13 June 2019
The violin concert was great. Fyodor introduced himself as the principal violinist of the Novosibirsk Symphony Orchestra, and apologised for the lack of the orchestra to accompany him, using only his iPad and a loudspeaker to play Music Minus One recordings of Mozart, Bach, Boccherini, Vivaldi and many more, switching on the music then seamlessly joining in, his feet planted wide apart to absorb the unpredictable movements of the train, and the odd passenger arriving late for the concert, held in the restaurant with the tables folded up against the windows.
Half way through the concert we stopped at a station for 40 minutes, so everybody got off to stot around the platform and mingle with the passengers off our host train, or venture into the various kiosks selling sweets, biscuits and souvenirs.
Then back for more music, more types of music, from the Beatles to tango, to Russian traditnal music like Kalinka, and jazz like Stephane Grappelli. This was a superb musician who could make the violin do anything he wanted!
Later we had a sundowner in the bar, then dinner and bed.
Thursday 13 June
Zoya's birthday! We sent her an email. Early breakfast at 7, then off the train at 9 to meet Nathalia, our English speaking guide for the day. The station buiilding in Novosibirsk is imposing, so we tried to get pictures of it. Then we boarded our minibus for all of 300 metres and dismounted at the TSR museum. This was an interesting place, full of all the history of building this incredible railway, starting from both ends as they did. Pride of place was for a large model railway, but sadly its little trains were motionless.
Then back on the bus for a trip to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, made of red brick but beautifully decorated inside. No music this time, wrong time of day. The orthodox services are held at 9am and 5pm only.
Then a drive down to the riverbank, where we walked down to look at the old bridge and the railway bridge, with a long train crossing it. We would cross it ourselves that evening.
Our final stop before lunch was a park, dedicated to a huge memorial to the dead of the Great Patriotic War of 194-45. Huge slabs of black stone like in 2001 A Space Odyssey stood with names listed on them in alphabetical order, thousands upon thousands of them, and these were just the names of those from Siberia who died. Germany's Luftwaffe were not a threat here, as the distances were too great for their operating range. But real tanks, rocket launchers and a fighter plane were in the park, all bizarrely being climbed on by children.
Lunch was in a restaurant called BAR. The main course was musk deer, very tasty, with lots of salad and vegetables, even potatoes, followed by an amazing dessert consisting of blue berries of some description combined with pine nuts and honey, and frozen. Better than ice cream!
After lunch Nathalia, who had been very uninspiring in the morning session, finally turned enthusiastic when taking us to the Opera, the third biggest thestre in Russia, a huge and very lovely building where opera and ballet are performed. All thanks to Stalin, who wanted everyone to have access to all forms of culture. We were allowed even into the main auditorium, where I was in some doubt as to the acoustic, as it was dominated by a high domed ceiling. Anyway, it was impressive.
Then to a cholcolate shop. The city has many chocolate factories, we were told, as the army needed chocolate in its rations for emergencies, as chocolate can keep you alive. Best reason I've ever heard for eating the stuff. So we duly went to the shop and overbought lots of it!
It began to rain as we came out of the shop, carrying our swag, and the bus wasn't where we had left it. It soon appeared, and we clambered in for the journey back to the train, wher we had to be back by 5, I thought.
As we drew up at the station the looming storm broke. Rain fell in bucketloads, bouncing back up from the tarmac to ankle level. We put on our rainjackets, gathered our bags, and ran the 50 metres across the tarmac to the statioon entrance. Nathalia swiftly said goodbye and bolted off, while Irina, the team doctor, led us down towards track 4 where our train awaited. With some surprise I noted that thentrsin was due to leave at 5.02! We had just made it. We sprinted the last five metres to board the nearest carriage, then dripped our way through four carriages to our compartment, where it was a case of taking off sodden trousers and tops, hanging everything up to dry, and putting on dry clothes and shoes!
At dinner later we put back our watches two hours, in one go. We are set to do that again tomorrow, apparently, to get us to Moscow time. Groundhog day again again!