Industrial activities in Irkutsk
There it stood, blocking out the Red hot Moscow Sun. A recently painted Russian red veteran, bellowing out white smoke into the sky and bleeding oil all over the tracks. A stubborn antique from the industrial revolution that simply refused to sink into the locomotive graveyard of anonymity. This would be our home and refuge for the next 5 days, an iron monster, shielding and transporting us safely through the vast hibernating waste lands of Siberia and delivering us onto the boarders of Russia and further.
As we moved up the platform it became clear that the trans-siberian railway was not merely a bucket list tick for tourists but was in fact still very much in practical use by the Russian citizens. Yellow eyed, grey faced, brown leather jacket wearing old boys, all gathered in circles of silence puffing away on their roll ups waiting for the call to board. They seemed to wear their lives quite openly in the blisters and calluses on their hands, clearly these were men of labour, off to mine the recently thawed ice desert which the generous Sun had now yielded the opportunity. Not men that should be envied but we somehow felt they deserved respect.
Moving up still further, the scene became reminiscent of the old film noir movies of the 1950’s, smoke pouring out over the platform, people bidding farewell to loved ones, white handkerchiefs waving in the air, it made us feel like we were truly doing something fantastical.
These were the 2nd class seated travellers, perhaps not going the whole hog but none the less the tears suggested a significant distance, either in space or time, between Moscow and their destination. I tried to remain philosophical and imagine all the goodbyes in the world and how they an essential part of new experiences… However as I lumbered up the platform I permitted a self-indulging memory to home and to the tears and words shed by loved ones who were missed.
We climbed aboard our 2nd class sleeper carriage and settled into our cabin (number 4) which, though could be seen as rather cramped, we found to be relatively cozy. We strategically placed all of our belongings around so as to maximize living space and minimise claustrophobia. This would be our home for the next few days. We joined in the waving, held out our handkerchiefs and the train jolted into motion. We were off.
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