At the 6th of march on 21:50 I went into the train to Irkutsk. From the misted windowpanes I could guess it already, the compartment was completely full. My way through the compartment and to my bed was accompanied by children laughing and bellowing male voices. Arriving at my bed, a few men had already made themselves cozy with beers in their hands. After my statement that this was my assigned bed, they distributed themselves to the other beds around after some time and let me take space.
I felt I had a little bit disturbed the cozy round, so I took my dictionary and wanted to introduce myself. However, that had only limited success, since I was indeed understood when I repeated after what the book told me, but I could not react to their replies.
Luckily someone who understood Russian, English and little German was in the compartment and recognized my attempts to communicate. He offered to act as a translator. Thus I learned that I had landed in the midst of a children’s icehockey-team that was on his way to a game. The men then were the fathers of the children. The smalltalk was continued for a while and it formed a smaller gathering. Above all, the children were very interested. They had probably never seen anyone who did not understand Russian. After a while, the coach urged the children to go to sleep. It was late, and so everyone else went to bed too.
The first night was not very relaxing because shortly after all went to bed it started a real snore orchestra. Snoring in different variations and everyone wanted probably to take part …. From deep and dry to wet blubber sounds everything was there. Fortunately, the hockey team left the next day around noon to Omsk. The next day I spent my time similar to how i did in the last train by looking out the windows and other pastimes.
At night my direct neighbor had changed. An old man (Very nice. He helped me to make my bed. Not that I would have had trouble it’s just that when he wants to help then I do not stop him) left the train and a young Russian (he later introduced himself as Igor) came. He did not speak English but was very friendly. Together with Igor and the man who helped me to translate, I spent the quietest period in the train. About him I learned that he lived for a time in Austria and is Russian scientist.
In Novosibirsk both got out and a lot of new people entered. It was full again in the compartment. These were the new arrivals: A young group of dancers, two elderly ladies who took the two upper beds in my area and a young couple. The coach of the group of dancers had the bed, in which previously Igor slept. This group came from a competition they had won, because the coach showed the trophies they received. Overall, I had only little contact to this people, so that this section was pretty boring. In Krasnoyarsk the couple got out and a young woman with her mother entered.
After a while of continuing the trip a lady came over from the on-board restaurant and offered her baked goods. Again, it was the language barrier that caused the young woman to take action and she explained the bakery to me in English.
Because of this event we developed a conversation. She is Lora and it turned out that she loves traveling, has visited many countries in Europe and Southeast Asia and was already three times in the Philippines. Really funny. She lives in Irkutsk and could therefore tell me much about the city and Lake Baikal. So we talked hours about her travels, my travels, the Philippines, Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. After the last short night we arrived in Irkutsk at 8:30. She was picked up by her friend and offered to me that she could also drive me to my hotel. This was a very kind offering of them. I then arrived in the hotel and bid them goodbye. Finally in the hotel the first thing I did was taking a shower.
A change of plan and the first day in Irkutsk
58 hours took the train to Irkutsk. 58 hours. People got in. People got out. On the way to Irkutsk several major Russian cities have been passed and each stage between these cities was like a whole separate chapter.
At the 11th of march there’s already the next train according to my schedule. At 71 hours to Vladivostok this is again a lot longer than the trip to Irkutsk. During the conversation with Lora I asked myself the question: Would it be worth it? And after all this experience my answer is: no.
I have come to the conclusion that for me, I can do without another train. Instead more days of sitting in a train, and to see the world go rushing by in a dirty window while not knowing how it will be with the other passengers, I would rather like to spend the remaining days here at Lake Baikal, enjoy the beautiful nature and then next travel by plane to South Korea or elsewhere.
The day in Irkutsk I spent the in various malls searching for suitable winter clothing and found a winter jacket and winter trousers. In the evening I went to eat something with Lora. She had work that day and texted me what shops I should visit and also gave me directions.