Wednesday, June 20 and Thursday June 21, 2012
Two days on the rails.
I flit between reading a history of Russia, playing on the tablet, napping, reading the guidebook, eating, and staring out the window. This isn’t multitasking, it is my brain seeking entertainment. I catch up on these blog posts. We chat with a Russian passenger in our carriage, we go to the dining car, buy a blanket from a woman selling her knit goods. We get off at stops to take pictures, feel the sun, restock on noodles, chips, fruit, and beer. We play cards, draw, and even watch programs on Pepper’s laptop on occasion.
By far, most of the conscious hours are spent watching the land go by. Sometimes cities of Soviet bloc housing. Sometimes factories surrounded by small houses, and sometimes tiny villages with the minute homes, gardens and perhaps a church. But often the view is of open space and woodlands. That is what I expected to see and there has been no shortage. Day and night for over 48 hours our train has cut through the birch and pine forests. As we near cities there is often graffiti. Some of it has been quite good. Good enough that I sometimes feel like I am on a street art rail tour. Other trains seem to be hauling oil, timber, passengers, freight, mail, and sometimes military equipment like tanks and trucks.
We seem to have two provodnitsas – carriage attendants. One works the days and the other the nights. They are both large women that seem happy and willingly have vacuumed our compartment. We wish we knew more Russian. We rely on our guidebook to tell us how long we will be at a stop and it usually seems correct… if we can figure out where we are. Mornings are disorienting.
Station stops have involved rushed visits to stock up, quick photo jaunts, and often worrying about when the train will begin inching forward.
Time is strange. We will have gone through five time zones by train so we sort of experience train-lag. All times are based on the time in Moscow though so we are slowly catching up to the ‘real’ time.
There are wildflowers we have passed. Many we do not know but for a long time we passed miles and miles of daffodils. I have seen Queen-Anne’s Lace and fire weed, lillies, and at least a dozen others. Wildlife has been space. Some ravens and crows and the occasional LBB (little brown bird – a term my college Ornithology professor used).
The three of us will have essentially spent three days in a space about the size of a Queen size bed. We have become efficient with our storage of gear and our preparation and cleanup from meals. We’re glad we have an air conditioned compartment when we venture to the dining car or get off the train at a stop. It is warm and humid and I would smell badly if I was sweating through the day.
We packed fairly well for the train. Our food duffel had noodles, cheese, crackers, salami, mustard, cookies, pickles, bread, tuna, some chips, raisins, nuts and a few other things. We brought two backpacker plate/bowls, a pocket knife, utensils, insulated travel mugs and water bottles. We just wished we had a few larger Ziploc bags for stowing bread or similar food that we didn’t use all of, nesting or disposable containers to protect the crackers and cookies during travel, and a soft-sided insulated cooler to keep cheese and beer cool.
Life on the train has been restful but tomorrow our pace will have to quicken. We have just a week left to see the highlights of Moscow and St. Petersburg.