22 Jan 2014
My breakfast on the train to Samara was a banana with walnut butter and coffee.
Banana, walnut butter and coffee
View from the train
We had to wait outside the train station for the bus to pick us up. It was freezing cold (-32 degrees Celsius) and we needed some calories. Fortunately, there were street vendors right next to the station selling dried fish, nuts, etc. The dried fish was very salty but tasty and good for the harsh climate. We also tried some almonds, which the lady sold at R25 (about $0.79) per cupful and were tiny but very fragrant and crunchy.
While we waited, people did various things to get warm. Some threw snow balls at each other. Some danced. A brilliant man bought rotisserie chicken which we ate with our hands with no manners and much delight.
After we checked in our very modern and comfortable hostel (it had a fully equipped kitchen! and a washing machine!) we went to find some food. We were looking for something local and cheap. We found a place where everything looked crumbed or covered in pastry. Fortunately, I noticed they also had salads (fish/egg/mayo, coleslaw, cooked beetroot/potatoes/peas), and one of my friends told me the chicken looked safe (it wasn’t. The potato chips weren’t, either). We paid R950 (about $) between 4 people.
Salads, pastries, chicken
After dinner we went to buy supplies for breakfast and the upcoming train ride, then to our lama’s public talk.
23 Jan 2014
A bunch of us shared breakfast in the hostel kitchen. I contributed scrambled eggs fried in coconut oil, kefir and avocado. There also cheeses, tinned fish, Vital Greens, etc. The kefir was similar to the Australian ones I’ve tried, perhaps a bit creamier. The egg yolks (and also the butter) in Russia are pale yellow. Low beta-carotene, perhaps?
Eggs, kefir, avocado
Breakfast at hostel
We left our luggage in lockers at the train station and went for dinner. We found a restaurant that looked too fancy (with live piano music and all) but prices seemed reasonable and, most importantly, they had a menu in English. I had a mixed meat ragout with smoked sausage, beef, ham, pickled cucumbers and olives. It was excellent, but not big enough to be a meal on its own.
Mixed meat ragout (R150, about $4.75)
I also had a taste of Carina’s very tasty spinach puree soup and Diego’s European carp in sour cream. We all agreed he was the winner that night.
Spinach puree soup (R130, about $4.12)
European carp in sour cream (R140, about $4.44)
Other dishes ordered that night were okroshka (soup with beef fillet, potatoes, onion and other vegetables), served with cold kvas, carrot soup with ginger and curry, chicken, mushroom and vegetable pie and pelmeni a la Kipiatok (Siberian meat dumplings).
Okroshka served with cold kvas (R130, about $4.12)
Carrot soup with ginger and curry (R110, about $3.49)
Chicken pie (R150, about $4.75)
Pelmeni a la Kipiatok (R140, about $4.44)
On the train to Omsk we had what became our typical train fare: salami, cheese, macadamias, pinenuts, smoked salmon, olives, vodka and cognac.
24 Jan 2014
In the morning the train stopped in Ufa where the lama met the local group for a short meditation. Back on board we ate breakfast: boiled eggs with butter and mustard, cheese, banana, mandarine, sausages, cucumbers, and coffee.
Lunch was tinned fish, sauerkraut, some salami, mini sausages and coffee. One of my Russian compartment buddies invited me a Tibetan tea. The real deal is tea with salted butter, but this was an instant version made with powdered green tea, milk powder and salt. It didn’t sit very well.
Dinner that second night on the train was sauerkraut, salami, dark chocolate, mandarins, macadamias and cognac.