Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Riding the Trans-Siberian--Day 3--5/31

Early this morning while I was sleeping, I awoke thinking that I was in an earthquake. Then I realized I was on the Trans-Siberian train and we were in a station where our path crossed many intersecting tracks so it rocked our carriage like an earthquake. After realizing that, I put back on my eye mask and slept for another few hours rocked by the constant motion of the train's movement.

At lunch time, I finally had some additonal company in the dining car with two guys eating appetizers and drinking shots of vodka. After I had finished my calamari lunch with a beer, they invited me to have a shot of vodka with them.

Both spoke excellent English. When they poured me a shot, I learned that you just do not sip vodka like a martini or vodka Collins, but rather take in one shot--hence the phrase "have a shot of vodka." Of course it would have been impolite to just have a shot. As we traveled along, I learned that Nikolay---the fellow with the beard---was a physical chemistry professor, and Valeri ran an export/import business in China.
We were having a great time just talking about things and then two guys who apparently had a lot more vodka than any of us had, invited themselves in. One was Sergi, in the white shirt and the other was Dimitri in the blue shirt. Apparently Dimitri was a Russian from the Ukraine area and was really insistent on knowing what I thought about the Ukraine situation. I told him I was a traveler and not the US Government. I learned from my time in Moscow, it serves no purpose to express your own opinions about the Russian takeover of parts of the Ukraine. Anyone who asks already has their firmly held beliefs. I just told him I am an individual and not my government.
Dimitri would not leave it at that with his vodka fueled opinions as he and Valeri continued to argue. It is really something to behold how passionate these Russian discussions can get. I thought they might even come to blows if something too provocative was said. At the end all was good and Dimetri ended up embracing me and treating me to some piroskys he had brought along.
I made it back to my carriage and continued to watch the passing scenery punctuated by stations like this along the way. This one is in Talitsa.
Some of the marshy land along the way.
Klickity -- Klack of the train as it rolls across Siberia with miles of tiaga---woods.
Upon my return, I met Nicholai who had gotten on the train in Perm and he spoke excellent English. He joined my bunkmates so I could talk with them. Nocholai is a fire performer along with his wife and they have a website for their business at www.fireperm.ru They not only perform, but they also train others and make and sell some of the items used in fire performances. He was finishing the handle of one as we talked.
Nicholai is in the middle between my other bunkmates. Murad is on the left and I learned that he is a horse trainer and breeder in Irkutsk and Ljudmila on the right is a preschool teacher among many other things. She is 65 years old and has had three husbands and two have died and the 2nd one ran off with another woman. It was good to learn more about them with Nicholai acting as interpreter.
 
Along the way Nicholai preformed the mouth harp for us.
 
At one stop toward evening and Nicholai got off, about half our carriage filled up with newly recruited Russian soldiers who had brought along bags of goodies they shared with all of us.
I then met Polina, a 16 year old girl, who also spoke English, and was heading to Irkutsk. The new Army recruits were falling all over her. Our bunk area with Polina became quite a lively place.
Ljudmila sings us a song before she departs the train at about 10:00 PM in Novosibirsk, 3335 km from Moscow. We all get off the train and give her hugs goodbye. The Army recruits also depart here and stand in formation until the major gives them permission to go over to Ljudmila and bid her farewell as well.
 

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