Friendships forged rattling through Russia
This week’s winner is who misses her companions on the Trans-Siberian railway
I’ve been home for more than a week and slipped back into my old life. But things have changed. I’ve changed. Before I left for Moscow to catch the Trans-Siberian (or more accurately the Trans-Mongolian – we dipped south to Beijing) I thought that it would be the last big journey I’d make. Now I know it isn’t.
The train was second class in every way, but it was early days and we were off to see Moscow: the Kremlin, the treasures in the
Armoury and Lenin lying in his tomb was a contrast to so much wealth. Back on the train, where we slept close together for four nights passing through endless silver birch trees, the landscape was flat, which surprised me. The train had a lavatory either end that stank unless you got there just after the carriage guard had cleaned it.
Back home I miss my travelling companions. Monica, an Indonesian, and I slept on opposing bottom bunks. We used to wake up early, lifting the blind to watch the sun rising through silver birch trees as we rattled across Russia towards Siberia. I would slip out of bed and get some hot water from the samovar for our first cup of tea. Monica would produce a biscuit or
bread from her bag of goodies and we would smile acknowledgements so as not to wake the other two asleep above us on the top bunks. A gentle snore from one and then the other. Monica and I would silently giggle.
At first I wondered how I would cope living in such proximity with people I’d never met before, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. The shared meals, the special apple juice we laced with vodka, the conversations.
I thought I’d had enough of discomfort and being on the move, learning a few
I enjoyed he conversations and the apple juice laced with vodka
words in yet another language, mastering another currency each time we crossed a border. I missed my companions.
I recall the generous hospitality and guttural singing in the little village on Lake Baikal, where any day now the wind will come from the Arctic north and the lake will freeze so hard that you can drive a car across it. The people said it was a great time to be by the lake, but the lavatory is outside in a little hut and the banya has to be fired up by a log-burning stove.
In Mongolia we had an overnight stay in a yurt out in the hills. The Mongols are gentle and kind. I envied them their nomadic life, but the young are choosing to live in Ulaanbaatar.
On to China, the border crossing tested us as we sat under strip lighting waiting for the wheels on the train to be changed. Cutting through the high hills and gorges we caught a glimpse of the wall.
The temples of Beijing provided some solace against the city chaos. This was the last stop and I felt ready to go home.