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Travel Story by Tom Mulloy

  Tales from Siberia
Irkutsk, Russia

Tom's cabin on the Trans Siberian Express

Greetings from Irkutsk, a very cold town in Siberia, where the temperature is -12įC.

The last few days have been rather eventful. The 50-hour train journey here was a bit of a nightmare, only because of the boredom we had to endure. However, some of the incidents we came across were rather funny, one of which I will describe which involved our cabin mates (two Russian soldiers).

Before boarding the train we were moaning about the Russians, especially the military, and the numerous statues of Lenin across Russia. On entering our cabin there was already someone there, a soldier! We broke the ice by introducing ourselves and making conversation. It worked a treat until he looked depressed by the prospect of us travelling around the world. He hasnít even set foot in St. Petersburg yet! He became more lively as the journey went on. We got along really well and looked out for each other when one of us stayed in the cabin while the other two went outside to buy food or to have a breather outside in the cold air. It was perfect for us as it meant we had more space in the cabin with the spare bed being unoccupied but sadly that didnít last for long.

At one stop, a group of hardcore military soldiers boarded the train and we had to give up the spare bed to one of them. The tension was high but we soon softened him up with alcohol and managed to teach both boys a game of cards (after a lengthy lesson or two!). Soon it was our last few hours on the train Ė we gave him an Irish souvenir and we got a precious badge used for their military hats in exchange. It is funny to look back at how we made friends with several soldiers when you consider that we hated the military due to a bad experience of being interrogated by them back in St. Petersburg!

On arriving in Irkutsk we were amazed at how cold it was. Luckily, a rep met us at the station and escorted us to our hotel, which turned out to be really nice and comfy. We managed to arrange an excursion to Lake Baikal, which is the deepest freshwater lake in the world. The views were stunning and it was refreshing to go for walks in the snow-covered mountains. There is a myth that if you touch the freezing lake with hands, an extra year is added to your life but if you dip your feet then you gain another 5 years. So by touching the water we have added another year to our lives! But we are not sure if Grahamís accidental soaked foot counts as another 5 years!

At the moment we are very tired after our big night out last night in the local mafia based bar. Our next country is Mongolia so stay tuned.

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Click on photo to enlarge

Graham & his military buddies!

Date Submitted: 28 Sep 2006

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