Siberia Starts

Nicholas Quirke was surprised to find he had slept for almost  6 hours, when he woke at 7.30am on the morning of 22 January 2020. Apart from the train stopping at Novgorod in the night, his sleep had been undisturbed. On waking, he eagerly looked out the window. The landscape had irrevocably changed, Snow! A proper white, winter vista. He wondered how long it would be before he got bored of the white landscape, the forests and glimpses of rare villages. He sent happy birthday thoughts to Harvey, checked in with his neighbours and went to the toilet! No toilet paper! He washed, No Towel! He had thought himself well prepared, on the Russian trains this had all been supplied. Lyusaka gave him a couple of sheets and he hoped at the next station they stopped at he would be able to buy some. He had the opportunity in the corridor to meet Slava and Kseniya, a Russian couple, which meant, surprisingly, there were only 5 of them in the carriage, that was excluding the two guards and conductor, And it wasn’t until they stopped at Kirov for 15 minutes that he discovered how few people actually were travelling on the train. He exchanged some money to spend in the Restaurant car and looked for toilet paper but was unable to find any. He did however meet two students, Mark and Rob from Birmingham who were travelling to Ulan Bator for 3 months to do a study on the air pollution there as part of their medical degree. They showed him a picture of the smog. He was once again grateful to Harvey and Grace for the face mask they had bought him for Christmas. Once back on the train Mark appeared with a toilet roll for him. The day was taken up with becoming familiar with his fascinating fellow travellers; photographing the passing scenery through the very dirty windows and further stops at Balezim and Pemi stations. His imagination was in lively mode as he imagined himself in Tolstoys world as they passed through small villages seemingly untouched by time. Nicholas was fascinated by the military routine of the Chinese guards at each stop, disembarking with rods to attack the snow and ice which had attached itself to the machinery of the undercarriage. It was also an opportunity to get some fresh air, experience the snow and the much colder temperatures which he felt, in his thermals were manageable. Once dusk had descended it was difficult to see what was passing by.  Lyusaku joined him in the Russian Restaurant car where he enjoyed a welcome Vegetable Borscht, the first proper food he had all day. Then he joined them in their compartment to enjoy a small beer and Qifang insisted they share a cucumber and Lyusaku, pretzels. It was a very uplifting discussion and he felt quite overawed by Qifang’s travels. Amongst her many backpacking journeys, she had walked The Camino Way, a 800 Km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. it had taken 5 weeks. Nicholas retired to his room to read and write before their 2 am stop at Yekaterinburg, memorable to him for being the spot where the Czar and his family were murdered and also proclaimed their arrival into Siberia. He had expected a small outpost and was surprised to discover that what awaited them was a huge thriving city and in the darkness he had missed the monument to the Royal family’s demise. . He bought a bottle of water, enjoyed the snow, the company and the burst of fresh cold air before re-boarding and, strangely thankful for his solo cabin, taking to his bed.


  1. Marvellous photos Nick! The traditional houses & grubby windows make the pictures look like old dog-eared, stained prints from another century. Well done on getting the arse-wipe & some sleep! Xx

  2. Wow! What a change in scenery! Watching your video gave me the feeling I was watching you travel back in time! Glad you had company on your journey, look forward to your next update. Thank god you’ve got your thermals, looks bloody freezing!! xxxx

  3. Absolutely loving your evocative narrative – and the video feels as if we’re almost there with you.

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