Only one more hour on the train, sitting opposite a man dying of congestive heart failure or pneumonia or TB or all of them. It’s been some delightful noises to listen to for the last six hours.
The train from Ekaterinburg to Perm is the Trans Siberian Railway from Novosibirsk to Moscow and it’s totally put me off doing any more of the journey. I hate him. The wife, who I think is called Olga, has been nice, once she realised I was a useless foreigner. I don’t have a seat, I have a bunk and mine is a top bunk. She showed me how to make the bed, how to get up and down, where to put my luggage and hopefully in just over half an hour, she’ll show me what to do with the bedding when I depart.
I slept on and off for the first two thirds of the journey. Getting the train at 6.44am meant being up at 5 – and then refusing to leave the apartment because it was too dark. I’ll walk around Moscow in the dark but Ekaterinburg is scarier. I waited until five to six, when civil twilight was well underway and the metro was definitely going to be open by the time I got there.
I arrived in time to get to platform 13, the furthest from the door, with enough time for Olga to have my bed mostly made by the time we started moving. I wasn’t at all sure about being stuck in a top bunk but I was tired and it was pretty comfortable. At our last stop, about an hour ago, Olga requested that I come down and sit on the seat, which means I’ve had views of birch forest and small villages and dying Russians. This is third class. I could probably have upgraded, given that my seven hour journey cost £14. It’s an open bunk carriage, blocks of four opposite two sideways. The bottom single sideways bunk turns into a table for two.
About half an hour before arriving at Perm, the provodnitsa, the woman in charge of our carriage, came round to tell us to get ready to go. That’s why they take your ticket when you board, so they know who’s disembarking when. Helpfully, Olga and her husband were also leaving at Perm so I copied what she did with the bedding and watched her fill in forms and consult passports and wondered if I should also be doing admin for getting off a long-distance train. They had a lot of paperwork with the name AMAKS at the top – a clinic in Perm? A new job? I decided that when I got to the hotel I’d look it up.
First job: which bus to take? Perm 2 station is a long way from the city centre, an hour and a half’s walk to my hotel. There were 6 or 8 buses but I had no idea where they were going, let alone where they stopped along the way. No idea where my local stop was either. This is why the metro is so much easier but Perm has no such thing. Eventually I got on a bus to Perm 1 station. That’s closer and I’d written out walking directions from there.
The last stop before Perm 1 was a hotel called AMAKS. Mystery solved already.
Perm 1 is by the river. It’s pretty and there’s a river station. A boat trip in my future? First, find the hotel. That was easier said than done. I was carrying two bags plus a bag of food. It was 2pm and the sun was brutal and I was still wearing the jumper I’d needed at 6am. I still hadn’t eaten and I’d been awake most of last night anyway. It was not optimal find-the-hotel conditions. Cross the railway. Can only be done in one direction and I started in the wrong one. Forget the instructions, just walk towards the blue dot I marked on my phone yesterday. It seemed i could cut corners. There was a park to my left. Surely the hotel was in the opposite corner of the park? I could walk through it. And I could sit down and take off the jumper. So I did, discovering at the same time that three goats live in the little park, pestering people for food and standing up on their back legs to eat the trees. Very good. A park with goats and a nice river – Perm had already beaten Ekaterinburg.
But then it turned out that this wasn’t the park on the map. The park on the map was a giant cemetery and there was no way round it, through it or past it. I tried. Dead ends everywhere. Yeah, dead. I raged. Loudly. But there was no way. I had to return to the main road and start again. It took an hour and three quarters from Perm 1. If you remember, that’s longer than it would have taken from Perm 2.
I didn’t do much for the rest of the day. Ate. First food in twenty hours. Had a very much needed shower – not as good as the big jacuzzi I left behind but never mind. Slept. Enjoyed being in a hotel, with people downstairs who speak English.