Day 6 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Kazan -> Yekaterinburg (14h 4m)

The quietness of the previous night apparently was too boring for our newly arrived Russian neighbours lodged in the upstairs capsule. They launched into nightly romantic escapades, which also continued in the early morning hours. Guess they didn’t consider or care about the thin walls and rocking floors of the capsule…

Today is our last day in Kazan so we decide to go all in on Soviet hygge and that essentially consists of visiting a military park across the street. Tanks, planes, Katyushas and kids everywhere crawling happily on top of the tanks. Interesting sense of entertainment.

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Well now that military arsenal is off the bucket list, the remaining hours in Kazan are spent back in our favourite rooftop hangout spot indulging on our favourite pilmeni soup.

It is called a bride's soup - the trick is to make the pilmeni dough as thin and gentle as possible. That way the bride can show her true love to her soon to be husband.

It is called a bride’s soup – the trick is to make the pilmeni dough as thin and gentle as possible. That way the bride can show her true love to her soon to be husband.

Do svedanye beautiful Kazan! Next stop – Yekaterinburg.

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There are around 1,000 km dividing Kazan from Yekaterinburg. It is another overnight train ride stretching across 14 hours and 4 minutes. This time we have booked a second class sleeping compartment.

Our home for the next 14 hours

Our home for the next 14 hours

The experience reminds of Russian roulette, you never know what kind of person awaits you behind the door of your compartment. With a certain anxiety we open the door – to my big relief it is empty! No other train companions, how lucky can we be.

After the initial excitement of having own compartment quiets down, you realise that there is a difference between first and second classes, from the slippers you get to the food that you are served. Sounds posh I know, but when you start first class, rest pales in comparison.

Train restaurant - looks quite fancy with a decent menu

Train restaurant – looks quite fancy with a decent menu

What we also learn is that for Trans-Siberian the lower the train number the better. Our first stretch, Moscow – Kazan, was on 004. This one is with 140. Single digit is the key here!

Grechka - Soviet staple food rich in vitamins or so I was told when growing up

Grechka – Soviet staple food rich in vitamins or so I was told when growing up

We enjoy our humble Soviet dinner – grechka with a meatball and prepare for a few hours of sleep before our midnight neighbours get on board.

Another beautiful day passing by through a train window

Another beautiful day passing by through a train window

Good night from the endless train tracks somewhere in Russia!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 5 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Still in Kazan

It was a relatively silent night in the space. Our capsule neighbours were surprisingly quiet all through the night or I was too exhausted from the train ride to notice any slight noises and slept like a baby all the way through.

Greetings from the galaxy

Greetings from the galaxy

Today is shaping up to be a slow one. Someone had to catch up on work, and for once that someone was not me! Unheard of I know. I just spent all morning sitting out on a café porch in the middle of the pedestrian street enjoying a good book, delicious cappuccino and sunshine. Of course people watching was part of the past-time as well.

Coffee and cake and people watching and reading

Coffee and cake and people watching and reading

Well after 15:00 work is done and packed away, and beautiful Kazan is calling us. The hysterical weather of the morning transitioning between sun, rain, sun, decided to make up its mind in the afternoon. A beautiful canvas of bright blue sky shone through dotted up with big, beautiful clouds.

The famous Kazan cat

The famous Kazan cat

Bauma Street full of life

Bauma Street full of life

The main attraction of the day was Kazan Kremlin, a UNESCO heritage site atop the hill housing the presidential palace, a Russian Orthodox Church and mosque side by side. I won’t dwell on the historical importance of the site, there is plenty Google can tell you on that. What struck us most was the insanely beautiful colours of the buildings, the shades of blue on white, accentuated even more by the playful sun.

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Kazan Kremlin

Kazan Kremlin

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Kazan Kremlin

Kazan Kremlin

Presidential palace

Presidential palace

Intricate gate design

Intricate gate design

Mosque and the sun

Mosque and the sun

Panoramic view over Kazan

Panoramic view over Kazan

The rest of the day is spent lounging on a rooftop terrace with the most beautiful view over the city and indulging on the tasty dishes of the Tatar cuisine.

The clouds are totally mesmerising

The clouds are totally mesmerising

Looking at the world through a colourful lens

Looking at the world through a colourful lens

It's tea time, darling

It’s tea time, darling

Tea in Kazan comes with pine cone marmalade

Tea in Kazan comes with pine cone marmalade

Kazan so far has been such a pleasant experience, it is a very neat city with really friendly people, taking pride in their city and really glad to see foreigners visiting.

Cheers to another day on the Trans-Siberian!

Cheers to another day on the Trans-Siberian!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 4 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Kazan

It feels like the 11 hours and 10 minutes on the train passed by very quickly. There was not much landscape to see since it was an overnight train crossing through endless forests.

Train landscapes

Train landscapes

Suddenly the clock was 07:00, just an hour short of arriving in Kazan. Out come all the Armenian culinary delights for breakfast in bed experience.

Simple things often are the best. It is the case of our breakfast!

Simple things often are the best. It is the case of our breakfast! The hand cream is not part of cuisine, just happened to throw itself into the picture.

08:00 sharp and the train pulls into the Kazan train station. Thanks for the nice ride!

We and the happy train lady

We and the happy train lady (provodnitsa)

Kazan Railway Station

Kazan Railway Station

The first and only planned item on the list in Kazan is to check into this crazy space themed hostel that somebody, read not ME, insisted on booking. I have my reservations and concerns, but when planning the trip a few months ago, decided to concede and keep an open mind. Andreas is totally ecstatic about finally arriving into the space station. Not kidding – this must be one of the things he has been most looking forward to in the entire journey.

Well here we arrive and are left off by the cab in front of a very Soviet, very low and very unassuming looking structure in the middle of a parking lot. Hmmmm get me out of here please, 2 nights in this hole – no way. Someone else is already excitedly walking into the building. On we go. The kind receptionist lets us do an early check-in against an extra charge of course (500 rub). Good news at least, some hot shower wouldn’t hurt.

Crossing a common dining/gaming/working area we enter into the space station. And space station it is. I feel like I have stepped into a Star Wars set. You literally get a capsule to live in complete psychedelic light shows, doors opening as if you were on board one of the Imperial Star Destroyers (you gotta be a Star Wars fan to picture that).

Our space station ready for take off

Our space station ready for take off

Hmmm this could be fun I am thinking. On second thought hope it will not be noisy at night being the light sleeper that I am. Two nights in this space… Let’s see. Somebody else is already jumping up and down from joy and deep into taking pictures and shooting artistic films of the whole light-door-space station feel.

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After some freshening up in the capsule we head off to explore Kazan. Now that the sleep shelter is secured, comes the other physiological need on Maslow’s Hierarchy – getting some food into our quiet hungry tummies. The choice falls for a rather cool pub serving Texas style BBQ. Google food rating never disappoints no matter the country you are in.

The answer is horse meat! Tasted quite OK actually

The answer is horse meat! Tasted quite OK actually

Food check! Full and smiling. On the wall of the pub we find this quote by Hemingway that sends us off to the day with a bigger smile.

"I drink to make other people more interesting." E. Hemingway

“I drink to make other people more interesting.” E. Hemingway

Just around the corner is Bauman pedestrian street – where shops, restaurants, bars and cathedrals coexist in harmony.

This stunning cathedral is literally perched in between  more imposing neighbours.

This stunning cathedral is literally perched in between more imposing neighbours.

What should we do next? It is a take it easy kind of a day. I have read about a Soviet lifestyle museum. Now that could be a cool nostalgic thing to do. A little trip down the memory lane. We hit the streets of Kazan and step into the Soviet times.

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So many artefacts, many familiar, many not. Brings a smile thinking back on that era – growing up in late 1980’s I managed to get Soviet birth certificate and a tiny bit Soviet exposure.

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Spending an hour at the museum amongst Soviet memorabilia, we are ready to head out into the sun again and try out some of the local Tatar cuisine. Chak-chak is on the menu – dessert consisting of fried dough drenched in honey. That we try at the Chak-Chak museum – yep there is a museum for chak-chak.

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Take it easy day finishes at a riverside restaurant in the new part of the city with beautiful sunset and panoramic over the old city. But before that we are stopped by a beautiful rainbow stretching across Kaban Lakes.

internal.9584541858373491c8b778f28c595131.DO01033852Somehow we go really crazy on the menu and end up ordering so many dishes that they keep brining something new every 10 minutes. We make our way through the feast, as our neighbours at the table across do vodka shots. Everything tastes so delicious and is really nicely presented. First impression of this city is very pleasant.

Fried pilmeni (dumplings) and borodinsky bread

Fried khinkali (dumplings) and black bread crutons with garlic sour cream,

Time to call it a day and head back to our Millenium Falcon. Good night from Kazan, fingers crossed for quiet neighbours.

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Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 3 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow -> Kazan (11h 10min)

A quiet morning on Nikolskaya Street

A quiet morning on Nikolskaya Street

Last day in Moscow started bright and early for some of us, aka Andreas. He tried to sneak out of the room at the crack of dawn to document the beauty of Moscow without its crowds.  Now in his mind the whole operation was done very discreetly, in reality I got wide awake in a state of sleepy surprise.

Zaryadye Park resembling New York's High Line offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city

Zaryadye Park resembling New York’s High Line offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city

IMG_9531It seems that during our three days in Moscow, the roads kept leading us to Red Square. It was also hard to avoid it living kind of right next to it. It is hard to resist its glorious sight.

Red Square in all its glory

Red Square in all its glory

The square was full of joyful people and amongst hundreds of them we found these Chinese couples who were pushing the photography limits to whole new levels. It was mostly the ladies in front of the lens with and without head scarves, standing and sitting, smiling and serious. The husbands were mostly staying humbly behind and diligently carrying out the supporting roles.

The Chinese couples in the middle of a serious photoshoot

The Chinese couples in the middle of a serious photoshoot

From socialist side of Red Square you cross a few meters and voila you magically appear in the epitome of capitalistic world – GUM department store with all its shiny designer stores, glitz and glamour designed to make you spend your hard-earned €€€. We were there for one very special attraction.

The famous attraction of Gum is not all the fancy stores it is the yummy ice-cream!

The famous attraction of GUM is not all the fancy stores it is the yummy ice-cream!

The GUM ice-cream! Another childhood memory of Soviet and post-Soviet times. When asking Andreas to comment on his first Soviet ice-cream experience, his response was: “Det var surprisingly lækker.” (It was surprisingly yummy). I don’t know what else he expected.

Chocolate and cherry flavours

Chocolate and cherry flavours

From socialist-capitalist explorations, we moved out of the heart of Moscow and into Arbat, a central residential district, filled with hyggelig sidewalk winebars, coffee shops and restaurants.

Backyards of Arbat neighbourhood - loving the shade of blue

Backyards of Arbat neighbourhood – loving this shade of blue

 

Patriashki prudi

Patriarshi Rubniki

The last stop of the day before bidding farewell to Moscow is a special corner of my homeland in the center of Moscow – the Armenia store. We needed to stock up on some lavash, panir (bread and cheese) and other goodies for our long train travels.

My favourite store in all of Moscow - little Armenian corner stocking up on the Armenian food essentials

My favourite store in all of Moscow – little Armenian corner. Essential for stocking up on the Armenian food.

It is about 19:00 and time to head off to Kazan train station for catching our first ever Trans-Siberian ride from Moscow to Kazan!

Kazan Train Station in Moscow

Kazan Train Station in Moscow

Departure board - waiting for Kazan train to orient itself on the board

Departure board – waiting for Kazan train to orient itself on the board

Since it was the first train travel experience in Russia we decided to follow the official guidelines of arriving at least 45 minutes before departure time to be “ready for check-in”. Turned out that we were really in good time. The train was not there and the departure board did not get updated until about 30 minutes before departure and the doors of the train did not open until the clock hit 20:55.
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Our home for the next 11 hours - Moscow -> Kazan train, coupe 7

Our home for the next 11 hours – Moscow -> Kazan train, car 7

For the first leg of our journey we decided to go all in and splurge on a first class ticket. Very nice experience.

First class coupe Russia style with a fruit platter waiting for us - Danish DSB could learn a bit

First class coupe Russia style with a fruit platter waiting for us – Danish DSB could learn a bit

It was a really cosy and comfortable experience. With very delicious 3 course meal served on board, Wi-Fi, TV, music, A/C, nice clean sheets and towels. Everything you may need. There is even an app where you can make in-train orders, follow the journey, read books and watch movies. Such a fun experience! This was also the shortest leg in our planned journey. Hope the next 3 rides will be just as fun. Time will show.

Borsch for dinner - yum!

Borsch for dinner – yum!

After some borsch, beef stroganoff and hearty Russian black tea, it is time to bid good night, hit the bed and close eyes to the rumble of train tracks.

Cpakoynoy nochi!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan