I wrote the following a few days ago. We are actually heading to Ulan Ude tonight by train. I have included a few photos, but because of the large number of photos I have to sift through, I probably will do a few big picture posts once I get back to Australia (sorry!)...Hope everyone is very well! Much love xoxo. g
This is our third night in a row on the train between Yekaterinberg and Irkutsk. Surprirsingly the trip has gone quickly. the beds have been more comfortable than our two earlier train rides, so "sleeping in" (maybe 11 hours last night) doesn't hurt in passing time. We have managed to squeeze in some card games in the restaurant car (managing to prevent being evicted by purchasing a somewhat constant order of drinks) and in one of our travelling companion's cabins.
Me, Lisa, Brooke & Manxing in the nice of the two restaurant cars we have been in.
Other than that there has been eating and reading (today I finished 'A Widow for One Year' by John Irving, a really delightful read. I love the way he writes, quite a style of his own, descriptive and contemplative without being boring). We also watched the 5th Element on Gideon's PDA last night which a very nice treat. The countryside out the window has not been so exciting so far. Siberia has been not unlike the Australian contryside, although probably a lot greener. We have not bought anything from the Babushka's on the stations that we have stopped at because we packed too much food this time! So in all, it has been quite a restful and uneventful train leg. I am looking forward to the use of a shower and a toilet that doesn't reek of urine though!
Yekaterinberg was a nice enough city. However, it definitely suffered from being the 4th city in a row that we have visited. I think we were sity-fatigued and a little over the buildings and churches. It didn't help that our city guide was somewhat strange (nb. To our pleasant surprise, we have had our own private city tour of all the cities we have visited so far). With jokes such as "Did you enjoy the TV in your train carriage?... it only has two channels, the Nature Channel and the Discovery Channel", which he then explained and then repeated multiple times, and then asking us whether we liked the city about every 10 minutes, he did not help his cause. Then he claimed that Yekaterinberg had never been a closed city (foreigners were prohibited to enter), however previous to our tour and then again afterwards we were told by other tour guides that it was in fact a closed city.
One interesting place we visited as a relatively new church built upon the spot that the Romanov Family, the last royal family of Russia, were murdered. Following their death, the family was cannonised and the church was somewhat a shrine to them. I found it extremely interesting that a whole royal family might be sainted, but I guess we come from a very different culture, and not always a very religious one.
The day after the city tour we embarked on "Siberian Wilderness Adventure". What a fantastic day.
Gideon & I at the boarder between Europe & Asia!
Getting out of the city (finally!) was just what we needed. It wasn't a particularly tough day as the name might imply. It was about a 16km walk on mostly flat through Siberian forest, with a very gentle float on a raft down 6km of river. Just lovely.