). The other puzzling (though retrospectively necessary) thing was using Moscow time for all the departures/arrivals time, rather than the local time. I understood that with Russia having so many time zones, it was a necessity, but it’s a little confusing at first knowing that your 5PM train leaves at 10AM Moscow time.
It was easy enough to find our carriage. I tried to show the carriage attendant our boarding passes, but he already had a print out with all of our information on it. He then spent two or three minutes confirming all (yes, ALL) of the details of the booking to make sure that they matched with our passport – thankfully they did. I was expecting to see some other foreign tourists, but haven’t as of yet.
We found our cabin, and our beds/seats and were eventually joined by a woman from Khabarovsk, who like everyone else that we’ve met so far in Russia, didn’t speak English (which is not a complaint, just an observation). The carriage attendant handed us our linen (included in the ticket price), and we got started making our beds.
Through Google Translate, we were able to exchange a few pleasantries with our room mate before she passed out and left us with the sound of deep sleep. And to be honest I didn’t blame her, if this wasn’t a novelty for us, I probably would have done the same.
We passed through a few larger and rather industrial towns before the rain closed in and the light faded, leaving us with a choice of staring out into the darkness, or lying in bed and reading a book while listening to the animated conversations in the other cabins.
The cabin was unbearably hot and dry, even though our Russian friend was fast asleep under her blanket. We opened the tiny window for a while, but the smoke from the coal burners (for heating) was unpleasant. Choosing between the two, we spent a night sweating in our beds, but breathing clean-ish air.
Dawn broke a little before 5AM, though we managed to snooze until closer to 7. Even with an evening of broken (and sweaty) sleep, we arrived in Khabarovsk feeling fresh. Well, fresh after a quick scrub with a wet towel in the bathroom.
It was a 14-hour journey, but the time flew by. We were finally getting a chance to talk to our room mate and at the same time saying our good-byes. But, we’ll have plenty of more time to spend on the train. Our next leg is about 60-hours!