After 48 hours on the train across Siberia, we arrived for a quick 24 hour stopover in Yekaterinburg, just past the halfway point of our trip across Siberia.
In Yekaterinburg it was snowing. A lot.
We haven’t had above-freezing temperatures in well over a month. But most of the trip so far has been really dry, so this is the first time we encountered real snowfall.
Zak was very excited. I was like – “yeah, it’s snow.” It really just felt like New Hampshire after a snowstorm – fluffy snow everywhere, slushy boots, watching where you walk so you don’t slip, stepping over snowbanks…
Slight aside here… I remember being surprised in college to find that so many students were SO excited about snow. Growing up in New Hampshire, snow is just normal in the winter. Roughly assuming NH has snow on the ground from Jan-March (and often longer than that), that’s at least 3 months out of the year covered in snow. I lived there for 21 years, so that’s at least 63 months or roughly 5 years living in snow.
We have a lot of time to have conversations on this trip, so I asked Zak why he was so excited about snow. He said it’s because he remembered having a big snowfall as a kid, and how fun it was to go out to play in it – it was a really big event. In England, you might get a dusting of snow once a year, and a big snowfall only every few years. So it started to make sense to me why he would be so excited to see snowflakes – because it’s like a rare event in his mind. Whereas I’m just like – yeah, it’s winter, it snows.
It was still really pretty on the ground though 🙂 I’m not so much of a jaded grinch as to not appreciate that! At one point it was so sunny, that the little snowflakes were shimmering like glitter in the sky. Impossible to get a photo of, but it was really beautiful.
We didn’t do much in Yekaterinburg, to be honest. The hotel was a 5-minute walk from a pedestrian street with a shopping mall (not exciting but warm!), several good restaurants (and an English pub!)
The highlight was trying Uzbekistani food which I loved and Zak thought was just okay. They do lots of really interesting ‘rice pilaf’ type dishes called Plov – rice cooked up with all sorts of yummy toppings. We tried two different restaurants and my favorite was at The Plov Project restaurant where it was served with a big roasted garlic head on top of the other bits and pieces in the rice – YUM.
Then we were off again – our final long train journey of the trip – 36 hours from Yekaterinburg to St. Petersburg! The train left at 11pm, so we got on and went right to bed.
Yekaterinburg to St. Petersburg
This first class cabin was different, I think the train was older. The seats were also the beds, so they weren’t as wide or as comfortable as the previous train. And there was a really colorful mirror on the wall…
This train service also gave us a very industrial looking menu – “Rations Guaranteed Supply of Increased Comfort”. Clear, right?
Having an official menu gave me false hope that the food would be good … it was not! There was a “cheese appetizer” or a “meat appetizer” and then the main was either stewed fish or Azu from beef (we had no idea what this was. Turned out to be a small bowl of beef soup.) I ordered the fish. Mistake. It looked really unappetizing and dry. I managed to eat some of the canned vegetables, and then filled out my meal with a cup-of-soup packet and some peanut butter crackers from our food bag!
They were also selling train merchandise. In addition to the catalog in our cabin, the train attendant came through with a selection of items and kept trying to get us to buy them. Train-logo pocket knife? Metal and glass mug? Train magnet (you can buy all the different carriage designs and make a train going across your fridge!) We felt a bit guilty because she probably earned commission off the sales, and she really wanted to sell us something – but our luggage just doesn’t have room for random souvenirs on this trip!
My project on this train journey was crocheting my “Trans Siberian Shawl”. At the market in Irkutsk, I bought two balls of handspun wool from a local woman. I found a pattern online that looks like falling leaves, and started to crochet my shawl. Hopefully I’ll have it finished by the time we get back to London!
View from the Window
What’s it like taking the train across Siberia?
Here’s a view out the window. Imagine this (with even less excitement of another train passing – usually it’s just trees and little wooden houses) for 36 hours at a time…
And the occasional short stop at a little station…
We’d read that at station stops there are babushkas who walk along the train selling local foods and snacks, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. Must be because it’s winter and there are so few people on the trains.
After two more nights on the train, the scenery started getting more urban as we approached St. Petersburg.
We are REALLY looking forward to a shower, and also indulging in all the great food and culture of St. Petersburg. It’s been on our travel list for a long time…