I got on the train, expecting another babushka speaking only Russian, and instead was pleasantly surprised to be with two women of around my age who both speak English. One is a geologist or a cartographer (or both) who stayed with us till Novosibirsk. The other is second mate on a sailing ship and is heading to St Petersburg. I have an invitation from her to come check out the ship next week!
We’ve had an enjoyable time chatting. The scenery hasn’t changed a great deal until the last hour or two, though currently we’ve passed from Siberia to the Urals region. There are fewer woods and more settlements, especially now as we will soon pull into Yekaterinburg. Shortly after that is the continental divide! I hope we see it – it sounds like it’s easy to miss.
And here’s an example of where Russians have been very nice and welcoming in personal interactions. When I unpacked my snacky food, we all had a good laugh at the fact that the dried fruit I’d bought was meant for the Russian drink “compote”. That would explain why I bit into a dried apricot and crunched through the pit. (I quietly disposed of the rest in the garbage.) My geologist friend popped her head back in after getting off at Novosibirsk and handed me two packages of dried fruit (meant for actual eating) – apparently she had called her father who was picking her up at the station and asked him to bring them. I’m not sure I understand the Russians and the contradictions of how they treat strangers.