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Brian’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 15 Mar 2007

Location: Irkutsk to Moscow, Russia

MapThe train ticket to Moscow included meals according to the ticket lady at the train station. I had to pay extra for it but, I figured eating would be good for a three and a half day train ride, and because generally I enjoy eating. But, the "meals" were only one a day and worse yet it was the exact same thing every day - a Stroganoff-like meat and gravy with rice. It wasn't very good. So I pretty much emptied my jar of peanut butter on this trip. If you ever want to have some alone time or ponder life's meaning then take an 87 hour train ride. Luckily, I had some books with me. They weren't exactly intellectual books and were more like mental masturbation than education, but reading about 300 pages a day really helps pass the time. I went through 'Kiss the Girls', 'The Catcher in the Rye', and 'The Brethren'. The Catcher in the Rye was the best one.

Beau and our current South Korean travel companion got off the train at Yekaterinburg and I stayed on the train with the whole compartment to myself for the next day and a half. At 3am on the day of arrival the train attendant woke me up. We were arriving in an hour and I had to give up the sheets for my bed. You'd think that after 86 hours of rest that you could be woken up at any point in time and spring into action. But, I was still tired and actually had to be shaken awake a second time by my less than gentle train attendant. Off the train at exactly 4am and out into the rain. Moscow was unseasonably warm. The subway was closed at 4am and I have a general rule to take a taxi when arriving in a new city in the middle of the night. For Russia, however, taking a taxi isn't as simple as hopping in the nearest yellow checkered car. Anyone can be a taxi and anyone is a taxi. The end of the train platform was full of private citizen drivers trying to make a few extra rubles. I showed the nearest one where I wanted to go and he asked me how much I wanted to pay. A 4am taxi negotiation. It started out at about 1,000 rubles and I got him down to 400, which was probably still twice as much as I should have paid. It was worth it though because he got me right to the hostel, but it was full - no room at the inn. The only hostel I had booked in advance was in Hong Kong, the first one. In hindsight I probably should have booked something in ahead of time, but that usually means putting your credit card info on some sketchy internet connection with sneaky hackers watching every keystroke. This was the first time any hostel was ever full. So again, I was kicked out into the rain. I walked a few blocks to an all night coffee shop and drank espresso until the sun came up. I had the address and subway stop to one other hostel. I took the subway but the Lonely Planet didn't have Russian and English (just English) so I had to translate about 10 stops on the map against the wall of the subway until I found Tsvetnoy Bulvar. In Cyrillic it looks like nothing like 'Tsvetnoy Bulvar' so it was a bit of a challenge but I didn't get lost. However, the hostel was set on the second floor of a building and was still under construction. In fact, there was no sign indicating 'Godzillas' hostel anywhere. At least the hostel in Irkutsk had a red spray paint on the concrete wall next to the door that said 'hostel.' What more do you want from starless accommodation? All I had to look at in Moscow as a locked door and keypad.Even a spray painted sign would have been reassuring. Luckily for me a kind gentleman on a second floor balcony across the street was more helpful than the passers by in the subway and noticed my stupefied behavior. He told me to press 100 on the keypad and within a couple of minutes the door opened and best of all they had a room for me.

Off to see Moscow.