Dec. 5 – Aboard Train 077 to Novosibirsk
The Beijing-Irkutsk journey taught me not to rely on the dining car.
Given how good the fare had been in China, what was served from Beijing to Erlian was abysmal. Small portions of rice and vegetables, pathetic chicken(ish) balls, damp lettuce in lukewarm soy sauce. It was all free to first and second class passengers, but no real effort was made to impress. A surly waitress shooed us out as soon as we finished. There was warm beer if we wanted it (we didn’t). More fun was the barely drinkable Great Wall red wine. We had two bottles – the first numbed our palates for the second. The best part was that the dining car had no corkscrew, and only two glasses. The ever-practical Swiss got their Army knives out, and we were in business using teacups. Of course, the waitress made them pull the corks for all the other diners too. The Swiss asked for tips, but received none.
The Mongolian dining car was a wonder of carved wood walls and furnishings. The food was decent, but scandalously priced if paying in U.S. dollars – I had not bothered to get Mongolian money since I was just passing through the country.
But I was pleased with the supplies I had brought along. Enough for the distance, not too much to be an encumbrance. So for the journey to Novosibirsk, I have; tea, oatmeal, trail mix, chocolate, instant noodles, salami, Maasdam cheese, and apples. We’ll see how soon the Vodka starts to flow. Wish me luck!