Getting ready to leave.
Tatiana in front of our car.
Some of the rural scenery.
September 17-18, 2006
Leg #1: Ural route.
Length of journey: 26 hours
I am now on the first leg of the train trip!
It is sooo much nicer than I was thinking it would be. Upon boarding the train, the women who work on board (the 'provodnistas')
were checking tickets in their little uniforms. This got me pumped. Granted, it is going to take these women a lot to get them to
crack a smile. But I am up for the challenge. I have a feeling it can happen in twenty-six hours time…
I am looking out at lots of tall, skinny trees. Lots and lots of trees…
I just was hanging out in the room next to ours with Stuart, Kirstie, Nick and Jeanne and getting to know them a bit better. We
were getting the scoop on each other. Oh, is there going to be lots of time to know about each other.
We had our first stop in a town Vekovka (you’ll have to excuse if that is not the actual correct name – I am just trying to translate it
from Russian characters to English using my limited Russian skills) and it was quite a kick. I was expecting lots of food vendors.
This was not quite what existed. As we got off the train, people were holding up huge vases, stuffed eagles and squirrels and crystal
chandeliers. You know…all of the things that a person on a train trip might need. I regret to inform those at home that I resisted the
urge to buy any of these items. I know, I know. Sad but true. I just hope that I am never drunk at any of these stops as I have been
known to make extremely stupid purchases while being in the wrong state of mind (a certain big, plastic alligator from New Orleans
during Mardi Gras comes to mind)…
Getting a bit sleepy. Just had ‘dinner’. It is hard to really consider it that as it feels like I have just been snacking here and there and
this was just one of my largest snacks thus far. It is now completely dark outside. Bedtime will most likely follow very soon. The big
question remains: Will I ever get to my book? I have more than enough time to read yet it is really easy to fill my time doing
I ended up getting a second wind last night and ventured into Cabin #2 and hung out with Dave, Sam, Simon and Trish. We drank
vodka, played UNO and goofed around. Don’t think we didn’t get in trouble by the provodnista. It is probably a good thing that we
do not speak Russian as I am kind of scared to think of what she was even saying to us. It was at this point that I made a vow to the
others that I would get her to smile before I got off this train.
The funny thing is that the Russians we have come across continue to speak more and more Russian to us as if we were all of a
sudden going to comprehend what they are saying. Meanwhile, there is just a clueless look that is plastered across all of our faces.
I woke up for the 3:30am stop in Kazan. Not much to see or do. Even our Russian lady was not awake so I couldn’t even go outside
to get some air. And there were no vendors. But at least I didn’t need to feel like I might have missed something. In the meantime,
there was an extremely smokey smell coming from our cabins. This brought back a memory from a conversation I had with
somebody a couple months ago when I told him I was doing the Trans-Siberian railroad. He told me that he had only heard great
things. Except once. This would be when somebody gassed the entire train in the middle of the night and stole everything onboard.
Let me say that it totally sucks when this is the thought going through your mind. I just kept telling myself that if I ever felt like my
head was feeling funny to go run out into the hallway.
Luckily I am still here to write about it so all is good. We did not get gassed.
We just had a stop in a town. I have no idea the name of this town. All I know is that I just ended up buying three kilos of apples due
to a small communication barrier. What the heck am I going to do with three kilos of apples???
My apples are now sitting in the corner of the room. The offer has been put out there for anyone to feel free to take an apple.
Nobody has done so yet.
In the meantime, I am looking at landscape that seems very typical of Russia. Oh, to be on the Trans-Siberian railroad!
I went around our train car and unloaded at least one kilo of apples on my fellow travelers. Not only that…I also made an offering to
provodnista. She accepted. Not only that…she SMILED and said ‘spaseebo’ (‘thank you’ in Russian). Success has been had! I rushed
over to Cabin #2 and shared my victory story with them. They were beyond impressed.
I took a nap. Sadly, during this time, I missed a few minutes of snow on the landscape.
A stop where they actually had food options to choose from for lunch! I opted for a savory pastry filled with potatoes. Quite tasty.
I can’t believe there are only three hours to go. This has completely flown by. I am actually almost bummed out that our train ride
is almost over.
I have to report on something else. I went to wash my apple at the samovar (which is where we get our hot water to make our tea
or noodles). At this point, the provodnista saw me and invited me into her area to use the actual sink in the room. I can barely
believe this. Talk about the progress that has been made. I am going to be offering apples to everybody on future train rides.
I decided to brush up on my Russian language skills and I asked our provodnista what her name was. She told me it was ‘Tatiana’.
My crew was quite impressed with the acquisition of this information. The name Tatiana seems a bit too dainty and feminine for
her. But I think we have her all wrong. Even though she has a rough exterior, I think she’s a pussy cat at heart. I wanted Tatiana to
know my name even though she didn’t ask. When I told her it was Jen, she kind of smiled but also kind of looked at me like ‘Why
the heck do you think I care about this?’ There’s nothing wrong with making sure the United States/Russia relations stay up to par,