After riding kupe and platzkart for the first two legs of our Trans-Siberian trip, we decided that we had earned and deserved an upgrade on the last and longest leg of the trip, Irkutsk to Moscow, a 76-hour marathon style train ride. The two first-class tickets cost a pretty penny, almost double the price of kupe, but they were worth every red ruble.
We left for the train station at the asscrack of dawn since I don’t like messing around with Russian transportation. Since Irkutsk is one of the major stops on the route the train stops there for at least 30 minutes and when we arrived at the platform our train was already waiting for us. There were two carriage attendants to greet us with the expected non-smiling Russian face and after we presented our tickets and passports they made us wait a few minutes on the platform with our heavy backpacks while they prepared our cabin. Once we entered our cabin we could immediately see the luxurious difference between first-class (spalny vagon), and our previous platzkart ride. The spalny vagon cabins look like the kupe cabins but they only have two lower berths instead of two on the bottom and two on top. The sheets were pure white and clearly of a higher thread count, which was more suited to our first-class tastes. We even had two fluffy pillows each! I also noticed that we were provided with wooden hangers because everyone knows that first-class people need to hang their shit up. No more wire hangers!
Day 1: Into the Wild
With my heart in my throat, N and I boarded the Rossiya train for the first leg of our journey to Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic smack in the middle of Siberia. The kupé (second class) cabin was surprisingly modern and unlike anything we had seen in photos in guidebooks and on blogs. The toilets I had been nervously anticipating ended up being like an airplane toilet; not the best situation, but at least they weren’t the old lever-style toilets which flushed the contents of the bowl directly onto the tracks below.
The first few hours passed quietly, with only the two of us in the cabin for four. My fever was back and I crawled up to my top bunk hopped up on aspirin and passed out. I had expected to be constantly jostled around in a loud, screeching train so I was surprised by how quiet it actually was. In the afternoon, we were greeted by “Ni hao!”s as a new cabinmate and her husband boarded the train at one of the small towns that we stopped at. After kisses goodbye, our cabinmate’s husband left and we were off again.