Permanent Vacasian

The traveller sees what he sees; the tripper sees what he has come to see. – G. K. Chesterton

From Kazan to Irkutsk


We have spent most of the past week on the train. The frist leg – from Kazan to Novosibrick – was 36 hours, and the second – from Novosibrisk to Irkutsk – took 32 hours. They were both pretty different experiences. The first leg was two nights and a day, and the second was two days and a night. The first was more social, the second smelled better. One note for travelers: always book the bottom berths on an overnight train. The people on the bottom seem to run the cabin – plus they get control of the table.

Our cabinmates for the first leg were what seemed to be a middle-age man and his father. They were alwasy aware of our needs – to turn on/off the light, to use the table, and they even let us know how much time we had at each stop to get off the train (speaking no English, they would write the number down for us). And when we got to Novosibrisk, they made sure we got off ok and knew how to get out of the station. The only downside was the son smelled really bad. We could smell when he came into the cabin or rolled over in bed and put his arms above his head. Good thing people don’t hug goodbye over here…

We were only in Novosibrisk for a day and a half. We just walked around the city a bit and relaxed in the hotel – there wasn’t much to do anyway. We went out to eat lunch at a place near the hotel that had an English menu – but ironically, no one could read English! Usually the English menus are the Russian menus with the English translations under the Russian – so when ordering you would point to the English and they would write down the Russian. But since this was a completley different menu, and didn’t correspond to the Russian menu at all, it was useless. That fiasco was made up by having a great mexican dinner that night! We were doubious because the past few mexican places weren’t so great but this place was awesome. When the salsa and chips came to the table actually looking like salsa and chips from home, we knew it was gonna be a geat meal.

Our cabinmates (an older married couple) for the next leg weren’t as friendly but still helpful. Well, the only real issue was they didn’t seem to enjoy sharing the table that much, so we had to make lunches in our beds – that and the wife snored like nobody’s business. Oh well. They did carry Tina’s bag off the train when we got to Irkutsk. But what they lacked for in hospitality, they made up for by not stinking.


  1. Honest go the culinary gods… mexican food? You two are KILLING me!

  2. Can’t wait to hear about Irkutsk. My only reference for the place is it’s on the Risk board. Speaking of board games, I beat Dave and Vic in Settlers. It isn’t as fun with three. You’ll have to cut your trip short and come back.

  3. What if your train cabinmates were incontinent? Seems like the upper bunk would be more appealing, although stepping down in the dark could be a horror.

    Are your legs getting all muss-yah-ler from squatting over holes-for-toilets, or have you mostly encountered the sit-down variety? Do you have to pay to use the toilet while out and about?

    Maybe you should put a collection bowl or hat on the ground nearby when you next eat in a place where people will stop to stare at you. This could help offset the cost of your trip.

    Please post more photos of you in these places. Thanks for your stories!

  4. Yeah, we thought the upper bunks would be best, but we’ll now try to get one top and one bottom – on the same side. That way we get some control over things.

    As for the squat toilets… we have only encountered them in a couple places – the Moscow train station, and Olkhon Island. Once we get into Asia, they will become more common. Unfortunately…

    And yes, you have to pay for most public toilets. We just look for a McDonald’s and use theirs.

  5. Hollie – While you can have enough Russian food, you can never have enough Mexican food. Plus, you don’t eat the same kind of food each night at home, right? So why do it on the road? We’ve had mostly Russian food – we just need a break. You know, something with flavor. 🙂