Oh my! I am surprised to find a man sleeping in my compartment when I board my train to Irkutsk at 3:50 am. I had sole occupancy on the first leg of my journey and thought that the single supplement fee I paid included my train accommodation. First class berth is a double, my single supplement only applies to hotel rooms. I should have purchased two tickets to have exclusive use, which I didn’t figure out beforehand. Hmm, this will be an adventure, I better brace myself.
The provodnista is nice. She switches on the reading light on my side of the compartment and helps me get settled. The man across me rolls over in his bunk with a grunt and ignores the intrusion. I do not pack my pajama in my overnight satchel as I assume I will be alone, oh well. I pull off my clothes and slip under the covers in my underwear. The provodnista tells me he is getting off in Omsk, 6 hours away. I am half asleep when he gets off. I don’t even see his face. I get up and rearrange my things and finally I am alone. At 11 am a young man in a business suit gets on and occupies the vacated bunk. He speaks a little English, that is welcomed. He is getting off at Krasnoyarsk. That means he’ll be with me overnight. He only responds to my initiative in conversation. After I find out that he is a salesman of some heavy equipment manufactured in China, and lives outside of Moscow, but travels regularly to the industrial centers in Siberia I leave him alone. He isn’t curious about anything or me at all. I feel snubbed! He is at his smartphone the rest of the day. I guess he is working while on the rails. I have a late lunch in the dining car and read until bedtime. Thankfully, he does not exude armpit odor when he settles under covers in his t-shirt and briefs. When he disembarks the next day, he wishes me safe travels. He didn’t snub me after all. Russians are taciturn.Then a short, jolly, round Russian comes on board to replace him. He beams at me and speaks as if I understand him. I don’t think he understands me either, but he keeps the prattle. He is a veteran rider. He asks me to step outside, while he changes into comfortable loose clothing and slippers. And he continues talking to me. I gather he has visited New York and Miami and Disneyworld. He shows me pictures of his mother, daughter and granddaughter. He doesn’t show me a picture of his wife until much later. He is getting off at the Manchurian border, in Chita, after Irkutsk. Groan! He gets off the train at each stop to smoke and buy food, and keeps offering me. I accept a banana to respect the custom of sharing food on the train. I sigh relief when night comes, but that is worse. He snores like the roar of Niagara Falls with quivering hisses and expulsion of air. To add to the cacophony the guy in the next compartment joins the rumble. I am tempted to pour the bottle of water on him. But I can sleep in the middle of a parade so I wake up the next morning with the provodnista knocking to announce that my station is coming up next. My jolly good fellow is giving me commentary on the scenery, and telling me when to take photos. As the train comes to a stop he insists on carrying my luggage and endorses me to my tour transfer guy. In retelling this tale, I will summarize that I slept with three men in one night on the train.