An authentic vodka train experience
Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
228Trip End Ongoing
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cured fish with two Russian oil workers. The policeman in Carl’s cabin had got
off early in the morning and been replaced by Michaili and ‘Bob’( AKA Vladimir)
– who were returning from Omsk where they had been trying to intice the natural
history museum to show financial interest in the mamouth tusk that Bob had dug
up from 14meters under his garden. What he was doing 14m under his back yard we
were at a loss to ascertain and the question seemed facile when repeated. They
promtly renamed Carl Nikholai, stuffed borscht and cream cheese paninis doxn his
throat and gave him his first shot of the clear stuff at about 3pm. Tom and I
joined them at about 9 - abandoning Sophie and Beth just as they proposed a
civilised game of French Snap – and tucked into the fish, ripping chunks from
the scaley skin with our teeth.
Nickholai was holding his own and by 2 Bob was looking a defeated man. There had
been complaints about our noise from those trying to sleep in the next
compartment and Bob and Michaili were obliged to fill out forms – the exact
purpose of which we were again unable to ascertain.
Shortly after we made a scheduled stop and a sweet old babushka with a kindly
smile joined Carl’s cabin, claiming the remaining spare berth. She waited
patiently with her serene smile whilst we drunkenly argued the same point – that
Carl should relinquish his bottom bunk for the old lady and move his stuff up
At this moment Sophie, the French girl from 3rd class, appeared, accepting our
earlier offer to join us for an evening drink. Loud and confused, rolling with
the train and stinking of smoked fish, xe bundled ourselves back into our
compartment, waking up the disgruntled Beth and Sophie.
The train was still stationary and Carl was loudly and very drunkedly
rearranging his bedding next door, the barbushka patiently smiling on from the
corridor. At this point the doors at the end of the carriage opened and, with an
officious silence sweeping before them, two policemen with high-brimmed caps
strode heavy-booted down the corridor. As they passed our cabin French Sophie
made the mistake of sliding the door across which only drew their attention and
the larger of the two stuck his tinted glasses in. His peer spotted the cans of
beer in our hands and he said something sternly.
Apparently, whilst vodka is not permitted on Russian trains, beer is just bad
for you. Either that or the particular brand – Baltika 3 – that we were sporting
was not a wise choice. Bob had been telling us all evening that it was “No Good!
Headache in morning” as he poured out another round of shots.
We silently put the beers down and the authorities lef tus be, moving on to
interrogate our carriage warden as to the cause of the earlier disruption.
We finished our Baltikas, French Sophie left us, Carl went next door and climbed
into his bunk above the babushka, Beth scowled and continued to read her book
whilst Tom and I crashed out on our beds and started to snore.
Apparently about an hour later, so Beth & Sophie told us in the morning having
not been able to get back to sleep, the train made an unscheduled stop. The
platform was entirely empty bar two policemen waiting in the darkness. They
approached only our carriage and a single brown envelope was handed down to
What did it contain? we mused in the morning. The forms Bob & Michaili had been
forced to fill out? Or did it contain a piece of paper on which was written the
single word – NIKHOLAI.