Tue 28 May ’13 – day 17 I awoke when the alarm sounds at 07:00 hours but as I still felt sleepy I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Eventually rose and went down for breakfast where I just had a few slices of bread and cheese with a glass of orange juice.
Having finished packing I went down to reception and while I was checking out the transfer arrived; the car was a clean white Ford Mondeo and the journey to Yaroslavsky Station didn’t take too long. Then it was through security and look for somewhere to sit until the train departs. As the majority of trains to the eastern parts of Russia depart from this station it was very crowded, but having brought a bottle of coke and a couple of rolls to eat on the journey I went upstairs and eventually found a spare seat. Everyone seemed to have a large number of bags and these were spread everywhere so making it difficult to get around; people also appeared to arrived at the station long before their train is due to depart.
As soon as the indicator board clicked over to show which platform my train was leaving from I made my way downstairs and outside and join the queue waiting to board. I shared the Kupe with two gents, one of whom speaks some English; in the next compartment was a Russian lady on her way home after working in New York and we were able to have a decent conversation. She told me to call her “Janet” as her real name was too difficult to pronounce and was a freelance web designer who has just completed a job in Manhattan and was now on her way home. When I produced my map to show her where I was going, she pointed to where her family live and said that she expects them to meet her when the train arrives at 04:00 hours tomorrow morning.
On the table by the window I have put my copies of Bryn Thomas guide to “The Trans-Siberian Railway” and the Trans-Siberian Lonely Planet guide. I brought both these books as they complement each other and along with my map of Russia which shows the UK on one side and Japan on the other allows me to keep track of where we are. I have marked my route with a yellow highlighter. The timetable posted in the corridor
The carriage is supposed to be air-conditioned but nothing is coming out of the vents; it’s rather hot and as the upper window is locked we are unable to get any fresh air in the compartment. The Train Manager has his office on one of the compartments in this carriage and the catering staff use another; the carriage forward of the one in which I am travelling is the restaurant car but I didn’t bother to use it as I am not feeling hungry.
We trundled along at a sedate pace and it takes 6 hours 13 minutes to travel the 444km from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod. At one point a train carrying armoured cars rushed passed in the opposite direction. When you look out of the windows you can see farm land, birch trees and the occasional town; this is unlike the trip across Canada on the VIA 1 when you travel through a thick pine forest for a large part of the journey and this prevents you from seeing any distance at all.
At every stop there are people in uniform on the platform – railway police, local police and riot police. When I was on the ‘Metro Tour’ Darlin warned me never to try and take pictures of the police as they may smash your camera or even you!!
Just before the train arrived in Nizhny Novgorod we passed an open-air museum full of old steam locomotives and there were even some in the sidings but these looked unused.
As I departed I said goodbye to “Janet” and wished her well for the remainder of her trip; the English speaking gent from the compartment helped me down with my luggage and the Transfer who was waiting on the platform was called over by the Train Manager and Provodnista.
As this is a major rail junction the station was crowded and as usual the bus station was directly outside. The roads are in an awful condition and everyone is taking care when they drive over the tram tracks. The taxi goes around the houses on the one-way system before crossing over the river to the older part of town. The hotel is a Soviet concrete construction and sits on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Oka and the mighty Volga, the Mother River to the Russian people. The outside of the hotel has certainly seen better days, but inside it’s much better; as a considerable number of people have arrived all at the same time, it takes a little while to check in, but as one of the receptionists speaks good English and so I am processed fairly quickly. My room is on the second floor and at the front, but the view is partially screened by some trees.
I unpack, shower and get my laundry ready to hand in the next day, then it’s time for bed.