Fourth class food on the Trans-Siberian Railroad
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about local resident Luc Pols’ trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
Now the real train rides begin. After our debacle at the Moscow subway, we find our way to the railway station and at 4 p.m. we board our train for our 28-hour ride to Yekatarinburg. After our first two rides, we have figured out that the food on the Russian trains is not what you would call first class ” fourth class is probably a better description ” so we do what everybody else seems to do and that is to buy noodles/ramen.
These packages are readily available in stores and even at some of the railway stations. For this purpose, and of course for the Russian tea, all trains are equipped with Samovars for hot water and I can tell you that our dinners and lunches were a lot better than the food on the train. What is interesting is that these Samovars are heated with wood, while the train cars are heated with coal and the train itself is electric.
In 1723 Yekatarinburg was founded and named after Peter the Great’s wife Catherine, but was renamed Sverdlovk in 1919 to “honor” the party official who arranged the massacre of the Romanovs. After having been imprisoned for two months here, the last Czar and his family were deemed to be a threat to the communist regime and shot and bayoneted to death in July 1918. Then in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet regime, the city once again regained its original name.
Peter and I visit the tiny Romanov Memorial, as well as the nearby beautiful Church of the Blood. This city of 1.4 million inhabitants also boasts a large military museum and a very large, communist style Memorial to the Dead in Afghanistan. It also has the dubious honor to be the birthplace of Boris Yeltsin, who in 1976 ordered the destruction of the Ipatyev house where the Romanovs spent their last two months.
It is here that Peter befriends a bunch of Russian students who are having an outdoor birthday party, involving beer and, what else, vodka and who speak English, all under the watchful eye of a Pushkin sculpture. We are having a great time discussing the pros and cons of democracy, of voting, of the current presidents Putin and Bush and other interesting matters. We urge them to vote, which they scoff at, and I don’t know whether this suggestion will be taken to heart. Only time will tell.
After two days here we board our train again and this time our ride is 21 hours to Novosibirsk. This is a very young city (1893), but already the third largest in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg. Its enormous growth is mainly, or should I say solely, due to the Trans Siberian Railroad. The city itself does not have a lot to offer from a tourist perspective and the most interesting thing here is that our hotel is on the second floor of the railroad station.
You come out of your room and you look down on the vast waiting room for the trains. The rooms are surprisingly spacious and they are quite nice. We walk though the city and admire some churches (not many) and look at all modern (read Soviet) architecture and this is definitely not our favorite place in Russia so far. If we want to sum it up in one word, the best one to use is “boring.” We felt, however, that we needed to stretch our legs after the 21 hour ride and before the next 33 hour ride to Irkutsk.
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