Heading west out of Irkustsk, the Trans-Siberian train rolled slowly past what appeared to be the remains of an army base. Beside the tracks were crowded yards of decommissioned old army trucks, tanks, rocket launcher trucks and other military machinery. It looked like a Cold War era big boy’s toy army set, rusting away.
This leg we would share our private 4 berth cabin with a Russian middle aged lady. She was already set up neatly for the long ride ahead, with clothes hanging on the hook and hangers, food bag on the central table, newspaper in hand. We had read that most Russian older locals would not say a word for the whole trip to foreigners, making for a somewhat awkward journey. We thought this would be the case here.
When the train attendant came to us later for tickets (speaking Russian only of course), our silent companion suddenly broke out into heavily accented English translating how the toilets worked and where we could get tea and coffee.
Andrew tried some basic Russian, offered some chocolate cookies, and the awkwardness was gone. Although she didn’t speak much, she chimed in with a bit of English and shared some of her chocolates with us. We had read that in general Russians were not initially friendly to foreigners, but so far in our travels, that myth had been busted. As long as we made some effort to communicate in Russian, they seemed friendly and helpful in return.
Krasnoyarsk is an appealing Siberian city and useful rest stop on the Trans-Siberian. The city itself sprawls along both sides of the wide Yenisey River. Being the fifth longest river in the world at 4102km, it is the lifeblood of the city and the epic Yenisey Bridge features on the 10 Ruble note.
Beside the bridge is the interesting Regional Studies Museum. Housed in an odd Egyptian style building, the exhibits provide detailed descriptions (in English) of the many clans that have (and still do) live in the expansive Siberian territories. There were also life-size mockups of their traditional clothes, houses and way of life. But the highlight, hands-down, was a full skeleton of a great Woolly Mammoth, flanked by a very hairy Woolly Rhinoceros!
Since it was summer holidays and 32°C degrees, people were out and about, rollerblading, walking hand-in-hand, fishing or shirtless getting a tan. The riverfront was a mad line of construction sites, which looked like some trendy cafes and bars opening soon! Until then, one of the many temporary set-up bars would do for a beer and pork shashlihk!
After crossing the large pedestrian bridge at the east end of prospekt Mira (Street) for a good vantage point of the wide fork in the river, we turned back, popping into the well-known Intercession Cathedral. Built in 1795, it was fancy on the outside and inside.
Overlooking the city is the famous Chasovnya Chapel; a popular viewpoint (and lover’s spot it appeared), situated a very steep climb up a bare hillside.
Back at our hostel, we met a couple of fellow travellers that hailed from our side of the world. Sophie (Australian) and Steve (New Zealand) were doing the Trans-Siberian in the same direction with roughly the same stops at the same time! In fact, their whole “Epic Adventure” resembled ours quite uncannily.
This would not be the last time we would cross paths…
Visited 23rd to 24th August 2014.