After being recovered in Irkutsk I was ready for my second stage on the Trans-Siberian railway. The way to Vladivostok took 78 hours. This time my train had an even lower number (train nr. 134) and its condition was pretty bad. The windows were so old that you could hardly look through them, there were no power sockets and worst of all in my carriage was no coal left for heating it. Therefore the nights were quite freezing.
This time my companions in my compartment were a drunk couple for a day and a grandmother with her grandchild for the most of the way. So I spent some time drinking Cognac with the drunks and listening to them telling me the few English words they knew over and over again. Fortunately they crashed pretty soon and were sleeping for the rest of their train ride. Then I also spent some time playing ball with the little girl. But most of the time I spent at the restaurant, which was heated and were I could actually see throughout the window.
There I met two elderly ladies from Brazil and more russians who were always eager to practice their poor English vocabulary on me and the Brazilians. Funny thing is that you can have quite long and active conversations without actually saying anything. Looking out the window once in a while I saw very old siberian villages with old wooden houses and no paved roads. Would have been nice to make a stop there for a day trip to one of those villages to experience this special vibe even more. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures. At this point I already gave up taking pictures out of the moving train, because everytime there was something worth to be taken a picture of it was already gone once I got the camera. And also the windows at this train didn’t open.
Finally, after 9258 km, I reached the end of the Trans-Siberian railway. Vladivostok is in my opinion the prettiest town from the 3 Russian cities I’ve visited. Maybe this is because its on the ocean, which I like. I only stayed there for two nights and I was couchsurfing again with a very nice and helpful russian couple. They told me many things about Russia. For example about the Russian army. I was told about the already well known fact that russian rookie soldiers commonly get badly beaten by older soldiers. Many young soldiers actually die because of this every year. I think, since every able-bodied man in Russia has to enlist in the army for two years, this beating must have quite an impact on the psyche of Russia in general . However conditions have supposedly improved in the last couple years.
Most notable about my hosts was that they spent half a day drinving me around in a really jammed city in order to find a bus ticket to Harbin (China) for me. Would have been impossible for me to buy it by myself.
On friday the 24th in the early morning my host drove me to the bus station and I caught the bus to Harbin. The bus ride took around 13 hours. At the border I actually expected to have some troubles, because I didn’t register myself when I arrived in Moscow. Then, in my case, the border police was a really angry looking woman with a big mustache, which worried me even more. However I gave her my passport and my arrival card and there were no questions asked.
In the end I really enjoyed my little russian experience on the Transsib very much. I definitely recommend doing it!
The harassment in the Russian army is known as “Dedovshchina”.
Check out this video:
Funny interview with Jake Gyllenhaal about Russians who don’t laugh:
Kind off true though.