17 Jul 2010 @ 11:09 AM 

we have been able to upload all of our pictures and we will link to them in a couple days

six days ago, we were on the shores of lake baikal eating smoked fish and skipping rocks. since then, we have travelled over 10000 km (and not showered once!) and almost made our way to europe.

from lake baikal, we headed to irkutsk and saw a few of the sites there along with chatting with some random actor. he was a little quirky (like most theatre people are), but it provided some entertainment as we chugged down the local drink of kvas, which kinda tastes like a fermented fig drink. the actor also gave us a card that had the schedule of his performances from 2003 (and he told us to go to one… weird man).

in any case, that night we were taking a flight to vladivostok. because of random russian visa bureaucracy and stuff (which there is no reason to really outline it all), we were flying to the beginning of the trans-siberian and then getting on our train there. our flight to vladivostok left at 3:55 AM, and we spent around 6 hours in the airport eating chocolate and sitting on the internet.

we arrived in vladivostok around 10 AM local time and got to the center of town around noon. very shortly after arriving in vladivostok, we noticed the russian national uniform for women. regardless of where they were going, what they were doing, or what the weather was outside, it seemed like the appropriate wear for russian women is the absolute tightest and smallest clothes humanly possible. robin complained about it all the time (and still does), but i have yet to find a reason to complain. we grabbed our train tickets and got some lunch at a hot dog stand. as we were hanging around the stand, some random local asked us “tourists?” and proceeded to ask us if we wanted to grab a drink with him. robin was much more hesitant than me to say yes, since he was a middle-aged man who looked kinda dirty, but i told her, as long as we’re not going down some random alley, we should be safe grabbing a drink at the local cafe.

the man’s name was david, and we chatted about whatever we were able to communicate because his english was limited. he taught us a card game called дурак (pronounced doo-rock, meaning “fool”), which is the national card game of russia. after finishing our drinks, he really wanted to show us around town, so we walked the streets of vladivostok seeing the sites and playing more cards in a random park.

after some time, we finally parted with david and made our way to the beach. we had heard that there is a lot of rusted metal at the beach and you shouldn’t go there unless you’re confident about your tetanus shots. luckily, i just got mine a few months ago. from the beach, we walked along the shore of the pacific, then through the streets of shops until we (really just me) settled on eating a cinnabon. it turns out that cinnabon and baskin robbins are the only two american chains in vladivostok.

once we were done running around vladivostok for a while, we went to the supermarket to get provisions for our five-day train ride. and at 10:20 PM vladivostok time, we were on the rossiya, the 001 train of the russian train fleet, headed west toward moscow.

thankfully, the rossiya is the nicest train that we have been on and the first few days turned out nice for relaxation because we needed some rest. during our second night, a nice russian man named maxim offered us some of his dinner and a beer, and then we played some cards with him (of course, we played the russian national game). after some rounds of cards, he showed us pictures of his work. he happens to be an engineer of some sort, dealing with oil in the far east of russia. he had a few pictures of magadan, an area surrounded by many volcanoes, and specifically one that was oozing lava when he was there.

for the next few days, we didn’t really converse with anyone in our car, it turned out that we were a little unlucky in landing someone in our compartment that would be cool to hang out with. most of the people in our compartment were middle-aged woman or families with a lot of children. we continued to just live our life on the train, grabbing extra provisions at some of the stops. we weren’t lucky enough to snag any more smoked fish, but we did get a bunch of hot dogs in fried bread and piroshkies.

the toilets in our train car went out of order halfway through the trip, and we were forced to go to the other cars to use the bathroom. one night, the bathrooms in the adjoining train cars were also deemed unfit to use. at some point in time, i asked robin whether we were allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilet and she told me “obviously not! there are signs everywhere!” and then decided to hold me responsible to destroying numerous toilets on the train, because i refuse to not flush toilet paper down the toilet.

during our second-to-last day, we met a man named alec, who spoke really no english, but wanted to play cards with us. when robin decided to take a nap, i got to test out a little of my russian skills and talked with him about how his son is in the army and how he works for the government. he was only on the train for a few hours, and once he left, his spot was filled with another middle-aged woman.

it turns out that russians are very generous people. almost every day, we were offered food or drinks to consume. either they were all really nice people, or they felt very bad about the kinds of meals we were eating (like bread and sausage, or instant noodles, or bags of chips). i want to believe that they’re just nice people.

so, at this present moment, we have our last couple hours on this train. we will be getting off at yekaterinburg, a city right on the border of europe and asia. in fact, one of the main reasons we are stopping here is to go to the border monument. once we have arrived in yekaterinburg, we will have completed a train journey of over 7000 km, roughly the distance from the northern tip of alaska to the southern tip of florida. and once we are off this train, we will be able to get a much needed shower.

Posted By: Sunil
Last Edit: 17 Jul 2010 @ 11:09 AM

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  1. Amy says:

    When I took my course on Russian history so many of the novels we had to read revolved around men on a train drinking and playing cards. Its kind of cool that its real! Haha.

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