Things I did not know about a journey on the Transsib
Even though I had excellent preparation (for example thanks to: Transsib-Handbuch by Hans Engberding, transsip-tipps.de,and blogs like this which I can highly recommend and not thanks to the ReiseKnowHow Transsib – travel guide which I would not recommend to anyone) there were still a few new things I learned.
The ventilation for the air-conditioning is on the roof of the compartment. If you happen to sleep in the top bed – as I did – you are subject to some very icy and strong drafts coming you way: bring a scarf! (I read that some trains don’t have a/c in the 3rd class. Ours did, but we took the more modern and expensive 002 M).
Also, said a/c is not on during the time the train stands at a station. Depending on the outside temperature (which in our case was up to 40°C) and the duration of the stop the carriage can turn into a fantastic pressure cooker. Not only for this reason I recommend getting of at the stops. Your legs will love the exercise.
Even though the thermostat in the compartment said it was 23°C I never sat without my long trousers and preferred a long-armed shirt over a simple t-shirt. I would estimate the temperature at around 20°C max – except during stops (see above).
The greatest food is that which you can get from Russian women during a stop at the station. But those women aren’t found on every stop. Here are the ones were we could buy fresh raspberries, cucumbers and dumplings the size of male human fists (for around 1 Euro), boiled eggs, meatballs and (nearly frozen) ice-cream: Balezino, Tyumen, Barabinsk, Kansk-Eniseyskiy, Hanskaya.
By the way, the light regime remains a complete mystery to me. It doesn’t seem to be connected to outside at all, but also only vaguely on Moscow time. One night the light was on until 10 pm, the next it was turned off at 7 pm. (But I now understand the brilliance behind keeping all train schedules on Moscow time: traveling through several time zones does make keeping track of the current local time quite confusing. Being on the train staying with one time zone is great. Getting on it along the way … we’ll see how we manage on Wednesday).
And some advice: do bring some spare toilet paper. It did get renewed but not always right after the last roll was empty.
And finally, if you’re not tall or don’t mind sleeping cramped if you are, having two beds on the aisle isn’t so bad. Because first of all, not all of us are comfortable with the idea that people might touch their feet while they sleep and the feet are sticking out of the bed into the walkway. And secondly, the two aisle beds have one table together (two seats oposite each other and the table in the middle make up the lower bed) whereas the four people in the „compartment“ part share one small table not even reaching all the way to half the length of the beds. So you end up eating on your bed and cutting something up is troublesome.