SO, now I experienced Russian domestic airlines. I will not joke about clapping on arrival, because, well, people on any Ryanair flight from Stansted do all sorts of silly things, including clapping. I am obviously joking. A little bit. However, what you normally don’t see on european flights are children with unfasten seatbelts during landing and hostesses perfectly aware of it, but not giving a damn. But then maybe us “westerners” are a bit too concerned about safety. Let’s face it, if anything happens during landing, whether I’m glued to the seat or not is probably not going to change anything at all, so let the children remain standing and stare out of the windows.
I only have 5 hours for Novosibirsk, enough to get comfortably to the train station, eat and buy groceries for the train ride. Russian cities, especially those born during WWII evacuation of the soviet industries to Siberia, are exceptionally ugly. The train stations, however, are very well-kept. You have to get over facades that have the same colours of M&Ms peanuts though. (The one in Barnaul was bright pink, the Novosibirsk one is pastel green). The interior of every station I’ve seen in Russia so far beats most european stations: they are clean, there are no dodgy characters roaming around, the one in Novosibirsk even has a free cinema for the passengers, so I crash there and watch bits of old soviet films, even though I don’t understand anything.
My train exists, which is great news, although I still need to understand why the trains are listed in Moscow time, and not in local time, but ok. The train itself is superb. I know I cannot compare european and russian standards of railroad travelling, because of the distances covered. Hardly anyone uses night trains in europe anymore, while here it’s very common, but this train exceeded any expectation I had – in a positive way. (I have to confess that I was expecting somewhat more rustic experience, but on the other hand, everyone who had been warning me about Russia before my journey had last been to Russia when the Tsar was still alive).
Everyone receives clean bedding and a towel, there is a samovar with hot water available in every carriage, women travelling alone get automatically booked in a women only carriage. I fall asleep almost immediately after we leave Novosibirsk, and wake up 2 hours before Krasnoyarsk. Best sleep I had since 10 days. Outside, the scenery has not changed since 10 hours. Interminable plains spotted with violet and yellow meadow flowers and birch groves that extend as far as one can see from the train give you an idea of how big this country really is.