Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Day 4 - Train to Rostov Veliky

Day 4, Train to Rostov the Great - After breakfast on day 4, we were heading to Rostov Veliky, Katja's hometown. It isn't a long drive or train ride ... only about an hour or so. We had an early 9:30 breakfast at the Exeter House (hey, don't laugh ... the sun doesn't rise until 9 am) and then took a taxi to the train station. The taxi was a bit late in arriving and we just managed to catch our train.

Now ... let me tell you about my first experience riding Platzcart. This class of train car is pretty efficient ... in the same way that a submarine is efficient. Each section of the wagon seats 6 people ... 4 on the left and 2 on the right. I didn't count how many sections there are in each wagon, but I would guess about 8 sections (but I could be wrong). There is a place to sleep for everyone, with double-decker sleep bunks on the left hand side above the table and seating area ... and a table/seating area on the right hand side that converts to a bed, with an overhead sleeping area on that side also. Each car has bathrooms and a Titan hot water heater for tea or any food that can be made with hot water (I saw everything from noodles to instant potatoes being prepared by passengers). If it were clean and maintained, it would really be pretty remarkable.

But you know what ... it is really pretty filthy. I mean, the mattress pads are gray, dingy, stained, thin, lumpy ... and the floors and windows are just dirty and dusty. And this particular train was hot as heck ... I'm guessing it was a good 27 C. Now maybe that doesn't seem hot to you (if it doesn't I'm willing to bet that you are either a woman or a Russian) ... but consider I was dressed for winter and -10 outside. It was humid enough from the breathing of people inside the Soviet era wagon that the windows were sweating water. Yummy.

But once I peeled off a couple of layers and settled in, I was just fine. Most of the train occupants were dressed in pajamas and walking around in slippers, looking half awake. They gave me some pretty strange looks as I took off my coat, scarf, and wool shirt. Heck, I would have removed my long underwear if I could have .. but that wasn't an option. Russians don't seem to remove layers when going from the cold to the heat inside. I had noticed they all wore leather jackets in September when I didn't want to wear any coat at all also.

I felt a little bit guilty complaining about the heat and condition of the train, until I spoke to Sergei about it. He agreed with me and says he doesn't even like to ride 1st class on trains. It is nice to know that even in Russia, not everyone has to conform!

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