Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My trip by train from Tallinn to Almaty

Yeah! Finally I got a chance to sit a little bit longer in internet.
After about 5 days travel by train from Tallinn through Moscow to Almaty, after two weeks of integration and solving a lot of practical issues I can say that I more or less settled down.
The trip by train Tallinn-Moscow-Almaty
Every time I said to the locals that I came by train and spent 5 nights in the train, they were really surprised :) They didn't know anyone, who would have done the same. That was actually cool trip! Me and Viljo enjoyed it!
Farewell at Balti Jaam was nice. Some important for me people came to see me for teh last time during this year.
Train from Tallinn to Moscow was quite decent. A couple aged about 50 shared a compartment (kupee eesti keeles) with us. Me and Viljo celebrated our first evening in restaurant-wagon by drinking some Baltika beer.
Crossing the Estonian-Russian border got me a little bit sentimenthal. Probably, I won't see my homeland for one year. A lot of different thought in my head before I got sleep...

We arrived in Moscow and were happily picked up by Nastya from AIESEC Russia. We walked around in Moscow for about a day. We saw famout Red Square and Kremlin. I got impression from Moscow, which I had expected - it is too big, too crowded, too noisy. Too everything. Probably after living there for a while, I would start to like some things there. But so far, no intensions to go there for a longer period.
Jalutades Moskvas, m6istad p6him6ttelist erinevust Eesti ja Venemaa vahel - suurus. K6ik on v2ga suur, imposantne ja muljet avaldada sooviv. Iga hoone, park v6i tee karjub sulle n2kku: "Vaata kui suur ja uhke ma olen!" Sama karjuvad ka loendamatud mustad maasturid t2navatel.
The train Moscow-Almaty was different from previous one. Less decent, so to say. More of 1970s style. The major difference for us was that we were not in a separate compartment, but in platzkart, instead. It means that there is a big wagon, which has separating walls inbetween the sections, but no doors. So, you really had to get to know your neighbours. Me and Viljo discovered restaurant-wagon and celebrated the first evening in our new home for 3 upcoming days and 4 nights. We celebrated it with the first Kazakh beer I ever tried.
During the first night we discovered the whole "beauty" of sitting in the wagon without a conditioner. It was hot. During the day worse. The more south we went, the hotter it got.

Towns in Russia, where we stopped, looked all the same - railway stations, many kiosks, lazily walking people around enjoying summer sun, gray brick or wooden houses with blue windows.

Important moment for us was crossing Volga river. I always dreamt to see Volga - the biggest river in Europe. And it was impressive. Huge, broad, endless massive of water. Tartu Emaj6gi tunduks v2ikse ojana v6rreldes sellega. Me and Viljo celebrated seeing such an impressive picture by having few shots of vodka with borsh in restaurant-wagon.
Looking at Volga river, I rememberd about my feeling in being in Moscow - everything is biiiiig. Kazakhstan is similiar. And that is seen in mentality of people. It is different from Estonia. While Estonians generally (with some nasty exceptions) care about every piece of their small land, Russians and Kazakhs just feel that there is so much of it.

One example of it is one small incident, which happened to me in the train. Generally, people are okey with throwing the garbage out of the windows. The garbage bin in our wagon got full and I told about it to our provodnik (person, working in the train, rongisaatja). He asked me rhetorically: "What do you think, where do I throw out the garbage from this bin? Isn't it easier for both of us, if you will throw your bottle from the window right now?". I saved my bottle until the next train station.

The Russian-Kazakh border was interesting. We crossed it three times. The railway was built in Soviet time, when there was no borders inbetween. So, it happened that the road crossed the border three times. We were checked and asked different questions four times (twice at the first border). Russian bordergards were serious and straightforward, Kazakh borderguards were humourous and friendly.
Huvitav seik oli see, et mina ja Viljo v6tsime osa salakaubaveost. Rongisaatja nimelt palus k6igil, kes l2hevad Moskvast Almatysse v6tta 4-6 tykki mingeid riideid enda kottidesse. Meie Viljoga saime uusi, ilmselt kusagilt Moskva turu pealt ostetud teksasid ja s2rke. Pidime ytlema, kui keegi kysib, et need on kingitused. Yks vene naine tegi selle peale nalja, et kui avastatakse, et k6igil on samad s2rgid ja teksad kottides, siis ytleme, et ostsime sama turu peal :) Keegi ei leidnud midagi. Rongisaatjad (kaks kasahhi rahvusest meest) said ilmselt m6ned tenged (kohalik valuuta) enda tasku.
After about 6-7 hours of the borders we finally entered Kazakhstan. Me and Viljo celebrated it with the beer in restaurant-wagon.

People in the train are generally friendly and helpful. That's interesting phenomena, when you travel together with the same people in closed room for a long time - after a while you become like one big family. Our neighbours were one Russian couple in their 60s. They were really nice. People tend to help each other, share their food, share some stories.

Cool thing about the stations in Russia and especially Kazakhstan is that there is small business flourising, when big train like our is coming (ours had something like 30 wagons). People know the time in advance and prepare drinks, food and all possible and impossible stuff to sell. Some men and women come to the train at one station, travel few hours and walk through the wagons offering stuff from fake jewelry till ice-cream.
The prices were really cheap. Much cheaper than in restaurant-wagon. We were constantly buying different delicious fruits from them. After a while me and Viljo celebrated it with a beer bought from some grannies at some train station.
Impression from Kazakh landscape - it is huge. :) The steppes were interesting to see in the beginning, but became too monotonous after a while. But when the train started to go through mountainous valley, we both became gluied to the windows. Amazing views! The woman next to us laughed that boys from Pribaltika are really excited (she had some good friend in Latvia, who had told her that Baltics don't have any mountains). She was right...
Some of the auls (Kazakh villages), we saw from the window, looked really poor. Mud-hut, couple of horses amd endless steppes around. Nothing to compare with Almaty...

One great thing about travelling in the train is, of course, drinking tea there. It is like a holy process, which you enjoy. Because you don't have anywhere to hurry up to. :) I think I drank the best tea in my life in this train. I am not kidding.

By our fourth night in the train me and Viljo started to get used to being hot. You are just sweating all the time. It becomes your normal physical state :) We were excited about our soon-to-be-arrival and celebrated it with the bottle of Vana Tallinn, which we had with us. We shared some with our neighbours, who got good memories (elder people know Vana Tallinn from Soviet times).

0,5 liitrit kodumaist jooki palavas rongis keset Kasahstani - see oli uskumatult hea tunne. Elu on jummmala ilus! Vahel on vaja vaid v2ga v2hest, et 6nnelik olla...

And then we saw Almaty. Yeah! The city was waiting for its new son, who will rock there one year! That's how I can describe excitement I had, when I arrived in Almaty...


German said...

I don't know if you passed the city where people sold lots of soft toys (pehmed (suured) mänguasjad).

Afterwards people told that there were the factory which make toys and where workers get their salary on this toys, so they have to sell them to tourists to get their money.

But it was on the trip to Ukraine, so i can't remember, maybe it was already in Ukraine...

Ira said...

DENIS! This is such an amazing story! This is so true and so home and such an amazing description about Russian trains and traveling there :). I felt like I was traveling myself to Almaty again. I hope you don't mind that I posted your story to the CEE blog :)

czalex said...

I have made the same trip from Moscow to Almaty in 2003, we had a national conference of AIESEC in at that time Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! We actually passed the special places of Kazakhstan: the drying out Aral Sea, were close to the Baikonur.

Yeah, your post brought sweet memories back :)

Deniss Rutšeikov said...

The trip was great adventure indeed. :)

Ira, I am all right with you quoting me :)

Mihkel said...

You seem to be having the time of your life:O
Nice:) Celebrating in a train all the time looks more than fun:P

And I started thinking that I promised to come and visit you... that means I have to ride a train 10 days altogether? :D I'm not very sure if I'm coming, but I haven't buried that idea yet;)

And the most important question - have you seen Borat already?

Deniss Rutšeikov said...

Hey Mihkel!

You can always take a plane - it takes you about 8 hours altogether.

Trains takes 4 days, not 10 :)

You should definetely come. You can also have your time of your life here ;)

Borat... hmmm... No I haven't met him yet.

Byw, this moviw is prohibited here, in Kazakhstan. You wonder why?

Carry said...

Hi there, Deniss!

I think what Mihkel had in mind was that in order to reach Almaty and to get back home afterwards, it would take about 10 days in a train altogether.

But your story was a very joyful and adventurous one to read and if Mihkel is up to it, I may actually join him for a train trip to come and see you some day in the future =)

Deniss Rutšeikov said...

Everyone is more than welcome here! :) Especially my friends.

Beatrice said...

I had the same feeling of what you mentioned about media. I majored in Communications as well and I didn't wanna work in media industry in HK. Kinda feel like media just reflect part of the world, normally the dak side of the world and human kind but not the beauty of the world. It alienated the frame of how we see things... :)

Anyway I am so glad to meet you ( and even took pic with u!) in IC after IPM, your speech actully moved me and inspired me no better what.

Enjoy your time there and I look forward to meeting you again!


Anonymous said...

Denis writes really story! We have got developing few cities like Almaty, Astana and destructed many villages, small towns around steppes. It is contrast country, by the way people is very shiny, different and our nature is very amazing. If you want to visit Almaty and need somebody who knows places, you can write to me. I tell you about prices, difficulties and so on. My mail: