Friday, 14 May 2010

Fresh off байкал, the Moscow - Irkutsk train.

I am aware that this is a bit of a jump from my previous post, but I have had little time to fit in any blogging. Looking back at that photo of me sitting in the Cercle des Voyageurs is like looking down a long tunnel into a distant past. I hope to fill in some of the gaps sooner or later, but for now, here is a little taste of the main "Trans-Siberian Railway" experience I have just undergone.

For three whole days and four nights, across six time zones, I have seen almost nothing but silver birches:

My diary has got 23 pages longer - I have got quite good at writing about stuff as it happens - so rather than attempt to replicate or précis all that, I will reproduce here the comment I left in the carriage visitor's book:

Time has a different shape here. The train goes on and gets nowhere.

Where are we? Now here. What time is it here? Now.

The scenery changes and remains the same. I never imagined I would see so many silver birches.

Language also has a different shape here. I never expected that such effective communication could be had by means of a few mispronounced syllables and the odd shake of hand or head.

As the train trundled through taiga, forest and fire, we inside have developed a world for ourselves: a world to and from which people have come and gone, from which no escape is possible but the final place-name on the ticket, but from which no escape is necessary, nor even desired in the slightest.

The endless trips to the samovar, the brief, tentative forays onto station platforms, and the continuous gentle rocking motion of the train all combine into a rhythm that will deliver us, all being well, to our temporary goal:

To all I have met, and all who - thought some may be invisible or unknown to me - have delivered us thus far (like the living, breathing goods train that we are),
балшой, балшой спасибо!

I wrote that last night, and having got a good nights sleep as we moved into Irkutsk-time, I arrived in Irkutsk this morning, and bade farewell to my fellow passengers (more on them sooner or later, I hope).

I am now in a sitting-room with a Union Flag painted on the floor, and three cats, one of which is completely bald.

I also have a yen (or should that be a Rouble?) to go out into Irkutsk and see if it really is dustier than Moscow, as my first impressions have suggested. It is already after 4 pm here (see how much time blogging takes!), so it's about time I got my boots on!

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