Readers, I am now more than halfway through my Trans-Siberian railroad experience.
Stats so far:
92 hours spent on trains
5 nights slept on trains
5,800 kilometers traveled since Moscow
5 time zones crossed in Russia alone
1 friend made on-train
Disorganized thoughts, unfortunately:
Girl’s gotta eat. On my first leg, from Moscow to Perm, I was running so late that I almost missed my train. It was entirely my fault, but it meant that I had no time to stop in the station and grab some food for the 24-hour ride. So I got on the train with nothing to eat for 24 hours, hoping that there would be stuff for sale. No luck. The kind women in my compartment shared with me: Half a banana and two small apples. I was starving and weak when I arrived in Perm. Lesson learned, so for the 60-hour journey I stocked up on instant noodles (there’s a hot water heater aboard the train), bread and cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers, and some muesli and prunes for breakfast. Add that to some instant coffee and teabags, and you’ve got yourself three days of decent eats onboard.
Peace prunes. On my longest leg of the trip, 65 hours between Perm and Irkutsk, nobody talked to me. I tried to make friends and nobody was interested; dozens of my eager smiles went unanswered. I was discouraged and resigned myself to a long trip of muttering to myself under my breath and referencing the guidebook to see what was passing by my window. Then the woman across the aisle did the unthinkable: She reached over to me and handed me two chocolates. I scrambled to reciprocate, first offering a tomato. No takers. Wait, wait, I said, before I lost her, and dove into my plastic food bag, surfacing with some prunes. I offered them, she accepted, and a painful monosyllabic conversation ensued. But I made a friend! Prunes beyond borders.
Platskartny. Third-class, baby. I’d have it no other way. Yes, it’s 54 people per car. Yes, there are only two toilets. No, there’s no running water. But it’s great. True, you smell everyone’s cigarette breath and beouf Stroganov farts. There’s a hot water dispenser for tea, stops every five hours or so, and no reason to complain, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve only taken third class so far so maybe I’m only content because I haven’t seen what the extra $50 would buy. Until tomorrow, that is: There’s no third-class on the train to Mongolia, which I don’t know is a good sign or bad. I’ll check back in.