• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 6

Day 6 – 1st January 2020

This morning, after I had probably been asleep for an hour, the fireworks went off. Well they would wouldn’t they? It was the dawn of a new decade, it didn’t matter, people were enjoying themselves bringing in the new year. I opened my room curtains to see spectacular fireworks, which were really quite pleasant. Less so at half past twelve, when I was hoping that they would soon run out of matches. At one o’clock I could’ve out stared a stuffed owl! It slowed around 1:30am and I could even considered the possibility of returning to my comfortable bed, that I’d paid for knowing things might be a little bleak, over the next three days on a train. I nestled in with no end of blankets around my shoulders. I felt like a little hamster after wearing himself out on the wheel. I quickly dozed. I had just reached the position where the Queen was handing me a huge lottery cheque when…. “DIBRI DOBRI DOOSKI”! Quickly followed by, “Warning you must evacuate the building. Do not delay this is an emergency”, in English. I thought that I’d dreamt it but sure enough fifteen seconds later exactly the same. I could hear people anxiously running around the hotel corridors.

Same again after another fifteen seconds – what did I grab first? Sorry Ernie bear not you. Passport, money and credit cards, slipped on some trackie bottoms, flip flops (No time for the boot laces and no thoughts whatsoever of it being minus two degrees outside.) The very loud speaker system could be heard echoing throughout the third floor. DIBRI DOBRI DOOSKI! Etc. (The speaker message didn’t say etcetera by the way.) I opened the bedroom door hearing very concerned voices and watching people in their night attire, (some of them quite bizarre as it happens,) running for the stairs. There were people in this small melee that I felt, starting to panic. In helping a young mother with a baby find the stair rail, while her husband with the other children were just behind, my flip flop decided to have a benny. I went down the stairs head over tip, hopefully to the other stair occupants, looking like an out of time stuntman. Luckily for me the mid landing was only around five or six steps down. The lady with the baby showed concern but I waved her away as she was in greater distress than me. I had reached the second stairwell down with offending flip flop in hand, when a weird hush prevailed. People had stopped dashing, and above the chaos, I could hear a night managers voice. “DIBRI,DOBRY DOOSKI – ALL EES GUD. – NO FIRE – NO ALARM – NO JOKE – NO PROBLEM.” When relative calmness took over, they repeatedly told everyone to return to their rooms as the system had kiputnid, blaming 2020 date issue with their software. Like the other knackered guests we went back to our rooms all over the third floor, but then it occurred to most people including me, that most of us had run out without the room keys. After about ten minutes and full of apologies the night staff let everyone back into their rooms with master keys. I did manage to get a few hours kip after that, but as you can imagine at this point my head was buzzing and it was quite difficult to wind down again. The next day the morning breakfast staff were not overly forthcoming or brimming with any empathy - That whole alarm experience was a new one on me!

Just to let you know that my Russian is coming on a bundle. I thinks this one says "To the Shops"

All done and I know that I have a train to catch. The system for trains in Russia is like boarding an aircraft in as much as you have to have a train boarding pass, issued only on the day of travel. So you take your online evidence of booking to the counter and they produce a unique ticket. I was done in plenty of time to allow me to marvel at this wonderful building. The train station ceilings were like being in an art gallery – see what you think of them below.

Volgograd Station outside

Volgograd Station inside

Another Volgograd station inside

Volgograd has only been called that name since 1961. It was formerly Stalingrad. Anyone of my age would know of the name because we were taught about the war as kids, having being still fresh in our parents minds. Stalingrad saw the largest physical battle during the whole second world war, and was renamed because of new political boundaries being formed, known as Oblasts. Volgograd Oblast (region) renamed the city after the river Volga, which to make a topographical point is huge, and Grad being the Russian name for a town, or fortified settlement.

The Uzbekistan Railways train service 349 lumbers in looking like it had missed its 20 millionth mile service. Up to now all the trains have been relatively modern, liveried in bright colours, making it easier not to get run over by them. Not this baby – Cactus sap green and broil (minus the carrots.) On entering my expectations plummeted even further when I saw the compartment where I was to spend the next three days. Dirty cream Fleur-del-Leys counterpanes, accompanied in the same material, by pillows stuffed with road. Singularly the most uncomfortable thing that I had ever sat or lay on. (And there has been a few challenges to that title.) I’m sure that it was designed for workers, with not thought to comfort or trim. There is no waste paper bin, the curtains had their last wash when “My sweet Lord” was number one. No lights anywhere – I tried all four bedside lights to see if any of them worked. There is one saving grace however. I have it all to myself. After a couple of hours it turned into a voyage of discovery. I had light. (The switch lay undiscovered behind my hanging coat) One more bonus – hanging down protruding from the internal carriage wall under the compartment fold away table, was an electricity socket. Yeah - no need for battery packs. Result!

As I sit alone in this compartment I do get the feeling that I am being transported to a jail somewhere. It is weird. I think I preferred it when the bendy Romanian hibernator was around. Should be crossing into Kazakhstan before midnight. See what tomorrow brings.

Position: 41°32'40” N 69°24'17”E – Miles completed: 03044

Location: Near Astrakhan, Russia 20:34 - 1st January 2020 - Journey 6 days 14 hours

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