October 1, 2012

Emergency rations

Rations for Leg One – Amsterdam – Moscow

I’m not convinced that I have enough food. My first journey is from Amsterdam to Moscow, two nights and one day. The train booking for the EN447 (D25/402) says that the attendant will sell “snacks” on board, but I have no idea what that means..or if there will be a samovar to provide boiling water (I’m not sure if you can eat a Pot Noodle without water?)

Good coffee is a high priority for me, so I’m carrying a cheap plastic filter cone, unbleached papers and tinned ground coffee beans. You can see in the picture three boxes – one for tea and coffee, one for soup and hot chocolate, and one for sundries – things like mustard, tabasco & tomato sauce, salt and pepper, to spice up train food. I also have my much loved “Flying Scotsman” thermos flask (a gift from my Brother a few years ago) and a mountaineer style insulated metal mug. I’ll add to this a few fresh provisions from Amsterdam (and some beer).

Once I get to Moscow I’m going to see if I can find the Soviet version of the Pot Noodle (the Pot Potato?) and plenty of instant porridge – ¬†assuming they have that in Russia. I’ll need seven days supply, so I will have fresh for a couple of days and then move onto the dried stuff. I’m also carrying a couple of hessian bags to manage shopping on the go – supermarkets or station platforms.

For the first time ever I’m taking shopping bags on holiday!

All this may seem a bit weird when the Trans-Siberian has a restaurant carriage, but comments on what it sells seem rather variable – and maybe this depends on who is working in the kitchen on that particular train and their views on foreigners. If I’m lucky I’m going to be dining on caviar and local “champagne” in Russia, and if I’m not so lucky its going to be borsch and stale bread.. Mongolia sounds dull and China sounds good from a catering perspective. Platform food also sounds interesting, but I don’t want to rely on it all the time. Sandy W, an old school friend who has done the Trans-Mongolian, tells me he got sick from some of the fresh fruit and veg from the platforms, so I’m going to be quite careful.

Babeldeck – last resort train food communication!

Finally, it is also worth considering the issue of the language barrier as I dont speak a work of Russian, Mongolian or Chinese. I have picked up a couple of good tips here. The first is to take a photo on my phone of anything I see that I like the look of, then show that to the waiter. The second is that I have downloaded an app that has pictures of everything – its called Babeldeck. I’m quite looking forward to dining on the train – there seems to be a great tradition of sharing food with your fellow travellers. Suspecting that sharing my Pot Noodle might not go down a storm with the Russians, I’m also going to get a Christmas cake and a bottle of Talisker with this purpose in mind!

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