A lyrical look at the Trans-Siberian
04.10.2012 12 °C
We are strangers in a strange land yet no one is a stranger to us. A bevy of friendly folk wordlessly enfold and guide us to our train and our seats. Olga and Valeri sit opposite and happily dredge their minds for long-forgotten English. Corridor strollers stop to share sparse words. But no one scowls - we know we are welcome.
We race the seasons, speeding eastwards on the slow train to Siberia. Gilded mantles of a million silver birch, awaiting winter's hoary hand, glint golden in the autumn sun. Scarlet shrubs burst briefly into flame amidst the slender birch as they march relentlessly past, and then the scene shifts as a stand of lofty spruce spin our thoughts home to our evergreen island. Soon the endless auric army of birch takes back the landscape and will be our constant travelling companions across this majestic land.
In six thousand kilometeres, five days and nights, unhurried by man or the moon, the train will reach Lake Baikal. One day soon we too will pass that way, but ours is a journey defined by time not distance. We have time to meet and greet, to stand and stare, to taste the food and to smell the vodka.
Suzdal, the ancient capital of Russia, neglected and bypassed by the rails, lies like a ship marooned in a verdant sea of cornfields and a bus will be our tender from the train. But which bus? Where? How?
Smiling Olga, with her sweet round face and the biceps of a shot-putter, strongarms a wispy fellow to guide us. His wiry frame belies his strength and he hefts Sheila's bag and drags us in his wake. Across roads, up stairs, through buildings - effortlessly and uncomplainingly he guides us to our bus.
Suzdal is in sight, but we are lost. Which hotel? Where? How? We search the bus for an angel with a smattering of English and find the face of an eight year old. She doesn't know, but is not shy to ask. Suggestions, directions, opinions fly around; walk this way or that; take this bus or that. We now have more than thirty strangers pulling for us. But we are not strangers to them: we are just friends coming for a visit. We feel completely at home.
The rooftops of Suzdal