Another train ride. But, the bus to Kazan will not make it to my train in time. So instead, I hire a cab for the 2 hour drive and get my first taste for some Russian country driving. A lot of passing busses on 2 lane highways, but the driver didn’t seem to take too many chances.
I arrived early to the train station and was happy to find a pair of train attendants who were very friendly. I snapped their photo and they smiled happily; too bad that it didn’t come out better, they were both so nice.
I went to my compartment and found that a man and a woman had already gotten settled in. They were playing cards, not sure the game, it looked like Spades. The man was drinking large beers. These beers were big, larger than the ordinary Russian beers which are in turn about twice the size of an American beer, even bigger than a tall can. I mean these beers were big; they could go toe to toe with an American six pack. Trying to “make friends,” I asked the man “skulka,” meaning, “how much?” I was curious how much these monster steroid beer cans cost. He replied how many millilitres they were. So, I rephrased the question, “Skulka rublie?” He replied that they cost 105 rubles, about 30 rubles more than a beer ½ their size. He then asked me if I was travelling for work. I recognized the word “rabata” from a previous train ride. I replied, “Nyet, ya turista.” I asked what card game they were playing, they asked where I was travelling, I asked where they lived, and so on. In no time, the tense atmosphere that I walked into was gone and we were chatting away, me, with my nose buried ins the dictionary furiously taking notes. The snack attendant came by and I purchased a beer and things were going along swell with my two new Russian friends. But, after some time, the train attendant came in and told me that I was in the wrong wagon. I had to move to the next car. The two Russians in my room immediately broke into protests. They wanted me to stay and argued with the attendant that I should be allowed to stay. This went on for about 15 minutes but the attendant wouldn’t relent. So, I packed up, bade my friends farewell, and then moved to the next car. As I walked to the correct car, I thought to myself how nice it was that these people took enough of a liking to me that they wanted me to stay in their car during the journey. Again, I had a feeling of connection with these Russian people and it was a good feeling.
In my new car I found a middle-aged and older aged woman. They were already getting ready for bed. So, I adjusted my sleep plans and went to bed early. The overnight train ride was smooth and in the morning, the ladies seemed grateful that I had not kept them up late. I chatted a bit with them in Russian and they seemed to appreciate that I was trying. As always, they were curious about where I came from, where I was going, whether I was working or not, and what exactly I was doing. I find that many Russians do not like their photos taken, so I snuck a photo of them as discreetly as I could. Of course, with no flash, it’s a bit blurry. After coffee and tea, we enjoyed some breakfast and watched the Russian landscape go by. It is just Amazing how big this country is. For those that have driven across the United States, imagine twice the distance. It is truly a massive place.
And the kilometers just roll by… and the landscape looks colder and more bleak…
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