Sunday, September 6, 2009

3 1/2 days on a train!

A note of caveat: I wrote all the following blog posts on my iPhone on the train so wasn't able to spell check, etc.

My train left Kazan at 2:25am and I was so worried about missing it I didn't sleep. When I finally made it there I was laden with 70 lbs. of backpacks and probably another 25 in food and bottled water and I was f-ing exhausted. I barely fit down the aisle of the train and it was pitch dark. So I pulled out my headlamp, which I had remembered to put in an easily reachable location. I finally got my backpack under the bed, pulled out my nighttime toilet kit and went the toilet. But, it was locked. I asked around to people standing in the aisle and they all gave me the arms crossed 'it's closed' signal.

I seriously thought it was closed for the whole night and as I was already drenched in sweat, exhausted and had to pee badly. I was livid. I thought 'I'll f-ing stick my ass out the door of this train if I have to', but it had already started to move and I couldn't get the doors open. I seriously thought I was going to have to pee on the floor! I went and got the 'provodnistik' or male train attendant and asked 'toilet'? He gave me the same arm crossed sign and I got really animated and mimed peeing on the floor. He looked exasperated but held up a finger like 'just a minute'. When he came back he had the key and unlocked the toilet. My roommate made a face and gesture like 'good job!'

The next day, after I had made friends with my roommate and we were figuring out how to communicate, I learned that they close the toilets at the stations and then for 30 min after we leave so as not to pollute the populated areas. (The toilets open right onto the tracks.) I tried to apologize to the attendant I had threatened with urinating on the floor and I think he might have understood. lol

So, I'm exhausted, sweating and had to threaten to pee on the floor, and then I see the toilet and wish I had of. This must be the oldest still operating train in Russia! I'll send iPhone pics and you will understand! At this point I'm pissed and think the next three days are going to be torture! I can't believe I paid almost $250 for this hellhole. When it first pulled up my first thought was it looked like a Nazi train they took people to the gas chamber in. I'm not joiking. It was that awful looking.

But, after an ok night of sleep despite the ridiculously hard seat/bed and almost non-existent bed padding (enabled by my trusty sleep mask and iPhone white noise app), I felt better. But, I was still completely taken aback at the sight of the train and the facilities. I went exploring and found the coal bucket and shovel they use to heat the train compartments, and saw the attendant starting a WOOD fire. She somehow explained it was to heat the hot water. Craziness!

I went to look at 3rd class, or 'platzkart' and was pretty glad I had upgraded. It was stifling hot and afforded zero privacy. Michael had been right to insist I change to 'kupe' or 2nd class. So 'kupe' is a tad nicer but as it is a lot more expensive ($150 more) there are no backpacker or anyone that speaks English. My roommate is 60 and doesn't speak a word of English, but after 2 days we have become friends and even joke around with each other. I had to wash my underwear and hang them in the window to dry and he made a gesture like wearing them on his head. Another Russian man of 72 years that I also made friends with was in our carriage and they busted out laughing. I did the 'shame shame' finger at him and it was just funny.

That's as far as I've gotten in writing so far. Now I am in Irkutsk and want to see the city and make it to Listvynkya before dark so I will sign off for now. There are many more stories about the train, but they will have to wait for later. :)

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