Short walk to station and the train had just arrived as it waits at Vladimir for 20 mins. The female provodnitsa (carriage attendant) looked at our e-ticket with mistrust and told us to wait while she fetched her list. We weren’t on it. 1-0 Russia. We looked at her and she looked at us. Stand off. I dug out the tickets we had picked up from Moscow and the thaw started 1-1. “Passports” she requested and the numbers on the tickets matched. GOLDEN GOAL! 1-2. We’re on. (We didnt want to ask why we weren’t on the list)
Our carriage already had 2 sleeping occupants in the top two bunks but our bottom two were vacant. Another result. We tried to quietly stow our luggage and lay down. The carriage was really warm and stuffy and with a poor sleep last night I thought I’d drop off quickly but the excitement of finally starting the epic train ride across Russia kept me awake. I stared out of the window watching yellow birches and green pine forests roll past. The Russian lady above me got down from her bunk and the attendant brought her a coffee which filled the cabin with its rich aroma. Eventually the gentle rocking of the coach got the better of my excitement and I dozed off.
I awoke sometime later and after sitting up our Russian cabin mate entered from the outside corridor and tried to wake her slumbering husband. He looked very content but eventually got up and we invited them to sit on Al’s bunk while myself and Al shared mine facing forward.
They spoke good English and explained they were on their way home after a holiday in Turkey and Israel. They were very softly spoken and both had a cheeky glints in their eyes. He was born in the far east of Siberia on the Russian bank of the 2km wide Amur river which has China on its other shore. Minus 45 centigrade in the winter. He wanted the carriage window closed but she wanted some fresh air. We opened it.
Each carriage has a huge hot water urn called a samovar so we drank tea and ate black bread with ham and chatted and read and feeling the motion of the train, felt very relaxed.
Around 6pm they left the train and we said “dosvidaniya” and were left with the compartment to ourselves. No one else boarded. The whole train was fairly empty now and the next large town stop was at 3am so it was unlikely we’d be joined. Fingers crossed.
Vodka and pickles came out and we merrily chatted. Tonight we cross the Urals and tomorrow we roll into Asia.