Trans-Mongolian journal: Moscow – Perm train ride and a crazy taxi driver in Perm

Time to stock up on snacks at Balyezino station.

September 1st – 2nd, 2017

Our 23 hour train ride between Moscow and Perm was almost half finished when we woke up. Since the train departed the night before, we spent almost half of the ride asleep. We probably did not miss too much while we were sleeping anyway, as the views between Moscow and Perm didn’t seem to be too spectacular. Time flew by quickly even when we were awake.

At 15:00, the train stopped at Balyezino station for about half an hour in order to change locomotives. The station was filled with traders selling snacks, soda, water, home made food and hand crafted items. We looked at the time table on the wall, and saw that the train would depart at 15:25, meaning that we would have 25 minutes to shop. Even though we knew when it would depart, we were still constantly worried that the train would suddenly leave, so we bought a few items quickly and boarded the train as fast as we could, just to be sure. They do not use a whistle and they might depart earlier than planned, so you better keep an eye on the attendants. It turned out to depart three minutes after schedule.

I later walked into the restaurant wagon alone in order to buy us a beer. The wagon was empty, except for the attendants and a police officer. What seemed to be the main restaurant attendant recognized me. I said “pivo, pazjalosta” (beer, please) and she said “dva?” (two?). I said “da” (yes), and she brought the same brand of beer as yesterday. While paying, another attendant asked me something in Russian that I did not understand. The main attendant told her something, and she walked away. I am still not sure what she asked me, but I suspect she wondered if I had a first class ticket. I wasn’t quite dressed for that, I guess, wearing an old t-shirt and a pair of bad looking sweatpants.

Ice cold Erdinger weissbier on the train between Moscow and Perm.
Ice cold Erdinger weissbier on the train between Moscow and Perm.
A typical Trans-Siberian meal.
A typical Trans-Siberian meal.

We later ate dinner in the restaurant wagon. We were alone again, except for three attendants who were watching “Life of Pi” on a laptop, in addition to one attendant sleeping. The movie was comically loud, and of course dubbed in Russian as every movie is in this country. They didn’t mind us, so we at least got to listen to half an hour of the movie. Lucky us! I ordered a main course of chicken wings and a salad for about 450 Rubles, and my fiancé ordered the most expensive item she could find, a slice of beef and a salad for 1000 Rubles. It took about half an hour before we got the food, and I suspect it was so slow because they simply forgot about us while watching the movie. The food was surprisingly good to be a train meal. My fiancé didn’t dare to eat the salad because she feared they had washed it in unclean water. I ate all of mine and hers without any adverse effects.

This big beast of a samovar provides hot water at any time.
This big beast of a samovar provides hot water at any time.

During the train ride, we greatly appreciated the samovar which provided hot water at all times. Trans-Siberian trains all have this big boiler in each of the carriages, and you can use it at any time. We used it to make coffee which we had brought with us, and also to prepare noodles. This particular compartment didn’t have any coffee cups or other containers to make coffee, but we brought with us a thermos each, both with cups. I learned the hard way that the samovar may dispense a few millilitres of boiling hot water right after closing the tap, so keep your fingers away.

We arrived at Perm 2 station at about 19:30 and walked outside. There were two taxis standing in front of the building, and we showed one of the drivers the address of our hotel. He nodded and loaded our backpacks in the trunk of the car, we found our seats and he removed the taxi sign from his roof of his car. He immediately accelerated like a drunken fugitive on drugs while I tried my best to keep my cool and not pull the keys from the ignition to stop this maniac driver. While I thought about the number of traffic deaths in Russia every year (about 30 000) and my fiancé casually said “well, we’re gonna die”, the clearly insane taxi driver changed lanes rapidly with extremely narrow space between us and the cars he passed. The speedometer read 110 km/h. Within the city center, through intersections.

The hotel was literally suddenly in front of us. One part of me regretted not negotiating the price before setting foot inside the car, but I would in fact probably have paid 10 000 R and my first born had he asked me to. Maybe that was his plan all the time, or maybe he just wanted to impress us with how fast he could move people through the city, as morbid as when a cat proudly brings its prey into the house. I was just glad we survived. We paid 500 Rubles for the ten minute ride, probably triple the amount we should have paid.

We checked in to the hotel, and the room was a typical European standard room. Again we faced problems with using our phones for receiving an identification SMS for using the WiFi network, so we had to ask the receptionist to help us. He used either his own or the hotel’s mobile phone to receive the SMS code for us, making us able to connect. I guess that’s a useful tip for anyone travelling to Russia and having problems with the hotel WiFi; ask if the receptionist can use their phone to receive the code for you. After watching “Dom 2” (apparently a famous reality show) on TV, we went to bed.

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