Giorgio Vanni's journey by public transport to Australia continues. The Siberian stage was far from relaxing
After Km 2102 of the Trans-Siberian Railway, I entered Siberia geographically. In the two days of stopping in Novosibirsk, in addition to visiting the city, I also met a group of English students who invited me to a meeting on the topic of travel. The visit of the city was easy as the main places are located near the Lenina square, the main meeting point and a place well served by the metro. Instead, the group of students lived in Akademgorodok, about thirty kilometers from the center.
This location was created in the late 1950s as an experiment of scientific excellence and at the time was home to more than sixty thousand inhabitants including scientists, families and technical staff. At the time it was a location closed to foreigners and living there was a privilege as the inhabitants could dispose of properties that could not be found elsewhere. With the fall of the wall, research has been recycled in the field of information technology so much that today, a little presumptuously, it is called the Silicon Valley of the taiga.
I was surprised by the traffic jams encountered to reach it; while considering that Novosibirsk is the third largest Russian city, I never imagined it would take almost two hours to travel thirty kilometers from Akademgorodok. Not to believe it, considering that you are surrounded by the steppe where the spaces are immense.
Sunday morning I left Novosibirsk to reach Irkutst and Baikal after a thirty-four hour journey. For lack of availability this time I knew that I would travel in third class. In Russian trains the third class corresponds to a wagon with fifty-four beds organized in nine groups; practically a long corridor without partitions, with six-seater sectors: four on one side and two on the other.
At the bottom of the carriage there is a toilet and in the wagon there is constant lighting, dimmed only after twenty-two. Not bad, even this would have been an experience, but having a light sleep I wondered if and how much I would be able to sleep. So when I got to the platform where the train to Vladivostock was waiting, I asked if it was possible to upgrade to second class. Having received only negative feedback, I gave up making a bad face.
The hours of the afternoon passed by rummaging, browsing the other passengers, until I finally settled down for the night. But the best part was yet to come! It must have been three in the morning and at Krasnoyarsk station I woke up to an absurd mess. Looking up, I saw an uninterrupted row of figures hunched over luggage screaming calling themselves in a language impossible to frame. A real assault on the wagon led by an invading army.
Moving the bags of others to arrange their own, calling themselves at the top of their lungs, pulling out food and offering it as a village party: everything was acceptable, the only rule was to give a damn about others. In short, at that point to sleep not even thinking about it!
The next morning, investigating with the other passengers, I later discovered that it was about thirty North Korean workers who had probably finished the employment contract and were returning to Korea via Vladivostock. From that moment the wagon became a bazaar: we ate everything and at all hours, we sat down where it seemed best, and saying goodbye screaming I don't know what from one end of the wagon to the other was de rigueur. We are so advanced in the steppe, while in the meantime I made friends with a Kyrgyz boy from Bishek, who was also directed to Irkutst to attend University.
He had crossed all Kazakhstan to get to Yekaterinburg and take the Trans-Siberian. As God wishes, I came down to Irkutst in the evening. After leaving my occasional companions, I headed towards the exit counting as planned that the hostel was close to the station and therefore I could easily reach it on foot. In reality, even if the journey was not very long, google maps made me go with a backpack and bag up a steep staircase and then through muddy paths where petulant alcoholics asked where I was going and offered themselves as guides for money.
Mandibles to that country, I reached the hotel which luckily was new and clean. Too bad that in the surrounding area there were no more restaurants open and then dinner with chips and peanuts as a worthy end to the day. But then I remembered the reserve of Parmesan, and then the mood went back up. Meanwhile the next day I would go to Baikal and I was already looking forward to the landscapes.
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