Sunday, September 12, 2010

Still in Siberia

10 September

We spent one night in Novosibirsk, a city that was only founded after the Trans-Siberian Railway was built. The temperature is dropping and I’ve caught a cold so I’m on the lookout for a scarf and woolen hat. We spent a night in Omsk and briefly had a look at the Literature Museum which had a section on Dostoyevsky who spent several years in the 1850s in Omsk when he was exiled to Siberia for political activities. I was excited to see hand-written pages by him though I have no idea what they say. Now we’re back on board a train heading for Yekaterinburg, a place probably most famous for where the Tsar and his family were executed by the Bolshevik revolutionaries.

The trains have been very comfortable so far. We’ve caught overnight trains with sleeping berths the entire way, except for the six-hour journey from Novosibirsk to Omsk. Early on, we booked second-class tickets which gave us beds in four-berth cabins. As we’ve headed west, the prices have gone up so we’re now in third-class which have open cabins and more beds packed in. This actually is not so bad, because the open-plan design means it is less stuffy than the closed cabins. We stock up on snacks before getting on board but also buy food from sellers on the platforms and from the onboard sellers.

There are kilometer markers along the tracks, indicating distance from Moscow. When we first crossed the border from Mongolia, the marker was Km5900. As we’ve travelled west, the distances from Moscow at the places we’ve stopped have been: Ulan Ude 5642, Irkutsk 5185, Krasnoyarsk 4098, Novosibirsk 3335, and Omsk 2712.

War and Peace update: a guy betted he could drink a bottle of rum while sitting on a high windowsill and did so. A Prince Andrew moaned about his wife and women in general. I’m taking a break from all that excitement to read ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Alexander Solzhenitsyn which is about being in a labour camp in Siberia.

Lenin statue in Novosibirsk

Dostoyevski's handwritten pages


  1. I'll happily bet you that I can drink a bottle of rum sitting on a windowsill - if you provide the rum.

    And greetings from the shaking isle..!

  2. ok, you're on. How about a bottle of Russian vodka instead? Any idea what is the best stuff to get here? We were a bit disappointed that there wasn't lots of vodka-drinking on the Trans-Siberian. We're going to buy some and pass it around on our next train trip.

  3. Any vodka is fine so long as the bottle pours (and frankly preferable to rum).
    I'm looking forward to this challenge. I hope a ground floor windowsill is OK.

  4. I like Nemiroff Honey Pepper vodka (Ukrainian). It's got a chili bite, and is smoothed by honey flavour. And has a lovely amber colour.

    But for passing around, you could find out if there are regional predilections.

    Muntgoat - would you drink the bottle of rum on a windowsill during aftershocks? Ground floor seems like a bit of a cop-out. Tie your ponytail to a curtain, you should be safe.

  5. Lauri, I'll look out for some Nemiroff Honey Pepper for you. There seem to be a lot of varieties here, unsurprisingly.

  6. Simon, I'd be very impressed if you when you found a bottle you transported it home for me (especially since the nature of home for me is shifting), but I think you might find it more gratifying just to drink it with some good company on your travels. Please feel free to toast me, if you do this! ;-)