I’m currently writing to you from a town called Krasnoyarsk, about 4065 km’s from Moscow. Getting here wasn’t a small deal – it meant the longest train trip yet – another 2400kms, passing through 2 more time zones and officially crossing the Ural Mountains – effectively the marker that separates the European side of Russia with the Siberian side of Russia.
The last time I wrote, I was in a town called Yekaterinburg. For some reason I spent 4 nights there but this was a mistake – way too long for such a town. If you’re reading this to get tips on how to plan your Trans Siberian journey – one night is enough. I spent the 3 other nights in the pub planning the Chinese leg of my trip.
The train from Yekaterinburg to Krasnoyarsk started in a similar fashion to its predecessor, but I had the cabin to myself for the first 5 hours. This was great – it meant I could try and take the perfect selfie without attracting weird looks from fellow passengers! One or 2 more Russian passengers joined over the next day or so on the train but the real highlight happened last night.
The Russian passengers got off at their stop and 2 British backpackers replaced them, along with an Australian traveler I’ve met a few times on the Trans Siberian route. As luck would have it, we all shared the same compartment.
Being foreigners, you attract the attention of the local travellers. This lead to a visit by a rather inebriated Russian named Serg. There are a few things about Russian etiquette you need to know at this juncture:
- If a bottle of vodka is opened, it needs to be finished
- If you’re a man, you don’t delicately sip vodka – you have to down it
- If offered food, you have to accept it, otherwise it’s considered extremely rude.
Serg, who doesn’t speak a word of English, brought a bottle of vodka into our compartment and cracked it open. I can feel the hang over already!
This led to a really cool night though, drinking vodka to numerous well thought-out toasts, ranging from religion to friends (although, according to Serg, and if I navigated the language barrier correctly – Russians only call you a friend if you’re pretty much ready to die for that person. Otherwise, you’re just someone they’ve met).
Serg decided I was a friend willing to die for him (I’m sure as shit not ready to die for him) and the way you show this is to sniff the person’s head. Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t know if this is a Russian thing or a drunk Serg thing, but the next thing I knew, I had the stereotypical bald Russian, wearing a vest and shiny watch sniffing my scalp and then wanting me to return the gesture. Not to be rude, I gingerly did but my half arsed attempt wasn’t good enough – apparently you need to make the sound of breathing heavily through a straw to be believed. Joy.
Vodka bottle finished and bed time – early start to the day in our new town – Krasnoyarsk.
The town is unremarkable but what makes it special is its national park – Stolby.
In a nutshell, Stolby has some interesting rock formations situated within hundreds of thousands of hectares of wilderness, read dense conifer forests. It’s gobsmackingly beautiful! I’d recommend Krasnoyarsk as a shower stop for your journey just so you can go to Stolby. It’s an excellent place to go for a hike and get some fresh air after being holed up in a train for 34 hours!
I depart for Irkutsk tomorrow, fortunately only an 18 hour train trip.
Cheers for now.