The first morning! The first wake-up! The first time being limited in our daily morning routines (being followed by many many more)! I wake up when the others are already eating, try to ignore the urge to take a shower and look for alternatives instead. In the book I am reading, by Rosa Liksom, Compartment No. 6, she describes her first morning on the Transiberian as adventurous, with a 1.5-hour-queue for the toilet. But this was in the 70s, and in the 2nd class – here, either the people use the bathroom less, or they already did it when I was still sleeping. There is no queue. Instead, it smells like urin, and I try to clean myself with water, disposable rugs and wet wipes. It feels a little bit fresher afterwards, and after re-building my bed back into seats with a table, I can even have something like a morning coffee. Only an hour later Simón and I decide to have breakfast, which makes the others, who already ate, hungry again. We really need to work out a rhythm for the next days, or we will end up eating and eating and eating…
Santi, Tanja and Zaira start playing Rummy-Q and ask Irina to join them. Simón and I just enjoy the free time and read. He has been sleeping 12 hours straight, and after this bumpy start into his holidays, with work till the last second, he really deserves it. That’s why we don’t mind him repeating constantly that he is on holidays now – it is as if he cannot really believe it yet. But it is a fact, even if we wanted to stress out about something, there is no way anyone could reach us and want something from us. Eat, sleep, read, repeat – that’s our life from now on till the end of the week.
A discussion about the necessity of money arises. Do we want a luxurious life? Is it necessary to earn a certain amount of money to be happy? Does it depend on the field you work in? Even though we did not really know each other before the trip, at least not everybody, it seems as if our mindsets are more or less synched. Well, honestly, if anyone was aiming for luxury, they would definitely be on the wrong track here, literally. Our biggest luxury is noodles, dry shampoo and wet wipes.
In the evening, it is 8 pm Moscow time but 10 pm “real” time, Irina has to leave us. She is picked up by a friend, whom we also briefly meet and probably just scare a tiny bit. We take a couple of last group pictures and exchange facebook contacts.
Not much after, our new roommates, Stefan and Juliane, arrive. Discussing in German where their beds could be, they approach our compartment. Juliane is my new upper bed neighbour. And her boyfriend sleeps in the next compartment. I free my seat for him so that they can have dinner together. They come from Leipzig, started the train in Moscow like us, and end it in Beijing as well. Their ride takes slightly longer though, they have a couple of stops more on the way and stay longer in Irkutsk and Ulan Baatar. So far, they have been travelling 2nd class, but they admit that this third class is really not bad. The passengers are what makes the difference, in the second class, there are mainly families, while all the younger Russians and backpackers are here with us (well, this couple is the first backpacker team we meet besides us, so far). They envy us our base camp stocked with food and water, and take some pictures of the Lonely Planet travel advices for the upcoming cities – they will get off in Omsk the next day and have the slight feeling their own travel guide fooled them a bit.
We exchange facebook contacts to keep them updated about our Mongolia tour experiences in Ulan Baatar. After having breakfast together in the next morning, they leave us again already, hopefully on a less wet and less cold adventure than they had in Yekaterinburg. Juliane has been in Beijing some years ago and gives us a couple of tips for what to visit.
While Stefan is amused about our thoroughly planned trip, with arrival and departure times indicated in different colors in an excel sheet, and Juliane admits they haven’t really planned much themselves in advance due to her tight time schedule with her Master’s thesis, we realize we have no hostel in the first night in Ulan Baatar. Not that thoroughly prepared, after all! The couchsurfer, who had promised to take us in (oddly enough, as we are 5 people), forgot about his National Holiday and his vacation with his family and cancelled on us. But we are not stressing out yet. We can look for something when we are connected to the outer world again. Right now, we are on a train. Eat, sleep, read, repeat.