The Night Train to Russia
Jan 31, 1996
We were stopped at the Russian border on our way to St. Petersburg. It was just after 1:00am when the knock came on our cabin door. Ellen was sleeping like a baby; I had just nervously finished reading page 278 of The Horse Whisperer for the third or maybe fifth time.
"Passports." demanded the khaki uniformed customs man as I opened the door. Another officer motioned us up and into the corner of our cabin as he looked under the beds at our knapsacks.
Then without a word he climbed to the upper berth,- it was a four bed cabin - pulled a screwdriver from his pocket and began disassembling the wall and ceiling panels. Once the covers were removed out came a flashlight and mirror. He then started looking into the darkened nooks and crannies, in search of the spot where Ellen and I would most likely have stowed our drugs, child pornography, or whatever we were suspected of smuggling into Russia. Two other officers watched intently as the one up top with the wall and ceiling tools went about his work. After twenty minutes or so of futile search he screwed all the panels back on and climbed down. Then he and his two comrades simply walked off.
At 2:00am the train started moving again. Outside the night was cold and bleak. A mist hung in the air. We were in mother Russia.
Countless stories have been written and movies made with the night train as a backdrop. For me it's a romantic adventure, hurtling through the night from one town that I've just gotten used to, to another that promises to be more exciting, or sometimes scarier than the one I've just left.