Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Train from Moscow

Boarded the train at Kazan station rather than Yaroslavl station because I'm travelling on a chartered train travelling the southern route via the Tatar city of Kazan. The ticket was booked with Railbookers ( because they have booked all my tickets & accommodation through from London.

About 120 passengers met up at a Moscow hotel & had been pre-organised into little sub-groups for local excursions - I'm in beige - that bland & dull colour - maybe this was a mistake!

I'd always intended to take the standard trans-Mongolian train but unless you take an organised tour you either go straight through or have the hassle of buying tickets for each leg of the journey. And I really think I'm past my backpacking phase & would rather not bunk in with a bunch of complete strangers - I always get the weirdos. Time, I thought, for a bit of comfort.

Beyond the city, the further east we travel, towards the Ural Mountains, almost all the houses are wooden - the only abundant building material. For hundreds of miles birch & the occasional fir tree stretch out to the horizon as far as its possible to see - there must be billions of them. Its impossible not to think that if you wandered off into these trackless forests you would never find your way out again.
An occasional cleared area stands out as a highlight; some are growing wheat, there are a few cows; sometimes clusters of wooden houses form tiny villages and then the forest returns as if the human imprint had never occured.

There are huge lakes that don't make it onto most maps, there are fishermen around the edge and little boats out in the middle & then the forest closes in again.

Freight is king out here, the rail track is not a simple single track but expands to half a dozen tracks in places & its busy with fright trains plying back & forth from east to west.

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