20 Oct 2009

Lev Tolstoi

The pictures don't do it justice. To understand where I'm coming from, you also need to ride a train for 6 days in platzkart and then move up to a second class kupee for the last leg.
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed my trip in platzkart. It was great. I think I actually preferred it for all the social life.
Maybe an apt comparison would be the switch from a matatu to a private cushioned and air-conditioned jeep.
It was the perfect way to end a long trip though. A note to travelers: upgrade, don't downgrade, for the last leg of your journey. Mmm.. and if this was second class, is there a first class?? I don't think I have enough creativity to imagine what it could be like. Someday when I'm rich and famous, I'll ride a train in first class and see what it's like.

The cars had a carpeted hall running down one side, with the kupee sliding doors opening opposite some windows. Rooms were either all female or all male unless you reserved the whole kupee. I traveled with a Finnish girl, who slept the whole way, and a Russian lady who lives in Finland. We talked with her quite a bit.
The bedding was soft and everything was cushioned, so sound was at a minimum. In fact, I could barely hear the clacking of the wheels.
My tea cup must have fallen out of the bag somewhere along the way, so my traveling companion went and asked for some. What she came back with was two glasses in engraved metal holders. Like fancy engraved, with pictures of St Petersburg and things on them. They were incredible!

There was also a handicapped WC at the other end of the car and I heard there might be showers as well, though I didn't see them.

Our sliding door closed all the way and locked, and on the inside there was a mirror. Each person has their own individual little light by their bed in addition to the big one on the ceiling. At night it's completely dark. The curtain is of a thick material and blocks sound and light.
Come to think of it, it reminded me more of a ship than a train. Very similar to the ferries across to Sweden, except that the train didn't have private toilets in every room.

The conductor people wore uniforms.
The border crossing was rather different too. Compare 15 hours at Kaz-Rus to about 1 hour at Rus-Fin. At the actual border between exit and entry stops there are two little posts standing side by side. One red and green I think, and the other blue and white. I didn't see them, as I was busy slurping noodles, but the Russian lady told me about them.

Maybe the weirdest thing of it all was hearing Finnish again after 9 months. I almost didn't know what to do with it.

And that was it. What does one do with themselves after 9 months of living in a different world and then traveling thousands of kilometers and many days with many people, and then it stops. It had been stopping for a few days already, but the moment the door opened at Kouvola on October 1st, it's like you hit a brick wall. Poof. And it's all history. Did it really even happen?

Looking down from my bunk on the train to Aktau in platzkart.

No comments: