Trans-Siberian Railway Trip Aboard Tsar’s Gold Private Train: Between Irkutsk and Moscow

Trans-Siberian Railway Trip Aboard Tsar’s Gold  Private Train: Between Irkutsk and Moscow

In the fall of 2008, MIR Sales Specialist Charity Shaller took a ride on a portion of our Trans-Siberian Express Between Beijing & Moscow aboard the Tsar’s Gold private train.

Follow along as she describes her adventurous journey from Irkutsk, Siberia, to Moscow.

  • Moscow

    September 27-28, 2008

    Took taxi to airport around 4 PM for 6:45 PM flight to Moscow.

    Arrived in Copenhagen around 1 PM. Gate for Moscow was very close to arrival gate, although it wasn’t marked so this was a little worrisome. However; I was very impressed with Scandinavian airlines. The flights went smoothly with few hitches. Although, we did arrive in Moscow early only to find that our arrival gate had not been assigned. So we had to sit on the runway for about an hour before being taxied to our gate.

    Passport control was a nightmare! It took about and hour and a half to get through the line and get through baggage claim. My driver was patiently waiting for me with MIR sign outside of baggage claim. It took about 2.5 hours due to heavy traffic to get to the city center and arrive at the Park Inn Sadu Hotel. It was about 11:30 PM when we arrived at the hotel.

    Thoughts on the hotel: Great location, in center of Moscow walking distance to Kremlin and Red Square, Christ the Savior Cathedral and the Tretyakov Gallery. The nearest metro station is Polyanka. My room was modern and simple.

  • Moscow

    September 29, 2008

    Woke up at 7:30 AM. Breakfast at 8:30. Buffet had many offerings; mainly European and Russian. Blini, scrambled eggs & sausage, assorted meats and cheese, cereal, porridge, pastries, bread, preserves and butter, yogurt, coffee, tea and orange juice. Walked over to see the Baltschug Kempinski Moscow Hotel.

    Thoughts on Kempinski: Classic elegance. Amazing, million dollar views over Moskva River and the Kremlin and Red Square. Perfect location in the heart of the historical center! Much closer to everything than I had remembered. Closest metro stations are Novokuznetskaya and Tretyakovskaya. Hotel amenities include a business center, fitness center with pool, sauna and hot tub, a beauty salon, many conference and meeting rooms, a café serving breakfasts and two restaurants. The Baltschug restaurant serves European and Russian cuisine and is open all day. The Shogun serves Japanese cuisine. On Sundays the Baltschug Restaurant serves a brunch buffet. MP3 players are available upon request. My companion really was impressed by the Living Design Suites with modern Swedish design and fun technological gadgets; while I preferred the classical Kremlin Suites with incredible views of St. Basils and the Kremlin. It would be the perfect spot for a nice group reception.

    After this, we took the metro to see Victory Park, which certainly was lovely, but probably not for everyone, unless they really are into World War II history. I enjoyed the park, although it was hard to thoroughly appreciate after a long day of walking.

    Took a taxi back to the office and had tea. My driver drove me to Domodevedo Airport to meet my flight, which took about 2.5 hours. I had dinner at the airport and boarded the plane at about 9:30 PM for the overnight flight.

    Photos from this leg of the tour:

    The Moscow Metro"Moscow," Victory ParkView of Moscow's Red Square from afarVictory Park in MoscowVictory Park in MoscowVictory Park in Moscow

  • Irkutsk, Listvyanka

    September 30, 2008

    Arrived in Irkutsk around 8 AM. My driver was waiting patiently with MIR sign. Irkutsk airport is under construction, so the baggage claim was a mess. I had to show my luggage ticket to claim my bag. All in all it took about an hour to claim my bag and make our way to the hotel, Baikal-Hotel (formerly known as Baikal Intourist Hotel).

    My hotel room was on the 9th floor and I thought it was nicely furnished; it had amazing views of the Angara river. The décor was dated, the bathroom is in great need of a renovation, and there was no hot water on the morning that I arrived; despite all this I was very pleasantly surprised with the accommodations. The lobby and the restaurant hall were large and welcoming.

    At about 10:30 AM I went down to the lobby to find that part of my group had arrived. The other part of the group started their morning with the city tour of the old town. I boarded a bus with other English-speaking travelers. We had a brief city tour by bus and then went to the Decembrist House Museum for a tour and concert. The group all seemed to enjoy the concert and of course the champagne!

    Following the concert we had a 45-minute drive to Listvyanka to have lunch with local families. I was very excited about this part of the program! We were split up into three groups and invited into the flats of three women that hosted tourists for lunch, dinners or tea-time. The meal was excellent! It was a nice home cooked meal and the host was very eager to please the group. At the end of meal we had tea from the samovar. What a treat!

    Following lunch we traveled to Listvyanka village and toured St. Nicholas Church, which I think is the most serene church I have ever seen. After visiting the village we went to explore the Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture. Half of the group didn’t want to go on this excursion because they were tired and cold, so they decided to go back to the hotel. It started to snow on our way to the museum, which was very picturesque! It was very cold so we only toured the museum for about an hour. Then we drove back to the hotel. After settling in, we the got back on the bus to go to dinner. We were all very tired after dinner so we went to bed around 10:30 PM.

    Photos from this leg of the tour:

    Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture in ListvyankaTaltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture in ListvyankaWooden architectureVintage Russian mailboxHelpful signageSiberian woods near Wooden Architecture Museum (beautiful birch trees)

  • Aboard train

    October 1, 2008

    Wake up at 7 AM. 10 AM departure for train station. We settled into our cabins and had an 11:15 AM lecture about Siberia and its colonization. Very interesting!

    Lunch at 1 PM – very simple Russian cuisine, but very good! Cabin attendant brought in black caviar and champagne a couple hours after lunch, which was a special treat for those traveling in Bolshoi cabins. Shortly thereafter we had a vodka and caviar tasting in the restaurant car.

    Because we were all very full from the tasting we ate very late this evening, at 8:30 PM. After dinner we set our clocks back by two hours. Following dinner, when we got back to our cabins our beds were nicely made up. I was very tired, so even though it was only 8 PM with the time difference I fell fast asleep.

    Thoughts on cabins:

    1. Bolshoi Class: The bottom bed was much larger than I had imagined and the shower much more manageable that I had envisioned. There were some nice extras in the cabin like a bowl of fruit, vodka and full bottles of shampoo, body wash & hand soap. There were two towels (bath & hand), a bathrobe and slippers provided. There also was an English menu for the restaurant. The cabin attendant was available for tea or coffee service, which was a very nice treat. The other cabin classes on train have to pay for tea & coffee. The wardrobe contained a safe and there was more than enough space for two mid-sized pieces of luggage (plus 4-5 articles on hangers).

      The shower and sink only turn on if you have flipped up a lever next to the sink. The water temperature was a little hard to regulate at first, but seemed to stay hot once it warmed up. The water would run for about two minutes and then stop and then at that point you would have to push the lever again. I feel that the Bolshoi class is well worth the extra expense for the private bathroom and also for the extra room.

    2. Nostalgic Comfort Class: I stayed in this type of cabin for one night. It has an upper & lower birth configuration with a chair and a small table in the cabin. There is a shower & wash basin that is shared with the adjoining cabin. There is a lever that you pull down when you are using that shower that makes it so the people in the other cabin cannot access the shower. There was also a bowl of fruit, vodka and a menu waiting for me in the cabin. Overall I really liked the look of this cabin. It had a gorgeous rich red interior with mahogany wood paneling. I think it will be an attractive cabin when it’s redone for next year.
    3. Standard Plus Class: I think this cabin will be a great offering for people who don’t want to pay Golden Eagle Trans-Siberia Express prices. It is a simple cabin with a twin side-by-side berth configuration. All of the cabins I saw had a light teal blue interior. There seemed to be plenty of storage under the beds and over the door. The WC is at either end of the cabin and the shower is in every other wagon. The bathrooms were clean and the showers were large with a single shower stall. There was a sign-up sheet for the shower; I talked to a few of the people staying in standard class and they said that they never had to wait to take a shower. These cabins may be a tad bit less well-turned out, but I think they are well worth their price.
    4. Standard Plus New Class: There was only 1 car of this category on the train. I thought it was almost as nice as the Bolshoi Class except for the fact that it did not have the private en-suite bathroom. It was the same configuration as the Standard class only that it had completely new interiors. The shower at the end of the hall was just gorgeous! It was spacious with brand new fittings. There was not much storage in this compartment and there was no storage under the beds.

    Photos from this leg of the tour:

    Aboard the Tsar's Gold trainMy Nostalgic Comfort Class cabinCaviar on bliniCaviar and vodka tastingView from the platform during a quick stop on the way to NovosibirskView from the train

  • Novosibirsk, Aboard train

    October 2, 2008

    Woke up at 7 AM. Breakfast at 8 AM. Lecture on the Urals and a Russian lesson in the restaurant car at 11 AM. Lunch was served at 1 PM. Due to construction delays we arrived late into Novosibirsk at 5:30 PM. We had a reception at the train station with folkloric dance and “bread & salt” welcome. Traffic was very bad since it was rush hour – so we arrived very late for our boat ride on the Ob river. The boat ride was very pleasant, but a little chilly. The sun was just setting as we took off.

    Following the boat ride we stopped at a local grocery to explore on our own. Most of the travelers wanted to buy the vodka that we had at the vodka-tasting from the day before. We had a very late dinner after this. Returned to the railway station around 11 PM and the train left shortly thereafter at 11:30 PM. Before going to bed this evening we were instructed to set our watches back by 1 hour.

    Photos from this leg of the tour:

    Outside the Novosibirsk train stationBoat cruise on the Ob riverView from the boat on the Ob riverTasty Russian pastries

  • Ekaterinburg, Aboard train

    October 3, 2008

    Woke up at 7 AM. Breakfast at 8 AM. Most of today was spent on the train. We had a Russian lesson and a lecture about the Tatar people at 10 AM and later we had a Russian tea-time at 3 PM.

    We arrived in Ekaterinburg around 5:30 PM where we had a quick trip to the Cathedral on the Blood and a city tour. We were back at the train station around 8 PM and had dinner shortly thereafter.

    Photos from this leg of the tour:

    Ekaterinburg cupolasPortrait of Tsar Nicholas II and his family at Church on the BloodCathedral on the BloodCathedral on the Blood

  • Kazan, Aboard train

    October 4, 2008

    Woke up at 7 AM. Breakfast at 8 AM. We arrived in Kazan around 10 AM where we were told that we would have a “small sweet cultural surprise.” We first had a city tour by bus and a boat ride on the Volga and lunch at the Mirage Hotel. Then we were escorted to a children’s musical academy where we had a private concert by very talented children who played clarinet, cello, piano, and violin for us. It was a very exciting concert!

    After that we were taken to the old part of the city where we could do some shopping. Some of us walked around the pedestrian street and then stopped at an Internet café for hot chocolate. We were back on the train around 8 PM and had dinner a little bit after that.

    Photos from this leg of the tour:

    Outside the Kazan train stationChurch of the AnnunciationKazan mosqueChurch of the AnnunciationInside the Church of the AnnunciationQol Sharif MosqueQol Sharif MosqueCharity on Volga River boat tour in KazanView from the boat on the Volga RiverOur lovely concert in KazanVisit to Kazan's city centerA replica of Catherine the Great's carriage in Kazan

  • Moscow

    October 5-6, 2008

    Woke up at 7 AM. Breakfast at 8 AM. We arrived in Moscow around noon and were taken to our hotels. We met the group for a tour of the Kremlin and lunch at a very nice restaurant nearby. Following lunch, we had a brief visit to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Then we were taken back to our hotels to relax until dinner time. We had a city tour by night and our farewell dinner. Following dinner we had a tour of the beautiful Moscow Metro and then were brought back to the hotel.

    The next day started at 4 AM with a wake up call and transfer to the airport for the flight back to Seattle.

    Photos from this leg of the tour:

    Kremlin cupolasThe bell that never rangMoscow's KremlinMoscow's KremlinMoscow's KremlinView of the Moscova RiverMoscow's KremlinView of the Ukraina Hotel from the KremlinInside the Moscow MetroInside the Moscow Metro