The Train Ride Part 3 – Irkutsz to Yekaterinburg

Leaving at two o’clock in the afternoon (Moscow time) and arriving in Yekaterinburg at four o’clock in the afternoon (Moscow time) two days later, this journey was the longest stretch on the train. It was also fairly uneventful, with people preferring to stay in their cabins rather than venture out into the public. Fortunately, we were not like some that were continuing all the way to Moscow.

We managed to make friends with the man who was paid to take the food trolley up and down the carriages. In reality, he did it about twice a day and spent the rest of the day loafing around in the dining cabin. He did, however, speak a little English and his greeting of “bye bye my friend” caused us to have a few laughs. Even better was his rendition of what we thought was a chicken but I’m fairly sure he was trying for rabbit. The other murmur of English was from the strange, just 18 if they’re lucky, Russian boys who stopped to stare at us for about five minutes before escaping, giggling, back to their cabin. Twenty or so minutes later, they walked past with their new pick-up line, “hey baby” before running off giggling again.

The prize for the worst passenger of the day definitely went to the nice, well-behaved Russian man who decided to drink a bottle of vodka with his friend. After finishing, his friend retired to his cabin whilst the prizewinner fell asleep, firstly on the chair then on his hands and knees on the dining cabin floor. At this stage, we assisted him back to his cabin where he got up, vomited all over the corridor floor and retired to the toilet for quite a while.

That said, the views from the train window made up for everything. I now know exactly where they get the Christmas card photos from.

We arrived in Yekaterinburg, delighted that we had reached civilisation again. Arriving in Yekaterinburg at four o’clock we, not being able to see a guide, made our own way to the hotel and checked in. Five minutes later, a stressed guide entered the hotel asking us why we hadn’t waited for her. We tried to explain that, unless she had a sign we couldn’t identify her and the book states that we hadn’t booked a transfer. Anyway, by five o’clock we left the hotel ready for the city tour. Poorly organised, given that it gets dark at five we saw the Black Tulip War Memorial, the Site of the Apatiev House, the City Dam and Lake and were dropped off for dinner at a Russian buffet style restaurant.

The Black Tulip War Memorial had quite an unusual design, having been built by veterans and mourns the death of victims from the Afghanistan and Chechnya wars. The Site of the Apatiev House, now housing the beautiful “Cathedral in the Name of All Saints”, is the site where the Romanov family was murdered in 1918. Nicholas Romanov was the last Tsar of Russia, killed after abdicating the throne and being sent to Yekaterinburg for “safety”. The City Lake and Dam, besides being frozen, were nothing spectacular however I did get a chance to go “mini-tobogganing” on some little kids sled. After a good buffet dinner, we headed off home and straight to bed.

Apatiev House

Black Tulip War Memorial

The next day, Vicki and I headed on a tour to Koptelovo Village looking forward to a horse-drawn sleigh ride and a trip around a small Siberian village. In reality, the tour was a little different to what was advertised but enjoyable nonetheless. After a two and a half hour drive, we arrived at the town hall and jumped on our “horse-drawn sleigh” for a drive around the block viewing an old church. Then we walked down to see the natural spring, tasting the freezing cold water and having a look at the small cathedral built to commemorate the discovery of the spring.

On the sleigh
Cathedral The most beautiful natural spring

After this, we headed back to the town hall and witnessed the singing of the local choir, nicely translated for us by our guide, Jana. The highlight of the singing for the crowd, a group of primary school students, was when the choir sang about a man who walked into the side entrance of a house and began “kissing” the daughter. One of the students just happened to have the same name as the man, so the rest of them found that quite amusing to say the least.

After the song and dance we headed to the small, but incredibly interesting museum in the hall. Here we saw some old artefacts, the most interesting being the “key” that identified where and what type of land each family owned. We also saw a lot of war memorabilia including that horrible slip of paper telling a mother that her son had died. A few years later, that same son walked into the house having had no idea that his mother assumed him dead.

A key for each piece of land
Key – no match!
Death Certificate of the “undead”

Onto lunch, a traditional Siberian meal consisting of coleslaw and what I term to be “pancake” salad (made of slices of pancake mixed with salami and sour cream). This was followed by chicken soup, then dumplings, then potato tea and finally biscuits and bread buns filled with potato and not forgetting the locally-made alcohol.

After lunch, we walked to an original style Siberian house and had a look around. I tried to move the incredibly heavy food pot into the oven (empty of course) and although I managed, I decided that if I was responsible for cooking then my housemates at the time would go hungry more often than not.

The outside of a traditional house

The baby’s cot
Pulling out the pot – I think it
has already tipped over twice

Headed home and found “Rosy Jane’s” for dinner, a “traditional” English pub where most of the locals go for dinner. The highlight of the night was the following conversation:

Russian Man: What is your finest point?
Me: I don’t understand.
Russian Man: I’m sorry, I don’t understand your English.

I still have no idea what he meant.

The next day, we went on a tour up to the Ural Mountains where we went for a one hour dog sled. AMAZING! At the end, we walked up one of the hills to see a strange looking rock formation, which I tried to climb but was unsuccessful due to loads of ice and no equipment. After a fantastic lunch of fire-roasted sausages and salad we took the jeep back into Yekaterinburg.

The dog’s van

On the sled
On top of the world!

Arriving home, we went for a daylight walk around the city, going back to several of the places previously visited in the dark and finally to the site where they are building an ice village for the kids at Christmas. Headed home and ate at the buffet style café next to the hotel before going to bed ready for our next train journey.