Across Russia On A Train
In June 2019 we crossed two thirds of Russia travelling just over 6000 kilometres , nearly 4000 of those kilometres was on the Trans Siberian Railway – one of the world great railway journeys.
We entered Russia from Mongolia at Khyagr, our first major stop was Irkutsk and the beautiful Lake Baikal. We then went on to Krasnoyask, Novosibirsk & Yekaterinburg, read the story of these three wonderful Russian cities below along with photos and video.
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18 hours train
Krasnoyarsk such a pretty town
We arrived at Krasnoyarsk in the morning and caught a bus to the apartment we had booked. Russia’s bus system is pretty good and with the help of our friend Google (Maps and Translate) and the best app ever MapsMe, which can be used off-line, we did pretty well getting around Russia on PT.
The apartment block seemed to be in an area full of Soviet era apartment blocks and not very pretty. We discovered later that we had come in the back way and the apartment block was very close to central Krasnoyarsk.
We checked in to discover our “two bedroom apartment” was actually a one bedroom apartment with a sofa bed in the lounge. Back down to reception where not a word of English was spoken to complain, after some charades and a bit of google translate we were moved to a real two bedroom apartment that look like it had been renovated in 1970 and not a thing had been done since. But it was clean and comfortable and very close to the centre of town so it was fine for a few days.
It was nice to be in an apartment where we could make our own food, after a month on the road we were getting tired of constantly eating out AND the apartment had a washing machine so finally we could wash our clothes. The kitchen was very basic and strangely had no knives and we had to make our own beds which we found very odd, the other weird thing was the sheets did not actually fit the beds properly they were all too small…weird.
Krasnoyarsk is a very pretty town set on the Yenisy River, the Main Street is lined with pastel painted Victorian-esque buildings and a beautiful park. The town attracts visitors visiting the nearby Stolby Nature Reserve which is famous for its Stolby volcanic towers that are throughout the reserve. The park is popular for walking in and has a chair lift to the top of a hill with views across the valley. We did none of that, during spring the park and much of Eastern Siberia has ticks that are encephalitis cariers and we had been warned many many time not to go into wooded areas and we were happy to oblige.
While in Krasnoyarsk we visited a fairly interesting regional museum, a very strange shopping centre and a brilliant fresh food market where we bought delicious smoked fish. We also discovered a bottle shop that sold a huge variety of beer from taps into plastic bottles to take away.
While we were in Krasnoyarsk we encountered very few tourists and did not see another English speaker. People would stop us in the street and ask where were are from and were fascinated when we said Australia. By now we were starting to encounter some younger locals who spoke a little bit of English which they said they learned in school.
On our last day in Krasnoyarsk we stored our bags at the train station and wandered down to a restaurant on the river for lunch, were we had a lovely meal overlooking the river.
We got on the overnight train for our next stop Novosibirsk, we were now leaving Eastern Siberia and entering Western Siberia.,
Krasnoyarsk – Novosibirsk
11.5 hours train
Visiting The The Capital Of Siberia & The Peking To Paris Rally
We arrived in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia in the morning and went to the bus stand to find a bus. This was much more tricky than the other towns we had visited, Novo is a big town with buses, trolley cars and trams all with the same numbers so it became very confusing. After spending half an hour or so looking for the right bus stop we jumped on a bus which took us to ….somewhere…..we got off and after a bit of arguing which direction to take we walked for a while and found another bus that took us to the area our apartment was in.
The apartment we had rented was in a Soviet housing estate with towering apartment block after towering apartment block. It took us ages to find the apartment block we were staying in, we have come to discover that the Russians are not good at giving directions to accommodation, anyway we eventually arrived at midday. The apartment was clean, comfortable and reasonably modern although once again we had to make our own beds and all the sheets were too small. Oh and the towels, everywhere we have stayed so far gave us towels the size of hand towels!
It was interesting staying in an old Soviet housing estate, the towers were all designed so they faced into a central court yard with trees and park benches and kids playgrounds. Dotted throughout the estate were little shops that supplied the residents, Alex and Rob got their hair cut in the tiny salon in the basement of our building which fascinated all the locals.
Again we encountered we few visitors (except for the rally drivers competing in the Peking to Paris rally who were in town when we were) and again we were stopped frequently and asked where we came from.
We only had two days in Novosibirsk, we had just wanted a break from the train, so we visited the town square and statue of Lenin ate some great Kazakh food. washed some clothes and got back on the train.
The thing we like about this town and Krasnoyarsk was they were not on the tourist trail so while they are not set up for tourists and it is more tricky to move around you get to see towns and Russians doing their thing without the influence of tourism.
Then just like that we were back on the train for the long haul to Yekaterinburg, leaving Siberia and entering The Urals Region.
21.5 hours train
We arrived in Yekaterinburg at about 9am and proceeded to walk to our apartment which we were told was about 20 minutes walk…to another Soviet apartment complex and another apartment that was tricky to find.
We arrived to discover that the last guests had locked the keys in the apartment and the owner had locksmiths working to change the very complicated lock that was on the door. Fortunately we were able to dump our packs at a nearby hostel and walk about 15 minutes into town to have lunch. When we got back from lunch the lock drama had been sorted and we were able to move in. The apartment was large, modern and had both knives and forks…although we still had to make our own beds and once again the sheets were too small for the beds. But on the plus side we had full size towels!
By this time I had picked up a cold and had totally lost my voice so Yekaterinburg for us was a fairly quiet time. We visited the Church upon the Blood, a huge and very ornate church that had been built on the site of the building the Romanovs were shot in 1918 and also the Chapel of the Revered Martyr Grand Princess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna a tiny wooden chapel next door. We also took long walks around the town and along the river.
Yekaterinburg is a stunning city with many ornate and grand buildings all painted in pastel colours, it is also easy to navigate and a pleasant place to spend a few days on a journey across Russia.
From Yekaterinburg we were flying to St Petersburg. We would have loved to continue on the train but with only a 30 day visa and an awful lot of ground to cover we decided to fly the last 2000k saving several days of travel.