Irkutsk to Yekaterinburg

Posted: June 4, 2014 in Costs, Travel

Irkutsk -> Yekaterinburg
Cost: S$278
Time spent travelling: 49 hours

Yes. 49 damn hours on the train. I’m glad that the train ride was a surprise this time round as it was starting to get monotonous with all that balancing of battery power, food, water, sleep and social space. Especially social space. I didn’t expect class 3 (the lowest class for Russian sleepers) to be so cramped!

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I was on the train with a group of pekhota (infantry) soldiers returning home after a year in service. Yes they were rowdy but what else can you expect from a group of 18-19 year olds?

At first they seem hesitant and indifferent towards me. Some taunted me for being Chinese, with calls of ‘cheena’ along the walkway. When we really talked and I told them I was in the pekhota as well, there were handshakes going all around. Respect was immediately given. Being a corporal amongst the corporals brought another round of handshakes as well. I felt the mutual respect, and I think they felt it too. Instantly we were talking about infantry and army, with our limited vocab of 50 overlapping words, a mix of angliski and russian.

It kind of got me thinking.. being in the military means that we might someday be enemies on the battlefield. But somehow, knowing them makes it all that harder to fight them. Maybe that’s what the modern army is about, knowing thy enemy and being hesitant to fight. The real reason being having an army and deterrence.

That aside, I can say for sure that only 2 things interest army men. Food and women.

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They did take my charger when they left, something I would say it’s closer to a mistake than theft. I didn’t want to undermine all their efforts of making an effort to get to know me with just a charger. And that’s the story of how I lost my first item of this trip.

The trains have different classes, evident even from the corridor.

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The restaurant is slightly pricey and some food are not available, but is decent enough for a simple meal.

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Arriving in Yekaterinburg, I didn’t know what to expect or see. Not known as a touristy place, Yekaterinburg used to be an industrial powerhouse of the Russian empire.

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Having stepped into a Russian metro for the first time, it struck me how similar it is to the metro is North Korean. Extremely long escalators, dark tunnels for noisy trains and chandeliers lighting up the platform.

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Yekaterinburg has tributes and monuments to the famous Russians but what struck me was it’s quirkiness. Along the main shopping district, you can find a statue of Michael Jackson. Further down the path and near the river, you get a keyboard monument.

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Vandalism is rampant in the city, with even an art piece that resembles vandal sprays.

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It was a pity that I couldn’t get to see the Russian circus though! (Another reason to come back to Russia)

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Yekaterinburg will always be a place that is quaint and quirky, a good place to stop and rest before my next big one, Moscow!!

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