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Day Seven - Krasnoyarsk - Halfway and The General
After a cold night, I awoke to bright sunshine and peered out of the cabin window which revealed some different scenary for once! Almost Alpine! The Silver Birch was still in abundance though! Having sorted out ablutions, I join Cousin Pete for breakfast, the usual eggs, orange juice and coffee. I know we have this timezone shifting sorted now as he actually beat the Germans to the restuarant car!
Having sat for quite a while in the restaurant, we came back to the cabin and had a long chat with Frau Smidt - the elderly teacher and got around to comparing visas. They are going on to Beijing via Mongolia as you will recollect and so they needed three visas, one each for Russia, Mongolia and China. The Visa are highly coloured and embossed into your passport and take up a whole page! You don't need many trips here to require a new passport and £ 74 a go, it's not cheap anymore.
The Germans seem to have got a good deal being in aparty as for their £ 2000, they have hotel stops in Irkutsk, Ulaan Baator and Beijing, plus the flights back. And accompanied by a guide! However, I think we have done better with our first class travel everywhere!.
As we approach Krasnoyarsk, I notice that it must be really cold for the Russians too as the train heating has finally come on. What a country! 40° in Moscow and hovering around freezing half way across to the East!
There are quite a few parties on board now, as we seem to have been joined by the French as well. We are getting along pretty well with the Germans and it'll be sad to see them leave the train at Irkutsk.
Well Krasnoyarsk, was a good stop for a variety of reasons, not least because we have acquired a 3-star general - a real one - as a travelling companion, complete with wife and flowers. He was given quite a send off on the platform by small family party.
Krasnoyarsk is on the Yenisei River and has lots of industry. We got off onto the platform and the air was cold; cold like you get in high mountainous places - you could almost smell the snow. What wind there was bit into your face like a razor.
The General has caused quite a consernation with our attendant, Mariana, as she has had to make up the cabin with fresh linen for him. This has added to her hassles as the German lads have had a skinful of vodka last night and consequently have bad hangovers necessitating long periods in the toilet, much to Mariana's digust. She is quite expressive, even though we can barely converse in either Russian or English.
Lunch was also a chaotic affair as The General and his party hogged our usual table (jolly bad form old chap) for two hours so we had to share with a French couple in waiting for the 16 Germans to finish up until we could be accomodated. It transpired that "l'homme" was "un docteur" and "la femme" another retired teacher!. Our portly waitress was well run off her feet! We eventually sat down, having endured a great deal of smoke and steam from the kitchen, Cheffie also under pressure to produce something extra spicy with just more parsley, and explained "le system" to the French. The system being: The Russian school party first, then the Germans, us and finally, another large party of French. I hope, dear reader, you are keeping up with the componenets of our train colleagues?
Having so many nationalities on board is stretching my limited lingustic skills to the absolute maximum as I keep having to swap around between four languages, and not a Spaniard in sight! This would have been more useful to me as I could have brushed up on my classes I attend on a Wednesday evening. Good job there were no Serbians or Croatians either as I had real difficulty with anything remotely Slavic - just ask Salty. I am amazed at how much French I have been able to use though considering the last time I used it was with the BEF in Dunkerque in 2002!
Tayshet - our next stop as the station that was nearest our halfway point of our journey on the Trans-Siberia. The German boys took our photo here amongst the freight wagons for posterity. This means that we've about 4 days to go and a mere 4500 kilometers!