19:20 Moscow -> Kazan
Elliot’s 2009 work trip to India was the only previous overnight train we’d taken between us and his description of the experience was less than comforting. So it was with intrepidation and plenty of wet wipes that we boarded the 19:20 sleeper from Moscow to Kazan and found our way to our four-bed Kupe. We were well-stocked with shareable goods, having been advised by our handbook that fellow travellers on the Trans-Siberian love to chat, look at photos, offer food around and drink vodka.
A surly Provinitsa (carriage attendant) led us to our berth and handed out fresh linen to make up the beds – brown leather bunks, the bottom of which flipped up to provide luggage storage space underneath and in the daytime doubled as a seat. Finally our roomies arrived – two young Russian women who didn’t know each other but had clearly done this journey before. They were mega-slick in making up the top bunk.
Buoyed buy our guidebook, El greeted them warmly with his best Russian but was met with stony faces. One looked slightly afraid. Undeterred, he tried a second time by introducing himself but was met with a frantic “No” waving gesture – similar to that you might offer a street urchin asking for money in an unfamiliar country.
When both women silently turned in at 8pm, we took the hint and headed to the dining car, armed with Scrabble and an unopened bottle of vodka. Surely here, the bustling hub of train, we could share a mini-tube or two of Pringles with our fellow adventurers.
No one was in the dining car, so we ordered a couple of beers and settled down to a game of Scrabble. Despite feeling slightly deflated by it just being us (again) we felt a wave of excitement as the train lurched out of Moscow and began its 500 mile journey east to Kazan. We were on the Trans-Siberian railway!
Nervous about returning to our cabin and disturbing our roomies, we passed the rest of the evening in the corridor outside – gradually working our way through the bottle of vodka, taking turns to hang our heads out of the tiny window to catch glimpses of old bridges and remote Russian villages, despite the darkness and rain slashing against the glass.
Our excitement (and alcohol consumption) caused us to forget this was an ordinary commuter train and that most of our fellow passengers were headed for work the next day. So when our neighbour came into the corridor in just his pants to politely tell us to pipe down, we decided it was time for bed.
The clock said 4am as we turned out the little lights in our berth – although we discovered the next day the clock was wrong and we actually went to bed at a less than hardcore midnight. Time here is tricky – there are so many time zones!
Ah well, Kazan here we come.
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