The train journey from Astana to Ekaterinburg takes 24 hours. And it is not nearly as nice or modern as the express from Almaty to Astana. Originally I thought I might continue with additional trains all the way to Moscow, but I quickly changed my mind. Maybe the Trans-Siberian wouldn’t be my thing.
The night before, I had met, in the hostel in Astana, a Kazakh guy named Oskar, who was very inquisitive about my ultimate purpose in life (цель), and in disbelief that I couldn’t provide an adequate answer. (It didn’t help that we were speaking as much Russian as English as we were equally bad at each other’s languages.) Anyway, his proximate purpose in Astana was to collect a certificate from the Minister of Health for his eight years of service as a firefighter, having risen to the rank of captain. Why do I tell you this? Well, because (at his insistence!) this happened…
On the train I had a top bunk, because all of the bottom ones were sold out. I quickly figured out why. If you are on top, then other than awkwardly sitting on someone else’s spot, all you can do is lie down (under the storage rack 2 feet above your head as you lie there, preventing sitting up). Add to this the constant fear of falling off of the narrow surface and the fact that the conductors yell at you if you walk around in the corridors, and it makes for a long 24 hours.
The Ekaterinburg train station had an Orthodox chapel! I later noticed that the airports in Ekaterinburg and Moscow do too.
Upon arrival, I went relatively directly to my hotel, but I noticed a memorial on the spot where Tsar Nicholas II was killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. A few people still leave flowers there.