A Travellerspoint blog

April 2000

St Pertersburg

to be entered

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Beer Blood Pistols N Vodka

Rise, Heed Thy call, for Moscow is Neigh!

So ends a dream of mine.

Mans longest train journey has come to an end. A journey I beg anyone who can not sit within the recesses of their own mind not to embark upon as I fear your sanity will embark upon a journey of its own and leave you stranded upon a train full of strangers. These strangers, whom by the third and fourth days' body smells will then make your soul depart for the heavens above earlier than the rest of you!

It was an amazing journey upon which so very much and nothing happened.

Well, what a journey. I have never seen so many trees. Oh so many trees, all in the ground, all made into towns and upon fellow trains going somewhere to be made into more towns! I spent my first hours sitting with my cabin buddy. He was a Russian on his way to Moscow.

Not far from Irkutsk hundreds of Russian soldiers bordered the train. It was an amazing sight, one I'm sure I'll remember for along time. In fact, what was to happen over the next 12 or so hours is something I'll never forget. There was so much noise and yelling and laughter. I remember sitting and hoping that the other two beds were not going to be filled with soldiers. Of course soon after that thought the cabin door opened and in stormed two huge soldiers. They began talking to me in Russian and I let them know I couldn't understand them and only spoke English. I had my phrase book with me and soon we were conversing and finding out about each other. The two soldiers whom occupied my cabin did everything from light my smokes to paying for my beer and food for me. They would even help me up to my bunk. The other man moved to another cabin and then came;

The other Russian!

The new fourth person in our cabin was also Russian, not a soldier and who for some reason didn't like me. At the beginning he was fine and we shared beer and phrase book conversation. Many soldiers came and went after finding out a foreigner was on board. Over a period of time the topic of religion was raised. I let them know I wasn't religious in any way. The soldiers were happy with this and the civilian mustn't have been. From then on he just didn't like me at all.

Why? Religion, it's the world's oldest reasons not to like someone.

I didn't have a cross on me so he took dislike to me. This only got worse as time went by. I couldn't understand anything he said about me as none could speak English and I knew no Russian. I knew he was talking about me as he kept looking at me whilst talking as did the soldiers. Over several hours and several beers little arguments began between them but it nothing I was worried about.

Throughout the day I was taken from cabin to cabin to sit and drink with everyone. When we met in the same cabin the civilian would sit and glare at me. He then began yelling things at me and walking out of the cabin. The first time this happened all within the cabin went completely silent. The two soldiers who followed me everywhere would just pat me on the shoulder and say OK.

Around 6pm or so he began yelling something and became so furious that he began screaming in my face. He then spat in my face and stormed out of the cabin. The soldiers once again patted me on the shoulder and said OK. This time he was followed firstly by the largest soldier and soon after the other soldier. I heard screaming from the end of the corridor and glass breaking. The man soon returned covered in blood and a two huge bloody eyes. His face was ripped open as was his scalp.

Maybe they also had Religious differences!

I couldn't believe what had happened. He was kneeling before me with his hands together saying something to me. I kept saying its ok and tried to wipe some of the blood from his face. There was glass sticking out of his face and when I pulled it out more blood would cover him. He kept putting his hands to his face and head then looking at his bloody hands. He soon fell forward and passed out on the floor. I shook his shoulder and woke him and tried to give him water. My hands were shaking through fear and shock.

Soon the Russian Military Police and a doctor boarded the train to ask questions and take the man from the train. I finally got to go for a walk and found two thick double paned windows smashed with blood everywhere in the smoking area between the carriages. Needless to say, I felt horrible and very very sick! One military policeman found me and in his best broken English told me they had taken the man from the train. I still had no idea what was going on and why it all happened, but for now it had ended...for now!

Throughout the day and into the night we moved from cabin to cabin drinking beer and vodka. In friendship I was given the big burley Russian Soldiers 'Dog Tags' (To remember him by I guess. They were going to war after all). I was well looked after but was still pretty shaken. Soon the alcohol numbed my senses and soon the warm comfort took over and I kind of forgot what had happened.

The soldiers onboard the Trans Siberian were, 'unarmed'.

What this really meant was they didn't have machine guns. What they did have was everything else. Broadswords, pistols, rifles, knives and other assorted goodies. So as I and other soldiers drunkenly walked down the corridor others would drunkenly jump out and hold a pistol to your temple or a sword to your throat and giggle their arse off. As I stood there with a huge sword at my throat my hazy mind would finally wake up enough to think; 'Hey, this guy is really drunk. If he even trips a little this blade will go through my windpipe'. Then thoughts of one of his drunken buddies jumping on him from behind would enter my head and then thoughts about where my head end up once it left my body. I tried on several occasions to go back to the safety of my room and sleep but minutes later it was filled with soldiers carrying me back to which ever cabin was the loudest and smokiest at the time.

Later, I'm unsure how long it was, the train was stopped and the Russian Military Police once again boarded. They found and entered the party cabin, hand cuffed my two cabin mates and escorted them from the train. I never actually found out what happened to the 'victim', but one has to wonder, for them to stop the train and escort them off handcuffed, one wonders if he died due to his injuries.

I awoke the next morning to find myself in my own cabin. It had been cleaned and even had a fresh kinda smell about it. I have no idea how they cleaned such a mess without me waking. In fact, I don't even remember how I got back to my own bed. As I ate my noodles and fruit for breakfast I sat going over and over the day before. At the next stop I was joined by a rather cute Russian News Journalist who asked me about what happened the previous night. I didn't say much more than I was too drunk to remember much at all. She seemed a bit taken back but accepted my answer.

I didn't spend anymore time with the soldiers. Instead I stayed in my cabin with the journalist and spent two beautiful days and beautiful nights playing chess, reading and chatting over tea and beer her newspaper paid for. The entire time though, in the back of my mind I was worrying about leaving the train and who would be there waiting for me. Revenge can be sweet especially in Russia whose murder rate was growing faster than any country at the time.

By this time I longed for vegetables and fresh fruit. I was sick of the sight and taste of bread rolls and noodle soup. My fruit and goodies were finished. After the 3400km mark my pretty Russian friend said her sad good byes and left the train and I was alone with my thoughts until the final kilometer arrived. I spent my time reading Melville's 'Moby Dick' and trying not to worry about someone waiting for me in Moscow.

I had traveled 5200km on this leg of the journey alone and if you add the Mongolian then I had traveled well over 6000kms on board. Then if you add the trains in China, Japan and Korea. Nah, couldn't be bothered mate.

Finally Moscow arrived and after gathering my things and saying a sad good by to the train staff I left the Trans Siberian. Was I worried? Yeah I was worried. Thoughts of what if he is dead and his family and friends blame me etc were going through my mind. I watched everybody around me as I made my way through the underground. I found some stairs and climbed them into the sunlight.

WHAT THE!

I quickly ran back down stairs. Bottles were being thrown at me by a bunch of drunken guys sitting on seats across from the exit. They were smashing on the steps above me. After what had happened on the train I was pretty worried as to who was throwing the bottles. I quickly returned to the underground and found another exit. I had no idea where I was but when I turned around the majestic sight of St Basils was before me. I knew the hotel I had booked was on the other side of St Basils so I almost ran past it not giving it the time it deserved.

Now for the grand finale of things that always happen in threes!

So far it was the train situation and then the bottles. I was more than worried by now and thought maybe I would hide in my room for a few days. I arrived at the Rosia Hotel and gave them my passport. The lady entered the details into the computer and then stopped. She looked at me and said;

'YOU GO TO POLICE! NOW!'

I asked why and she continued to tell me to go to the police. She just gave me a piece of paper in Russian and almost pushed me out the door. By now fear had set in. My god, the 'victim' was dead and they are going to blame me. What do I do!

I found the police station and gave them my name and passport. The officer entered my details into the computer and then stopped and looked at me just as the lady at the hotel had. Without saying a word, he stood, grabbed my arm and began to lead me to the cell in the corner. He got his keys out and motioned his hand towards the lock. By now I was about to wet myself. No one had any idea what had happed or where I was. I was going to be locked up in Russia and never allowed to leave. I was actually shaking!

He then began to laugh and in English said 'you no show passport in three days being Russia'.

F*%$! I almost had heart failure there on the spot.

The bottles I found out later were pretty much normal this time of year for anyone whom leaves the underground with a backpack on in the beer garden that Red Square becomes in summer. I also found out that Russian Visas are always stapled into your passport the wrong way so you have no idea that you have to show your passport within a time limit. Ever so happily paid my fine of 20 rubles or what ever it was and then hurried back to the safety of my room where I sat and emptied the fridge of beer and spirit bottles. I felt such a relief that all incidents were completely separate.

Over the following days my sense of safety returned and it all turned into a good story. I learnt a lot from it though. You are never truly safe no matter where you are in the world. Of course Russia is a lot more dangerous than a lot of other countries but I guess anything can happen at any time. We all have to try not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but we musn't ever allow ourselves to get so paranoid as to ruin a beautiful time.

If you are thinking the question 'Was it a worthy reality of the dream?

Yes, the answer would be yes. It was also more. The Trans Mongolian and Siberian journeys are complete opposites when taken one after the other. On board the Mongolian you see vast plains whilst onboard the Siberian you see trees, trees, a river, trees, trees, a river, a town made entirely of wood, complete with horse and cart, trees, trees and more trees! Along side, snow sat melting turning the ground into the bog it was before the previous winter came.

The trains are great. Some say dirty and not at all comfortable. Well me, I'm not accustomed to first or even second class travel. I've slept on trains amongst those whom spat and snorted on the ground below your bed or seat.

In comparison, the Mongolian and Siberian really are VERY CLEAN!

The Siberian was vacuumed twice a day, the toilets cleaned the same. A food cart rolled on by a few times a day. At some stops you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

But I beg you, DON'T EVER TALK ABOUT RELIGION! WITH ANYONE!

For reading materials either a copy of War & Peace or my choice, Melville's 'Moby Dick' really is required no matter how long you can sit inside your own mind. Captain Ahab, Queequeg, Stubbs, Ishmael and all those on board the Prequod became my, Argh, Maatees!

All of us were on board and all in search of something!

'By the Cabin Windows sitting alone'

PS: the above events did really occur.

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

I Don't Believe You

For those who don't believe the events that occured in my last entry, this is my answer to a fellow Travelpodder whom cared to comment. For those whom still don't believe, it's your life, I allow you the freedom to believe what you wish.

COMMENT: I just finished #13's post and I just have to say, that sounds like complete horse-puckey. Broadswords? I have been on the Trans-Sib twice, and you are a nutter if you think that this is going to happen there. On the OP I have to admit that my worst is a bit more mundane, I woke up in fruit vendors porch covered with wasps, mild mannered, friendly wasps, crawling all over my face, but it was a bit off-putting. That having been said, 13 just doesn't pass the 'this is legit' standard. __________________________________________

MY REPLY: hello mark, this is Eddakath, yes #13

Until you have actually travelled accross Russia with a train full of russian soldiers going to war I would rather you didn't pass comment on what is 'ligit' or not and as for passing your 'ligit' standard, maybe you should also wait until something other than a wasp is in your face. Sometimes my friend, people experience 'things' that maybe don't pass your standard of REAL. Funny thing is where I live and go out to see bands in Melbourne Australia the Lonely Planet guide suggests NOT to go afterdark due to 'safety' reasons. I've never seen or been part of anything to fear there. When I'm home I'm out seeing bands and at not to nice places every weekend. You've been on the Trans Siberian twice you say. Did you go during war? Obviously NOT.

It's also not up to me to question the LP's guide to safety. I've never been harrassed, mugged or beaten in these areas of Melbourne. BUT, working close with Police for the last 15 years, some of these areas are very unsafe places to be after dark. Even they question my actions sometimes.

I wish you a safe journey on your next journey on board the Trans Siberian. But yes, broadswords and everything in my entry was real and the fear factor was very high. I'm unsure how you travel, be it tours etc but please, take note of what your fellow travellers, friends and govt say. Mine emailed me and told me NOT to board the train. I chose not to listen. Large knives and alcohol do not mix in any way shape or form. Would I do it again given the same info...NO. Would I board the Trans Siberian and head accross Russia again. You bet ya I would mate. A million 'LIGIT' happenings and vodkas full of smiles to ya...eddakath

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Feeling Unwelcome in Irkutsk

  • ****The journey between Irkutsk and Moscow is 5184kms. WOW!*****

I arrived in Irkutsk so full of happiness. I was so excited and eager to continue my journey. Though it was snowing I threw on the polar fleece and headed out to discover Irkutsk. What I found I didn't like. I was cold and no one would talk to me. I tried to find internet so I could spend time emailing friends back home to let them know I was safe and happy but no one would help me. I sat in the warmth of a small restaurant and ate my dinner whilst reading. It felt so strange having no one come over to say hello. I went for a short walk after dinner but became too cold to continue so I headed back to the warmth of my room and bed.

Before departing the following day I found the market place and stocked my day pack with fruit, noodles and other goodies. I then caught a cab to the station and waited the arrival of my train. I left Irkutsk with mixed feelings. I remember wanting to see more of it but feeling unwelcome.

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Polny! Ice Fishing N Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is the world's largest fresh water lake. It holds up to one fifth of the world's total fresh water! In fact, it is millions of years old not a young twenty or so thousand so I think it is one of the world's oldest as well. At 640km long, it's like driving most of the way to Adelaide from Melbourne! In fact, we did drive and walk upon it as it was still frozen! Take that Moses! I've no need to part the waters!

My stay in Listvyanka was so beautiful. It is a time that always warms me when I sit and ponder my life and the adventures that have helped me become who I am. I'm sad that the 15 films from Korea through to Norway have been lost somewhere during countless house moves. I guess I have to be happy with the small amount of photos I do have. I was sending a package home every month but for some stupid reason I stopped doing it and carried the films all the way until home. As I had no money when I got home the films were shelved and money was spent elsewhere. My girlfriend at the time would have the films processed when she received the packages.

This is why there are so many photos of Vietnam, China and Japan.

I don't have a detailed diary so photos and pondering are the only way I can write. Sadly there is just too much to remember and I remember too little. But I do remember my time in Listvyanka. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The lake, the mountains, the town and the people make a wonderful memory, one that can never die.

The lady I was staying with mothered me like a long lost child. The meals she cooked were so large that I was left in agony after meal. Oh so POLINY! ('I'm full' in Russian). One meal consisted of two huge smoked fresh fish, mashed potatoes, bread and vegetables.

Oh so Poliny!

I got to spend time with her friends. They drove me around to show me 'the sites'. We spent many fun filled hours on the lake itself. We cut holes in the ice and caught fish for dinner. Prior to this I had only seen this done in the movies so it was a real trip for me. Every day I would walk into the town and for lunch I would buy a huge smoked fish and a bottle of beer. I would sit beside the frozen lake and find new strength in myself and my new surroundings. The fish was probably the best I have ever eaten. It was extremely tender and melted in my mouth. I'm unsure what spices they used but some days I went back for seconds just for the taste. One was more than enough!

As I ate I would sit and stare at the mountains across the lake on the distance shores. The sky was blue and life was once again beautiful. I remember one afternoon a tour bus full of Chinese and Mongolians arrived. When I saw them get off I felt a little sad. Some sat with me and we ate our fish together and talked about my travels. As they boarded their bus I felt an urge to run and board with them but I had found new happiness in Listvyanka and was happy to stay and discover Russia.

Several times I took the small ferry and crossed the river to Port Baikal. The river continued to flow into the frozen lake as of course the lake wasn't completely frozen! I do have a picture of this. Here I would walk around for several hours and one afternoon walked several kilometers along the train line. When I heard the train in the distance I found a safe place to sit and watched as the Trans Siberian rolled on by. Soon I would be onboard and continuing by journey across Russia on the Trans Siberian! It was a WOW of a thought

I was sad when my time ended and I had to leave Listvyanka.

Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian

Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian


Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (1)

Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (1)


Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (2)

Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (2)


Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (3)

Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (3)


Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (4)

Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (4)


Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (5)

Listvyanka Lake Baikal & Trans Siberian (5)

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in Russia Comments (0)