Once settled on the train with our luggage stowed in various compartments, we sat down to watch Moscow disappear, replaced by expanses of green, dotted with the occasional little cottages (dachas), and garden plots. The train gently rocked from side to side. We heard the gears squeal, and the rhythmic “kathunk, kathunk” as the train sped along.
Food became a major pre-occupation for me, as it was one of the only things to consume my attention as the hours stretched out. We all spent the evening snacking, and fetching boiled water from the samovar for soup or tea. We also played games: cards with Peter’s x-rated deck, and chess on my colourful set bought at the market in St. Petersburg. I spent hours gazing out the window transfixed, as the sun set, and purple dusk engulfed us. The trees turned a smoky grey, only to be gobbled up by the blackness of night. I wrote in my journal as night fell, my reflection looking back at me from the window.
We popped back and forth between the compartments when we were bored. Dean came in to play cards with us, Loretta and Wendy put out snacks, and when we neared the next stop, Fiona got out the guidebook and read to us about the history and attractions of the little town.
The bathrooms were clean and I was not constipated! Good news! When I flushed the toilet, a little trap door opened up to empty its contents onto the tracks. I felt sorry for locals who had to view our little gifts on a daily basis. I slept like a log the first night, the sound of the train on the tracks a soothing lullaby, its movement like the rocking of a cradle.
The next morning, those of us who were up early snuck out of our cabins and stood in the narrow hallway watching out the windows. It was October. The skies were grey and scattered with windblown white clouds. The land was hilly, and covered with yellowing grass, and Taiga, the mixed forest of Siberia. The horizon was a bluish grey. The country side was covered with farms, cottages, and there were many birch trees. Their leaves were a soft yellow. Wooden poles, wire straddled between them, cut cross the land beside the tracks.
Donald was often up with me at this time, a cup of instant coffee in his hands. He was a train man, and his eyes were alive as he watched the tracks and the scenery slipping by. He pointed out the larch on the rolling hills, and told me that there was also larch in Vancouver where he lived. It was true that much of the Siberian landscape reminded me of where I call home: Ontario, Canada.
Travel on the Trans-Siberian Express
from St Petersburg to Beijing
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