Trans-Mongolian Railway, Pt. 3

Irkutsk to Moscow

72 hours.

On a train.

I began this part of the journey as an idiot.

For some reason, I never picked up on the fact that all trains in Russia depart on Moscow time, rather than the local time at each station. (Even though my friend Emillio might have mentioned something about this in passing one evening in the Mongolian Ger…) So, my ticket indicted I departed at 1.47pm on Friday the 23rd.  I arrived at the station in time for a 1.47pm departure. I noticed that all clocks in the train station read 8am.  Interesting I thought, these guys really don’t have their shit together.  EVERY clock was wrong.  Just a bunch of idiots here in Siberia is what I’m thinking.

Well, appears I’m the idiot.

My train actually departed at 6.47pm, Irktusk time, which is 1.47pm Moscow time

I’m the idiot.

I am curious who the dumbass was who thought, “you know what would make things real easy while I write this train schedule – instead of having to understand Russia’s 7 time zones and indicate when each train leaves and arrives based on the stations actual time, I’m just going do all of this on Moscow time – EASIER FOR ME!”

Lazy.  Just a lazy idiot did this is what I thought the next 6 hours I waited at the station.

Getting on the train, no change from the others except I got to share the four berth cabin with Big Bird – a man who was about 6 foot 7 and he had a bird with him…and another gentlemen who smelled like he had spent the past few months in Chennai India, eating nothing but curried cauliflower, running a marathon each day and not showering.  It really helped when he stripped down to a wife beater and shorts for bed.

Really helped.

GREAT start to this leg is all I was thinking – its feels about 85 degrees in the room, it smells worse than a locker room and the bird will not stop chirping.  Hope these guys are going all the way to Moscow too!

Things did get a lot better.  The human locker room got off first thing in the morning and big bird and I were joined by a series of people over the next 40 hours, until he had to depart with the canary.  All of this I mention because this is how real people travel. This might be an epic train journey known as the Trans Siberian railroad but its much more than a tourist train. Russians, Chinese, Mongolians, use this for business and family travel.  Real people, real travel and real life is what this train was about.  I’m not sure what a citizen pays for a train as I assume its cheaper than my rate but it seemed for the normal Russian, train is the preferred mode of travel.  I met not only big bird and the former USSR’s real life pig-pen, but normal folks with their families, a spine surgeon on his way home from a conference and just generally good people.

Had I chosen to fly, I would have saved money and about 60 hours of time.

In this case however, saving time or money was not the point.  As I write this in Moscow – a city home to the most billionaires in the world and feels priced about that same way – I have felt like the richest among the rich in this world.  I have felt rich not because of dollars in the bank but hours on the clock.  I’m time rich.  I have time to spend 3 days relaxing to the cadence of train wheels clicking across the rails.  For 3 days, I read, listened to my favorite music and simply stared out the window. Grateful to know I had 3 days to travel when only a year ago, I only had 3 weeks of “my time” to travel as I pleased.

“My Time” – Me Time – that was the reason I took the train.  That and I have just always wanted to take a Trans-Siberian/Monoglian train route. Besides,  after three months on the road, it was time for reflection.  I really wasn’t that pissed some guy at the PID in Moscow was timezone lazy with the whole Moscow time departure thing. I was just going to be sitting and reading anyway so I passed the 6 hours devouring a book,  just as I did the preceding 72.  It was my time and I took time for me to reflect as the next part of this journey gets pretty busy.  The insights I’ve gleamed in this time are also banked in that rich feeling.  While I may not always be as rich in hours and minutes as I am now, 72 hours on a train crossing Siberia to one of the worlds largest cities added some unexpected wealth to an already rich personal account.

Destination – Moscow

To know Moscow, I think, would take some time.  My impression was it is a huge city and as far as huge cities go, there was diversity, tourist sights, tons of people, a very ornately cool subway – which is close to being as busy as Tokyo – and the communist era architecture really was interesting…it is as bad as you can imagine. (There is good and real architecture happening now.) The sights such as Red Square and Kremlin were great and over all it as a comfortable stop. No, not too much to else to say.  I’m not in a hurry to go back but I certainly would.

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4 Responses to “Trans-Mongolian Railway, Pt. 3”

  1. mom
    December 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Your patience is very impressive! I love reading your posts because you make me feel like I am there…love mom

  2. Rob Swenson
    December 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I have always wanted to take that train too. I feel like I’ve had the experience through your blog so now I can cross that off my list.

    • December 17, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Rob – I’m really happy to know the pictures, video and writing have helped put this in a great perspective for you. Keep thinking about doing the train though as it was a very unique travel experience.


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