4-7 March, Train 81 Irkutsk to Kazan

Train 81 bound for Moscow was much more closely aligned with our original expectations of a Trans-Siberian train – a comfortable but slightly grimy carriage with two shared bathrooms at either end.  This was our first time in a four-berth compartment and as we boarded at 11pm on Friday night, we found our new companion, a girl in her twenties sitting on lower berth Number 5. We never found out her name or what she did as she did her best to avoid making eye contact with us.

2-3 March, Train 263 and Irkutsk

Train 263 to Irkutsk was very different to our previous train but just as comfortable. This time we had a four-berth cabin to ourselves, but no private bathroom. On the train we had our first encounter with the Russian language but were not yet prepared with any phrases to talk to the provodnitsa. It took a while for everyone to get themselves and their luggage on the train. Some passengers were carrying not only their bags but also boxes of other things that they struggled to fit into the small luggage compartments. Once everyone had finally boarded we were on …