Katie and Evan leave Moscow to cross a third of the globe on the legendary Trans-Siberian railway. Cue large amounts of vodka, a strange smurf-like Finnish man, one or two visa issues and a large helping of relief on arrival in Mongolia. All aboard!
We departed the Yaroslavskiy train station in Moscow at precisely 9:35 p.m. Evan and I were really hoping to get a room to ourselves and were told that if we were lucky we just might. Thanks to my parents, you all now know that we tend to have our bags explode in every tent, hut, hotel room and probably this time the train. We’re not slobs or anything! Well OK, it really does come down to the fact that the two of us on this trip have been pretty lazy with keeping everything clean and tidy. But on the bright side we are really good at packing it all up within an hour! To be fair, at home Evan does make the bed and I do clean the bathrooms, we’re really not that bad.
When need be we are able to keep ourjunk tidy and organized, and for the first time in three months we had to for our new room-mate: an old Finnish man with hair like a Smurf. He didn’t speak a word of English and we weren’t able to communicate much. So we named him Gherkin because the first thing we opened up was our little jar of pickles, it seemed appropriate and I didn’t watch Smurfs growing up. Gherkin was a great roommate. He didn’t talk, drink or do much other than his wonderful morning butt rub exercises. I’m pretty sure all my money is still neatly tucked away in my wallet too. It was a tight squeeze but we made it work.
During the five days on the train we had our fair share of entertainment. Olga the drunken snack lady graced us with her loud presence for the first night and the second day. You could hear her coming from miles away. She would stop at our room, sit down and start talking away in Russian between Evan, Gherkin and I, we had no idea what she was saying. This amused her and made her laugh hysterically. She also thought it was funny to pinch my toes and pull off my sheets while I was sleeping. You could definitely smell some booze on her breath and I have no idea how she managed to go in between each train car with four doors between each one with her little trolley full of goodies.
After the first two days she disappeared. Evan and I theorized that maybe the chocolate Gherkin gave her was poison and she was done for, or she got drunk and fell off the train. To our surprise she popped up again just before we crossed the Mongolian border. What a relief to us because Gherkin also gave us chocolate.
In the next car over from us there were two high school basketball teams. All of the responsible chaperones of the players were drinking! That would never fly in Canada, but if that was acceptable I bet teams wouldn’t have a problem recruiting parents to supervise in their free time. At every quick stop we had at stations we saw them buying booze. One of the male chaperones was drunk the entire time he was on the train. When he would run out of alcohol he had to make his way to the food car, which involved him stumbling down our car yelling “Mongolia!” at the top of his lungs. Just like Olga, we could hear him coming. On one of his trips down our car he got a little drowsy and decided to take a nap in our English neighbour’s room and a group of train attendants had to drag him back to where he belonged. On another occasion Evan witnessed him try to do the same in the train attendant’s room and he stumbled out with a bloody nose. We may have also heard that he was sleeping with the girl’s basketball coach too. What drama! That man was nuts!
Speaking of drinking: I honestly thought that one bottle of vodka was plenty. Well that was all consumed on our second night on the train. We made new friends from England, Holland and France, caved to peer pressure and drank like Russians. We pooled all our alcohol together that night and managed to drink everything! At one point of that night everyone started drinking to represent their country. Evan fell asleep first and it went from Team Kevan to Team Canada and I single-handedly had to represent us. I would like to award Canada the gold medal of the evening because I stood a steady pace and managed to keep everything I consumed inside my tummy. I was even so lucky that the next day I felt amazing. I usually wake up wanting to die after a night like that. No nausea, no head ache, and best of all no upset stomach! Yay me!
Unfortunately on the train Evan and I weren’t able to watch the movies we brought for the laptop because there was nowhere to charge it. We watched the entire first season of Modern Family on the iPod. If you have never heard of this show I highly suggest that you start watching it. It has to be the best family comedy television show Evan and I have seen. It most definitely kicks Big Bang Theory butt. After watching three seasons of the Big Bang Theory straight in Morocco, I’m not sure if I will ever be able to watch it again.
When we reached the Mongolian border I had pretty much gone the entire time without having a proper sleep. Let’s just say I was emotionally drained by this point. Not showering for five days was really hard to do and Huggies baby wipes can only make you feel so clean. The customs part of Russia took almost three hours. All the ladies were really nice and they even had the cutest little black drug dog come search through the cars. When we arrived at the Mongolian border it was almost nine o’clock. The Mongolian customs lady came, took our passports and about thirty minutes later we had a business man give us back our passports saying “visa no good, back to Russia for you”. Evan and I had a lot of trouble getting our Mongolian visas back in Canada and I vividly remember explaining to the lady in Ottawa issuing them that we were leaving the country and we weren’t able to apply for our visas any later. As like most other travel visas they tend to expire three months after having them issued but she assured me this wouldn’t be a problem. Sure enough, they had expired and the two of us were hauled into the office at the train station. The man dealing with us really had no sympathy for us and was not in the mood to talk it through and help us get new ones. We were the last ones in the line up and watched everyone else fork over more money. Evan gave him the money he asked for but he didn’t explain that was the total for one of us. Off Evan went back to the ATM to get us more money, paid the man and we were issued new visas. When we left the office to go back to our train car we walked out to the platform and noticed that our half of the train was missing. I thought for sure all of our stuff was stolen and the train had left without us for Mongolia. There we were no coats in sandals freezing our butts off! To my surprise a police lady came up and explained to me in French that the train was gone to get the dining cart. PHEW! Long story short, we made it to Mongolia!