On 08/07/06, I landed in Moscow Sheremetyevo. Pasha, sent by Baikal Complex, was there for my transfer to the homestay. This homestay was well located, at a walking distance, 2 metro stations, from the Red Square. I immediately went to this place. On 09/07/06, I visited the Novodevichy convent and did some sightseeing. In the evening, I took the metro to Yaroslavl station to board the « Baikal » train to Irkutsk.
From Moscow to Irkutsk
« Baikal » train left Moscow on 10/07/06 at 23:25 & arrived in Irkutsk on 13/07/06 at 9:13 local time (i.e. 4:13 Moscow time) after a 5 185 km trip. This is a comfortable and well-maintained train. I shared my kupe with Natalia #1, who left at Novosibirsk during the evening of the second day, with Serguey and his colleague Igor who staid until the end. All of three were the co-travelers I could have wished, helpful, liveful, highly cultured and so friendly. Igor, though he as no opportunity to travel outside his country, likes very much talking in English. I enjoyed all of his explanations and advices. He and Serguey work as chemist researchers in a nuclear laboratory of Irkutsk University. As a student, Igor has also been a provodnik. We shared his good memories of this summer job. Igor was the actual tutor and initiator for my first Russian train. He explained me what I should know. Under his eyes and Sergey’s ones I quickly understood that nothing could happen except a nice, quiet, interesting, pleasant and funny journey.
In the same carriage, we met with David & his wife, Silke. They were starting a round-world trip thru Russia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Australia, Easter Island, Tahiti, and South America etc… Their kupe was an organized sweet home, with a nice living room at the bottom, a complete library and a well supplied convenient store on the above berths. They were different from the standard « bidochon » behavior, which makes me, usually, escaping my compatriots when I travel abroad.
Because we had « bidochons », good French ones! They joined us, during the second night as we stopped in Yekaterinburg. Fortunately, they went in another carriage. The following morning I was totally « train-lagged » and could not sleep. So, I decided to have a walk in our moving village. The complete train was sleeping. I met nobody until I saw Monsieur Bidochon senior with a brand new video camera. This gentleman did not loose time to record his “adventures”! It was as he was doing a movie about the samovar… He appeared to me as very concentrated. Thus, I waited and I did not move. Finally, I considered I was probably looking very strange and stupid like that. So, I started to walk. Then Chef Bidochon just screamed in French. Of course, when you are bidochon you consider everybody can or must talk French. He told that I totally spoiled his samovar movie. It was so funny that I said this joke to other people. Eventually the joke went alone thru the train. Bidochon senior became a star. His story was so popular that, one day, a person told me that Bidochon senior tried to make a movie with the samovar and had a fight with a guy who was walking near it…
I was in Irkutsk from 13/07/06 to 19/07/06 and staid in the Downtown Hostel on Stepana Razina Ul. Though, it does not look very good, it is a place, well located, where you can share experiences and meet interesting travelers. Ekaterina, there, was very helpful and made everything possible to facilitate guest stays. She was the good angel of this hostel. After my 2006 return to France, Ekaterina and I kept emailing. She is now one of my closest friends. We met again in Irkutsk and took circum-baikal together in winter. In summer 2008, Katia and her family invited me to stay 3 weeks at their home while I attended Russian classes in her city. In summer 2010, I staid again intheir home after an expedition to Eastern Saians.
One evening Igor, met in the train from Moscow, took his car and invited me for a large tour of the city and its vicinity. I went to places I would never have seen otherwise. He came with his daughter Nastya, whose English is outstanding. Though, she is just 15 years old and never traveled abroad. Igor can be proud of her. Igor and I kept in touch. We met again in Siberia in winter and during another summer. We also met in Paris (November 2008)
During hours & on two different days, I bothered Yelena, a young lady working for MTS on Karl Marx Ul. Together we tried, unsuccessfully, to make my Blackberry cell phone working with a Siberian network as it worked until Krasnoyarsk, but SFR had no local agreement. Even with an MTS sim card, we have not been able to get any connection. « Smart phones » can be very stupid… There, the only thing that worked perfectly was Yelena’s constant smile. Fortunately, her English was very light so our conversation went on hours. Meanwhile, I had a lot of time to enjoy the company of such a Siberian beauty… I have also to mention Nicolay Borisovitch, her Manager. He showed a strong commitment to my problem getting advices from his experts. He was a perfect gentleman who speaks a very good French.
Meeting the people described above should be enough to love a city. But it is not all. There was Nathalie too. Nathalie was a travel agent from Irkutsk who provided me with major advices when I prepared my Trans Siberian trip from France. She faced tons of email with questions. She kept answering politely, fast and sharp. Thanks to her, I knew I was in safe and good hands before leaving home. I subsequently understood my comprehension was an understatement. When I had the opportunity to meet with her on my first day in Irkutsk, I noticed she was also a charming and smart young lady. She used her strong energy and expertise to personally support my project thru Siberia and to make me discover her town as a local citizen. I cannot mention all what she did. I must, however, underline that she made a tremendous job in buying my train tickets from Irkutsk to Komsomolsk including the most difficult one on Severobaikalsk-Tynda transit train. That for, she spent hours after her work days and during the weekend. She also went numerous times to the train station, knowing than the main bridge was closed for regular transportation facilities. She dedicated the rest of her precious free time to make my stay unique. Thanks to Nathalie, while leaving Irkutsk, I actually understood what means the French expression “Partir c’est mourir un peu”.
Because of all these good people, Irkutsk is a city that will, forever, have a unique value for me. I will continue to visit it as much as I can.
From Irkutsk to Severobaikalsk with Transib and BAM
From Irkutsk to Severobaikalsk, I intended, first, to take the Meteor, hydrofoil, (600 km; 8 hours). It should have been a fantastic opportunity to see the Baikal Lake from the South to the North. For months already, I was very enthusiastic about this plan. Nathalie informed me that, unfortunately, the hydrofoil was broken and I should go by train with a 1 733 km trip of two nights & one day. Though I was one of the first travelers aware of the situation, it was not good news. I had to take back the Transib line for 669 km from Irkutsk to Taishet and the BAM (Baikal Amur Magistral) line for 1 064 km from Taishet to Severobaikalsk. I already explained how difficult it was to get my BAM tickets. Nathalie got the Severobaikalsk-Tynda one, less than half an hour before I left Irkutsk. She was there until the departure. She introduced me to the Provodnitsa. She made sure everything was ok in my kupe.
When the train ran, I finished my organization in the Kupe. Babushka – she said we had to call her like that – wanted to know everything. Where do you live? I had to draw a map and to answer if Nantes was close to “les chateaux de la Loire” (never had this kind of question in the US…) What are you doing here? Who was this young, krassivaya lady? Padruga? – Well, no, but “merci du compliment!”. – Then came a group of people visiting the other lady of the kupe. They congratulate her for having a French man in her compartment. “”Mesdames et Messieurs », it was your « serviteur! » “Merci” again “pour le compliment”. They proposed to share all their meal with me, with Sasha (the fourth young guy of the kupe) and with Babushka. I had to say no because I did not want to use their supplies, as I had nothing in exchange. They said it was “niet problem”. Again a group of very nice people. Am I just lucky or are most of the Siberian people like that? Actually, they are very good and warm people, just like the large majority of Russian people. But they are not the Russian people we hear about in Western Europe. Nevertheless, I was starving. We spent so much time in the ticket office that I could not have my last diner with Nathalie. I could not even buy some food for the day and the two nights I will spend in this train.
So, I decided to go the restaurant. The place was very different from the Baikal train’s one, much simpler but very friendly. The Provodnitsa even introduced me to the restaurant Manager. Then I had to order… Tough job! It took time. The only thing I could read and understand was омлет (Omlet) actually same word than the French one (scramble eggs) and пиво (pivo, beer). So, I ordered omelet, kartochka (potatoes) and pivo. It was a great success for me after this long talk with the Manager and the Cook. Once, it was finished I saw the Manager adding figures with an abacus. Of course, she used a calculator, but it was just to print the receipt… The first time I saw that. Then, I could observe it again in the train until Komsomolsk, and even in Tynda stores. Eventually, it was time to go to bed.
Every body was sleeping in the kupe. It was my first top berth in a Russian train. In the dark, I tried everything to go there. I just saw one solution. I put one foot on the table. And… big noise! The table went down. All the other travelers’ stuff, lying on it, went down. Sasha on the second top berth turned on his light. Babushka on one of the down berths turned on her light. They were looking at the disaster on the floor. I said to myself: “Pas cool du tout”. It was, as instead of blaming me they felt very sorry for me. Sasha turned on my light. He went down. He showed me how to unfold the small ladder. I went to my berth. I could not sleep. After just one third of my trip, they were so many things to think about. I knew I was leaving Irkutsk, a place with great remembrances, for something I could not anticipate nor figure.
In the morning, we arrived in Taishet. Once we started again, we were not on the Trans Siberian line anymore. We were on the mythical BAM line, the largest, and the hardest public engineering work of the 20th century! Immediately, the monotonous Transib wallpaper I could see from the train windows changed dramatically. The landscape became simply beautiful with forests, rivers and mountains. During the day, I went thru the complete train. I did not find Barbara, my Downtown Hostels roommate. I really traveled alone, with nobody speaking English at all. However, thanks to Nathalie’s recommendation, the Provodnitsa was very helpful & comprehensive. At different stops, Sasha, as Igor did until Irkutsk, made sure I was aware how long the train stopped in the stations. He told me if I could get out or not. Every time, a few minutes before the train was living, he went to me and said we had to go back.
In the evening, Babushka left the kupe. In the middle of the night, Sasha woke up to stop at Ust Kust on the Lena River. I turned on my light and just said Spasibo and Da Zvidania to him. I wish this good boy would have the life he deserves.
On 21/07/06 morning, right at Severobaikalsk station, I finally found Barbara (or she found me). There, Alyona was waiting for us. Together, we went to Sasha and Nadia’s wonderful house. They already had a German-speaking group of guests, volunteers having spent one month on working for the Great Baikal Trail. They immediately proposed us to join their tour to Baikalskoe, Slyudanski lakes & former Gulag mines in the mountains. The weather was stunning, the landscape gorgeous & the group very friendly. It was a very good day. Thanks to Sasha’s hospitality, I also experienced my first banya (Russian sauna).
The day after was not so easy. On this Saturday 22/07/06, I tried for hours to get an Internet access and to call Irkutsk & Tynda. I finally purchased a cell phone in the shopping center. It was quite funny. The young lady in the store did not understand me. I did not understand her too. When I got the equipment, I asked her to transfer credit on my account. I also asked her to put the menu in English. It was the best she could do because the entire manual was in Russian. Everybody was looking at us waiting to see the end of the deal. Then I had a great inspiration I remembered what I read in the Assimil book. I said “Voui otchin loubiezni”. I heard almost all the people laughing. Then I found Barbara. She had another address for an Internet cafe. It worked after 13:00. In the afternoon, Alyona joined us and indicated a nice cafe over Baikal Lake where we peacefully closed the day. At 19:11 I took the train to Tynda just wondering if I could reach the hotel there, in the middle of the next night, and if they will have a bed for me.
From Severobaikalsk to Komsomolsk na Amure with BAM trains
From Severobaikalsk to Tynda, it is a 27 hours travel to cover 1 300 km. There was just one young lady in my kupe. Her name was Natalia #3. She was a nice good-looking person but we did not talk so much as we had no common language. Just imagine, 27 hours in a small house with someone you cannot talk! She was very quiet, but amazingly, it was not boring. At a certain time, she was doing some paper work with many receipts and files, using a calculator. I understood she was a “daroga” inspector. Does it mean she worked for the railway? After Tynda, she had to take another train to go south. From where was she coming? Where was she going? Who was she? A fascinating mysterious lady whose life just crossed mine.
I arrived in Tynda on 23/07/06 at 23:00. I have not been able to contact the Nadezhda’s hostel by phone. They never answered my emails. Well, I was anxious arriving in a town at night, almost not speaking Russian with no hotel reservation. However, it worked, even if nobody there spoke any language except Russian. The following day, I could not see Nadezhda herself nor I could find her travel agency office. Thus, I could not complete the tour to the Evenki village that I was looking for. I just visited Tynda by myself. It was not an unforgettable experience.
On 24/07/06 at 18:00, I took the BAM again to Komsomolsk Na Amure for a new 37 hours trip of 1 473 KM. In my kupe were two funny senior ladies. One of them was in a rush. She offered me to share a kind of gentle flower liquor. I remembered Igor told me “never drink with men you don’t know”. He did not talk about ladies… So, let’s go! In a certain fog, I saw one of the two ladies leaving the kupe, before the train started. I was so tired. Damned strong flowers! When I woke up I just saw Lyudmila. She and I staid alone in the kupe until Novy Urgal. I understood she transferred from the train coming from Moscow in Tynda. Her friend, living in this town, used the 40 minutes connection to have a good time with her. Lyudmila was lifeful and funny. She wanted to communicate, but at a certain time, I used all the words of her language I knew. So, she had nothing else to do than reading. However, my Russian was good enough to understand that the author of her book was Barbara Cartland! How do you say « Littérature de Gare » in Russian? Different trains, same books from West to East!
From Novy Urgal I was alone in the kupe. Except for the Provodnitsa, Natalia #4, there was almost nobody in the carriage. I think, in total, we were four in the carriage. The train was very small and had no restaurant, just a little « store », still much better than the French TGV bar. Starving again I asked for food. I used a German word “butterbrot”, it is the same in Russian. The lady there proposed me different things and made a wonderful sandwich. One part was with fresh bread and ikra (salmon caviar). The other part was as wonderful as the first one. Next time I eat these disgusting sandwiches in the French trains, I will say to the waiter that he (she) should go to Siberia!
I arrived in Komsomolsk on 26/07/06 at 8:00. I was welcome at the train station by Vladimir, Mikhail’s partner at Nata Tour. Thus from Taishet to this last town, I eventually traveled 3 837 km on the BAM. With no doubts, it was the most beautiful landscape I saw from the train in Russia. Transib landscape can certainly not compare with. It was also a very specific human experience in a remote and almost empty region.
Komsomolsk na Amure
« Tartarie Chinoise » as French explorers said late XVIII and early XIX centuries, or Дальний Восток as it is said now, while this part of the Far East region became Russian in 1858. That is where I arrived on 26/07/06. Vladimir from NATA Tour transferred me from Komsomolsk train station to Mikhail’s apartment. Ivan, his father, and Andrei, his brother, welcomed me. Andrei showed me the town and the NATA Tour office conveniently situated at a walking distance. He also indicated me the hairdresser in the Voskhod hotel. I went there subsequently and, thanks to Sasha (Alexandra), I had the smoother haircut of my life. She did a very good job, though we were almost not able to communicate.
Then I visited the Regional Museum. The lady at the cash desk was very upset when she understood I was a foreigner (it probably did not take her too much time for that), as she had to « give » me another ticket. I mean, like in other Russian museums, a much more expensive ticket than the regular one. Don’t believe that paying this « capitalist fee » you will get any explanation, even a small paper, in another language than Russian. It is supposed to be an interesting museum. I cannot issue any opinion. I did not understand anything. I have even not been able to buy a small English booklet.
After this frustrating visit, I tried, based on the BAM guide, to find the open-air tank museum. The tanks might have been moved or sold. I did not see them. However in the park, I was not alone, I met with friendly mosquitoes. I think they enjoyed my visit and their lunch. Who knows? Actually, it might have been their diner.
I decided to stop the frustrating experiences and did not go to the Art Museum. Fortunately, the Amur River was still there and no capitalist fee was asked to have a look on it. The view on this huge river was totally gorgeous.
After the days spent in the BAM, it was time to check my email. I crossed the town in all directions. No place was able to connect me with my « Orange » webmail. This time, I think it is because of Orange which is really too heavy with all its ads and communications. I finally succeed in finding one access in the main Post Office, though it was very slow. There, I saw an email saying that I had to cancel the two last homestay days of Aki in Vladivostok. I was drafting an answer when a smiling (I say that because I saw his teeth, I might have been wrong as I understood later) « Okrana » man came to me and used the babushka communication way. It consists of adding more and more words, longer and longer sentences when they see you do not understand them. Then, I gave him my dictionary so that he could show me words he wanted to tell me. He did not take the dictionary, did not stop the flood of words that, this time I understood, became increasingly aggressive. Instead of taking my book, he almost took my neck and threw me out of the post-office.
What a brilliant day! I walked again in the town with a high level of concern & stress. Finally, at the very end of the day I had no other solution than to go back to NATA Tour’s office. Fortunately, Vladimir was still there. He very nicely helped me a lot with his Internet access. Thanks to him, I could email Baikal Complex & Aki.
On 27/07/06, Alexei, my guide for the two next days, in the Myochan ridge, came at Mikhail’s apartment where I staid. He was with two good friends, Sasha (not the one of the previous day) and Igor. Together, we went to the bus station and took a marshrutka (minibus) to Solnechnyj (North West of Komsomolsk).
We visited the Solnechnyj Museum, which was a very good introduction to the mine activity of this region. However the major piece there is, in my opinion, a little statue with an Asian face that is, at least, 6000 years old. Thanks to the patient efforts of the lady managing the museum and to the translations from Alexei and his friends, I enjoyed a lot this visit.
Then we had to wait a long time, like many other people, for the bus to the mining village of Gorny. We started our walk there after 12:30. It means the sun was high and intense. I was starving and about to say, « Game over ». My Russian friends were keeping the same speed, the Siberian walk, even when they were climbing mountains. I felt very bad. I was not trained for that. I knew I was able to face the distance but not the speed. It seems that the young Alexei did not understand clearly the situation. Or he thought, dead or alive, we should comply with the « timing ». Managing better the bus schedule, probably skipping the museum & leaving earlier Solnechny, would have converted this hard rush into a nice fresh walk giving more opportunities to share information about the great nature we were crossing. I should have listen to Andrei who suggested me to eat a soup in morning, though it was not ready and we were already 30 mn late. My stupid « French » breakfast, that I am used to have, with two pieces of bread and a coffee was not relevant.
After 10 km of going up and 2 km of going down, we arrived at Amut Lake. It was a beautiful place, where we could refill our bottles, for drinking and preparing the lunch, in the crystal clear water. Everything was perfect except that half of the lake is damaged by a wide rough road for trucks and 4WD. At least, we did not see any more the ruined buildings, the rubbish, the truck tires, the old rusted pipes and metal-sheets that were spoiling the nature on the climbing part of the road.
After the 5:00 PM soup, my first actual meal, I felt much better when we went up the next 8 km to the hunting house. I could almost follow the speed of my friends. The forest trail crossing rivers was, this time, unspoiled. I enjoyed the nature and the fact that we were not any more on the rough road burnt by the sun from Gorny to Amut. Near the wooden house, we saw recent smelling evidences of bears. This time again, we could get fresh water from the next small river. The altitude and the cold night prevented us from mosquitoes.
The following morning, after a strong soup, we started to climb again the mountain with the forest trail. We went over the mountain and, after 8 km, we arrived at Perevalnij old mine. Another rough road of 12 km started there, going up and down to Festivalny where we took the bus to Solnechny. In Solnechny, we took a marshrutka to Komsomolsk na Amure. In some places, the nature was spoiled in the same way than the day before. Otherwise, it was a very pleasant walk, but with no doubts, the good part of this tour was the 16 km one from Amut Lake to Perevalnij.
On 28/07/06 evening, Akirohiro Inui (Aki) joined me in Komsomolsk for the rest of my trip until Vladivostok. The day after, Aki & I went with Mikhail Radokhleb and Andrei, his brother, to Komsomolsk vicinity. We met, on the North East of Komsomolsk with Sergey and with Triton, his yacht, for a two days cruise on the lower Amur and on the Gorin River. There is a lot to write about Triton that Sergey built, in 4 years, by himself. He manufactured all the pieces even those we usually purchase in Western chandleries. Instead of stainless, he « just » used titanium. Based on these products, on some helps he got and on some equipments he used, we might say that Triton is the result of a handcraft work mixed with Komsomolsk’s high-tech nuclear-submarine and aircraft technology. Sergey, who is the President of Komsomolsk Na Amure Yacht Club, won many regatta medals thanks to his expertise and to Triton qualities. Sergey is also an addict of naval history and talks about the French explorer, Jean-François de Lapérouse visiting the Lower Amur, Kamchatka & Sakhalin Island, as he just came yesterday.
Triton, having a centerboard and not a keel, is a yacht perfectly designed to sail in the Amur environment. However, it does not prevent Serguey of cruising on Okhotsk Sea, to Shantar Islands or to Sakhalin Island on the Ocean.
With Triton, we could visit the Komsomolsk Nature Reserve and went to Bichi for which there is no road access. It is a place of gorgeous & unspoiled nature. There are numerous bird species & butterflies. There are dangerous snakes. Thanks to Mikhail, we had boots as Aki almost walked on a non-friendly snake. Bears live also in this area. Even the Siberian Tiger could visit the place. It is a hard environment for the two Nanaian families living there. We did not see any bear or any tiger, but we faced clouds of mosquitoes. They are very hungry. They are very aggressive and are not stopped by a shirt. They do not sleep at night. They like fresh meat getting outside the banya. All the repellent products you could use do not impress them.
Except for mosquitoes and I really mean it, the Amur River tour is something, I do recommend for anybody who likes nature and sailing. Nothing changed since Lapérouse, in 1786, answered to an hunting proposal: “On ne fait pas mille lieues de mer pour aller se morfondre dans l’attente d’une proie au milieu d’un marais rempli de maringouins…”
On 30/07/06 evening, Serguey and his wife, Natalia #5, invited Mikhail, Aki and I to come to their yacht club. Though most of the yachts, at this period, are sailing off Komsomolsk, it was an interesting visit. Then, we boarded, once again, on Triton to spend the evening on the Amur River. I really want, here, to thank a lot Sergey’s friend who took me for a water-skiing tour on the Amur River. It was an extraordinary and unexpected present in such an environment.
Back on Triton, we saw Anna, a yacht, enjoying the end of the Russian National Sailors Day. We fast merged the two decks and had a big party on the water, as the sun was going down. I am sure everybody introduced himself. Sorry, I just remember the name of Konstantin, the captain, and of the name of the two young ladies… Both of them are called Sveta (Svetlana).
From Komsomolsk to Khabarovsk on the Amur River
From Komsomolsk to Khabarovsk, it was a 354 km trip that we did with Meteor on 31/07/06 afternoon. The hydrofoil went up the Amur River at an average speed of 50 km/h (actually, it was probably 60 km/h on water (we were against current). All this travel was made under the rain. We did not see so much. However, it looks like very few people live in this area. Except for a few hills, the land is very flat, composed with marsh and humid meadows. On the remote banks of the wide Amur River, isolated trees break the horizon line. Arrived at 19:30 at Khabarovsk river station, the Meteor stopped its engines after a 933 km trip from Nikolayev Na Amure on the Amur-Pacific estuary.
On 31/07/06 evening, we arrived at Khabarovsk river station. Elena was waiting for us and we went to her home. Alexander, her husband, is Mikhail Radokhleb’s best friend. So, we have been more than welcomed guests in this very comfortable apartment. As we entered the home, Elena’s daughter, Irena, introduced herself. She is 22 and started recently her job as railway engineer, the same than her father’s one. She speaks a good English and some French. Aki was missing his own country food. Therefore, we were very happy when Irena agreed with our invitation to go to the Japanese restaurant at the Intourist hotel. We would not have been able to get there by ourselves. Irena was a perfect tutor. We had a great time with her in the restaurant and in the bar on the same floor. We arrived late at home, though Irena had to go early to her job on the following morning. Elena was waiting for us and introduced her young niece, Ania. Ania said she would guide us in the town for the next day. It was another great-unexpected surprise.
On 01/08/06, with the help of Ania we had a good tour of the city. We visited the Regional Museum of great interest. There, you can find a large display of local history, flora and fauna including not only one, but two, stuffed Siberian tigers… The Art Museum was even better, if possible, with exceptional art and craftwork from Nanai, Nivkh, Udeghe, Evenki and Negidal people. However, the Art Museum, in my opinion, deserves a worldwide reputation for extremely rare pieces such as carved walrus tusks by Chukchi and Eskimos. Having got the possibility to see these items is a memorable experience. I just wanted to know more about them and was very shocked by the actual robbery which is you pay 100 rubbles (USD 3.3) to be allowed to use your camera. Then, you learn that, for this price, you can just take one picture. I was so furious that I did not take any pictures, made confetti with the picture authorization paper and turned it back to the cash desk.
We had lunch in the Syangan Chinese restaurant. Ania & I would not recommend it for Westerners.
In the afternoon, Elena joined us to complete our tour. With her help and Ania’s one, Aki could buy very good quality souvenirs. These were all perfect choices that I would be happy to have at home… Before going back to the apartment, we went to Lenin Park. We did not stay too long there. After the Gorin river experience, the very few mosquitoes that « took care » of us were enough to make Aki and I running away…
Elena prepared us a large diner with tasty products from the family dacha. She and Ania went to the train station with us where we boarded in the Okean train at 19:00. It was another unexpected and friendly help from them. We will always remember Khabarovsk, the hometown of a charming and adorable family.
From Khabarovsk to Vladivostok by Transib
We left Khabarovsk on 01/08/06 at 19:00 & arrived in Vladivostok on 02/08/06 at 8:00. The Okean Train #006 is a sophisticated and comfortable one, much more luxurious than those on the BAM line. According to the look of the restaurant, according to the prices and the number of Russian clients you can see there, people travelling with Okean have more money than in the BAM area. The « Okean » train is probably even better than the « Baikal » train. Aki & I did not see other non-Russian tourists during this travel. To be sincere, we also did not see so much at all, as it was raining all the time and as most of the travel was made during the night. This 767 km trip was the end of my Trans Siberian journey. From Moscow, I covered 10 812 km: 10 458 km by train (6 621 with Transib, 3 837 with BAM) and 354 km by hydrofoil.
In the restaurant carriage, we met with Misha. He is an engineer on a commercial vessel and works for a Japanese company. We had interesting talks and drinks with him. Misha did his military service in the Soviet airborne troops. He said he would spend next evening in Vladivostok with us. It will be the airborne troops day. We enthusiastically agreed with his offer and said good night to him. He had to talk with the awesome restaurant attendant. Going to bed, Aki could not find his compartment by himself. With some difficulties, I helped him.
Back in Moscow
On 04/08/06, I landed at Moscow Domodedovo arriving from Krasnoyarsk. With a marshrutka (minibus), I went to the metro and arrived back at homestay. It was really convenient and fast. Thanks to Nathalie, it was the same homestay than the one I had at the beginning of my trip. Thus, it was very easy to find it again. At the end of the afternoon, I met with Olga, a friend of my cousin Loïc’s Russian teacher. We spent the evening at an open-air cafe in the beautiful gardens located at the bottom of Kremlin’s walls. Olga was kind enough to suggest spending the following day with me.
On 05/08/06, it was raining so much that we did not visit the Kremlin as I planned but did some shopping, mostly in the Arbat Street. Due to the heavy rain, the street was empty of tourists. It was much better than the first time I was there. We finished the day at Olga’s apartment sharing a quiet tea, listening to the Russian CD’s I purchased with her help. Some of these CD songs you can hear now on this website. You just have to turn your loudspeakers on and to use « slideshow » for each album.
On 06/08/06 morning, I took the metro and a marshrutka to Moscow Sheremetyevo airport. I was there in less than one hour. It was much easier than I was told. I had fun in my flight from Moscow to Paris thanks to my neighbors, Oleg and Nadezhda, his wife. They offered me to share their whisky bottle. They said it was a therapy against airplane claustrophobia. That for, I asked a glass to the flight attendant. She brought me one… and told it was prohibited on Air France flights to drink « external » alcohol beverages in the plane. They had some bad experiences on Moscow-Paris flights. She even made a public announcement in French, Russian & English saying that anybody drinking personal alcohol would be prosecuted. Of course, at Paris landing, the whisky bottle was empty.
© Auteur: Bernard Grua