Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Trans-Siberian Saga - Part 2, Day 2

It was a fitful sleep of continuous train noises and movement interspersed with the goings-on inside the carriage itself. At some point during the night, the 4th berth in our compartment became occupied again, but by the time morning arrived our mystery companion had departed and we had woken up to another new place far away from where we were yesterday.

Busy Station - On the Trans-Siberian Railway
The expected morning queue for bathroom time and hot samovar water, plus running out of conversation with Officer Yuri, meant that we shyly got to know our neighbours in other compartments. Being surrounded by Russian speakers, I became sensitive to hearing English words standing out comprehensibly from the general babble, and I honed in on the sound to meet Olga, a sweet Russian lady on her way from working in the UK to visit her parents in Yekaterinburg for the first time in years. She introduced me to her companions in Compartment 3, a friendly couple of Danish travellers called Pia and Rikke (more English speakers!) and we hit it off straightaway, chatting amongst bagfuls of Russian apples and astringent berries, and sampling assorted Danish liquorice and liquor.

People you meet - On the Trans-Siberian Railway
More of the Russian world went by. One of our younger carriage neighbours, during his hourly running laps of the corridor length, decided on one encounter that I was some sort of enemy dragon to be vanquished and we had a good mid-morning roaring match.

An energetic kid, would run up and down the length of our carriage most of the day - On the Trans-Siberian Railway
Ben, in his quest to repeat a photograph of the scenery out of the rear carriage window (we were in the second-last carriage) had a run in with said carriage's provodnitsa this time, who crossed her arms in a defiant "Nyet!" to his repeated pleas.

Level Crossing - On the Trans-Siberian Railway
Our 4th berth became host to yet a third occupant for an hour, a likeable fellow named Sergey on his way home to Omsk. He could also speak some English and helped translate between us and our compartment companion, Officer Yuri, who further expressed disdain for the un-natural packets of instant pot-noodles that we foreigners always seemed to eat. In an bewildering Russian train version of musical chairs, Likeable Sergey was moved to Compartment 2, but visited us later for lunch when 4th berth occupant number four, the burly, ever-smiling Alec, turned up brandishing a large roll of kolbasa (salami).

Lunch in our Berth with some friendly Russians - On the Trans-Siberian Railway
As is the Russian way, everyone shares their food with everyone. So our second train lunch consisted of our measly cheese and biscuits, generous chunks of Alec's kolbasa, khleb (bread) and keks (cakes), beautiful fresh ogurets (cucumbers), pomidors (tomatoes) and petrushka (parsley) from Sergey's garden, some wonderfully tasty pirozhki (Russian pies) made by Sergey's wife, and of course another round of Yuri's salo (fat). All washed down with several cups of steaming lemon-scented chay (tea), and a Russian vocabulary lesson from Sergey.

Packed Lunch, Russian style - On the Trans-Siberian Railway
All very civilised. The rest of the day was spent quizzing the Russians on Trans-Siberian Railway trivia such as "Ok guys, what river are we crossing now?", and getting as many people as I could excited about seeing the blink-and-you'll-miss-it obelisk in the Urals marking the transition from Europe to Asia.

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