And now I’ve almost caught up blogging (minus pictures) with where I am today, with the minor caveat that the posts have been written but not posted, as I have no Internet access right now. Hopefully the hostel in Ulan Ude will provide.
I’ve been on the Rossiya for about 40 hours of my first, 60+hour leg of my trip. My first Russian compartment mate got off yesterday morning and another took her place. I think this one deeply regrets that I don’t speak Russian as she seems like normally she’d be the chatty sort. Yesterday morning she spent quite some time setting up a Russian to English translator program and we were quite excited till we realized that it’s a one way conversation. We can’t make it do English to Russian, so I can’t answer her questions very well. We did try valiantly to communicate this morning, and showed each other photos of loved ones, but for much of the day, she’s watched videos on her laptop and I’ve either written posts (about five, I think!), looked at the window at the taiga, or read.
According to my guidebook, we didn’t even reach Siberia till today – we were still in the Far Eastern territories for about 2000 km. Today we got some sun, but yesterday, everything was white: sky greyish white with clouds and sometimes snow, white snow on the ground (be it hill or flat marsh), white birch trees among the other darker trees. It’s pretty to look at, but somewhat similar over the course of a day. As my compartment-mate said, eh, it’s taiga.
Yesterday almost the entire rest of the carriage was filled with young soldiers. Keep in mind that Russian trains are kept very warm (high 70s F, mid-20s C) and everyone changes into shorts or track pants and tee shirts (or no shirts, in the case of a couple of buff young men). So for all of three seconds I pulled a Lydia Bennett (“ooooh, soldiers!”) till I realized that our carriage has basically turned into a boys dorm, with the attendant smells and messier bathroom, and yopung men inadvertently starting to come into our compartment till it registers that it contains two females and not four bros. I am amply defended by the babushka in here (though she’s still a little young for that title) and we both start cracking up whenever the boys forget to read the number on the door. In all fairness to them, I think we may be the only compartment to have zero soldiers, since we’re women only.