To read about the previous legs of my journey, click here.
With time firmly against me, I decided that my stay in Kazan would be a short one. Very short in fact, as I arrived in the morning and would leave in the evening.
Thankfully, it seemed that aside from the Kremlin, there wasn’t a great deal of essential stuff to see in Kazan. That said, the Kremlin itself made the visit to Kazan worthwhile and I burned a few hours wandering around and taking it all in.
One thing that really has lived unto expectations throughout my time in Russia is the architecture; it really is beautiful. I think I expected this to be the case, but had my doubts as pictures don’t always tell the full story. I’m very pleased to say however, that Russia really doesn’t fail to impress on this count.
Kazan was the first place where I really felt like I was beginning to fully appreciate Russia. My time in Ulan Ude, Irkutsk and Yekaterinberg hadn’t necessarily been bad, but I wasn’t loving it in all honesty. Kazan really kickstarted my time in Russia and it was all positive from then on.
After wandering around the Kremlin to the point where I almost knew it like the back of my hand, I decided to go and find a spot for some lunch. One approach that I’ve taken from time to time in countries where I’m not too familiar with the cuisine (or – quite simply – can’t read the menu), is to pick a random dish and hope for the best. Sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s awful.
I tried a similar approach here. The menu had obviously been put through Google Translate so, despite having a selection of English words, it really didn’t make much sense. However, it certainly wasn’t the worst case of Google Translate on a menu that I have seen on my travels. That award goes to these two corkers from a restaurant in Shanghai. You’ll be surprised to hear I wasn’t particularly tempted by either of them.
I opted for something that was apparently a dish containing beef and potatoes. My initial thoughts were that it would be a stew of sorts, and as it was a rather chilly day I was quite looking forward to some good, hearty comfort food. Bearing this in mind, imagine my disappointment when the waitress turned up with sausage and chips! As I said: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
I spent the rest of the day wandering around the town along the busy Bauman Street, willing away the hours to my train ride.
Destination: Moscow, Russia
Date: 24th February 2015
Class: 2nd class hard sleeper (I think…)
Time: 11 hours
This was it – the final leg of the traditional Trans-Mongolian journey from Beijing to Moscow. Of course my trip would actually take me further to St Petersburg at a later date, but as far as convention went, this was the home stretch.
To my surprise, upon getting on the train I was greeted by a bunch of smiling staff, all of whom couldn’t do enough for me and offered me countless free cups of tea and coffee whilst showing me to my bed. If you’ve been reading these posts regularly, you’ll understand why this is a hell of a surprise.
The pleasant surprises didn’t end there, mind. As soon as I reached my compartment, it instantly looked different.
Throughout this journey, I’ve got used to the traditional – if not a little old fashioned – decor on the trains. They look like they haven’t really had a makeover since the 1980s and one friend who saw a picture said that it could have been a snap of a caravan in Skegness. Unfortunately, he was probably right.
This train, however, was different. The decor was firmly in the 21st century, the compartment smelt nice, I had a little cupboard for my belongings and the staff smiled. I fully expected to wake up from this lovely dream at any moment.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better – it did! On the compartment table were four cardboard boxes, each of which contained snacks for the four passengers in the room including a yoghurt, breakfast bar, cookies and a small bottle of water; this really was the life! To top it all off, about an hour in to the journey they came round with a hot meal for us all too; a delicious lentil and beef dish was just what I needed before settling down for the night. I have no idea how I ended up with this ticket – and if indeed it was a 2nd class hard sleeper like the website said – but I certainly wasn’t complaining!
As usual, it wasn’t all perfect. Whilst walking in a fairly snowy Kazan I had managed to get my feet rather wet and, as a result, once I took my shoes off there was a rather strong stench of damp and sweat in the compartment. As I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of walking recently, a bit of foot odour is to be expected I feel (so pipe down before you all start abusing me), but mixed with damp shoes…this was really something else. No one said anything, but I couldn’t help feel a little paranoid – especially as everyone was settling down to eat! Good job I don’t mind my own odour.
The train rolled in to Moscow at 7.10am and to my delight the stench of my shoes had died down. Either that, or I’d just become accustomed to it. I couldn’t help but feel a little sense of achievement as I strolled out on to the Moscow streets. Sure, I’d basically just sat on trains for a couple of weeks, but I’d covered a hell of a lot of ground in that time and it had all gone fairly smoothly.
Time to put another big fat tick on the bucket list!