• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 5

Day 5 – 31st December 2019

Going to be spending three days on a train in the coming days internet blogs may be scarce, but the blogs will still be written and put in place asap.

Slept like a drugged Koala on the train last night – think I probably made twelve hours in total. (Unheard of for me!) Woke to find no Mr Upstairs Romanian bendy man. Must have uncoiled himself onto a station platform at some point in the night. The family opposite were ordinary lovely folk and their little daughter was a delight. I heard them refer to, and address her many times as Babushka, but I cannot confirm that was her name.

However she will be remembered as Babushka who fell in love with little Ernie the Journey bear. I let her play with him last night and she fell asleep with him in her arms. This morning when they left the train at Archeda she said her goodbye to the bear. Under normal circumstances I would have let her have the bear as a gift because she had become attached to it. But he is so important as a symbol of this Journey that I couldn’t let her have him. She was lovely when she gave him back and said, along with her mom and dad, a collective Dasvidaniya. As I looked out of the train window the family were met by a very elderly lady with flowers. Babushka hugged her grandmother, immediately forgetting Ernie the Journey bear, running off to greet her cousins. When I got back to the compartment the bear was inconsolably sobbing his heart out!

Earlier this morning I was able to wash and brush my teeth for the first time in two days. They felt like coral against the brush. The joy of this simple task was heavenly. Even my deodorant was reluctant to do its job, prior to my hand washing my armpits. This train today has crossed many totally frozen rivers this morning in the barren wasteland I see out of its window. Even the odd trees look like they are choking. As I gaze through the glass it gives the impression, that outside it is colder than a penguins toenail. This train service feels like it stops at every farmhouse or church with onions on the top. In one such place there was a shed, literally an unmanned shed. We were stationary for around two minutes, when in the middle of what seemed to be frosty scrubland, there came a rider. No seriously, it might sound like a Sergio Leone script but true enough one guy, on horseback with a lurcher type dog running alongside. I watched him get off the horse, take a leather bag from the saddle, and board the train about a hundred yards in front of me. No sooner had the man got on the train he pointed from the train door. The dog Barked (or mimed a bark – he was too far away for me to hear) then both the dog and the horse turned round and ran into the distance. Presumably going back to the riders home to wait for his return. Unless of course it was all part of rail company’s efficiency drive to get more paying passengers on board, offering a door to door service. Either way it was an amazing sight!

I could see Volgograd in the distance especially picking out from miles away the spectacularly large monument called “The Motherland Calls.” It overlooks the city, standing at an impressive 279 feet tall. (Factoid for the nerds amongst us – It is the largest statue in all of Europe and more impressively it is the largest statue of any woman anywhere in the world. Let’s go girls!)

Also on the journey in was the 45000 seater football stadium where England played Tunisia in the last World Cup. I ask you to look at my photo from the train and compare to the borrowed one. Now be honest who takes the best picture?

This afternoon I came through Volgograd station amazed that to the minute my train was bang on time. Twenty six hours to an exact schedule. Proper! I had intended my stay for the night, to be a splash out hotel because of my impending three day train ride starting tomorrow. At £43 it is hardly pushing the boat out, I grant you, but it is a genuine five star hotel. When I say genuine, I will list its assets: - Prominent position within the city centre, lovely reception area complete with caged birds, and the room is very comfortable compared to the sleeping obstacles of late. Admittedly now, I think that it might have borrowed two of the stars from its sister hotel, I don’t know anyone who rates these things, but it is comfortable enough. I later decided, because it was New Years Eve to visit a local bar. Being experimental rather than a traditional drinker, I tried a cocktail to set the evening off right. Well at £0.42p I knew that I would be in for something special. It was called a “Obecski” pronounced oddly enough as Obecski. Now while it had no ingredients listed in English there was a picture which I thought looked quite appetising. So I said to the multi-lingual waitress, “ May I have an Obecski please?” (desperate to sample something local to get a true feel for southern Russia) She replied to the affirmative and five minutes later the drink arrived. It looked like its photo on the brochure listing the cocktails available, perhaps with a more nuclear florescent glow to it. I took a really quite large slurp through the two straws that came with the drink. My first reaction was an involuntary shudder, followed by an urge to gag like a strutting emu. The motion of which, thankfully I managed to quell. Best described as a matured sheep dip with a measure of lime. The shock to the system was immediate. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for being protected against foot and mouth disease but the taste was awful. If it hadn’t have been for the £0.42p price tag, I may well have not finished it! That was the height of my New Year’s celebrations, I’m afraid, finding myself ready for an early night. I quite unintentionally burped in reception and I think that I stunned one of their parakeets.

Volgograd was always going to be a start point for Asia in my mind, and now I’ve reached it, more or less to plan, I find myself filled with the trepidation of what a three day train journey holds. I hope there are some interesting characters on board. (I muse: A guitar playing seal perhaps, or a poet that specialises in odes to the egg, or even a monk who can Etch a Sketch a cathedral in under a minute.)

Do I really need another sheep dip and Lime?

Good night.

Position: 48°42'28” N 44°30'50”E – Miles completed: 02789

Location: Volgograd, Russia 23:00 - 31st December 2019 - Journey 5 days 22 hours

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