Friday, June 8, 2007

Mirth on the Orient Express

The train I took from Moscow to St. Petersburg was something like the Orient Express. The train is a late-1950s Soviet model that is well maintained and appointed with an elaborate dining room, bar (obligatory), and sleeping cars. My compartment #4 in Car 3 of 19 had a satellite TV and wireless Internet access. The compartment was comfortable, complete with a shower and toilet perfect for an eight-hour overnight trip.

I can sleep deeply in beds, planes, ships, cars, on a park bench and all manner of trains – anywhere, anytime. I easily fell asleep shortly after boarding and slept soundly in my bunk for two hours. Then the train came to an abrupt stop in the Russian wilderness, and I was suddenly wide awake.

Even after the train got underway, I simply could not get back to sleep. I read, wrote and sent emails, blogged and suddenly it was 5:30 am. I needed a couple of hours of sleep in order to have a productive day in St. Petersburg.

The real drama occurred a few hours later. At 8:45 a.m. the porter overseeing my car pounded on my door, barking at me to wake up and leave. Springing into action, I stuffed my computer, shirt, pants, etc. into my bags. I threw on my khaki shorts, Black Duck polo shirt, and my loafers (I could not find my socks). Before you could say dasvidanya, I was standing on the train platform, blinking in the intense St. Petersburg sunlight.

The train car door slammed behind me, and I could hear the female porters seized in a round of laugher about me: the ridiculous American. Then I noticed the train was at the station and would leave in an hour for the return trip to Moscow.

As I walked towards the train station and the awaiting IBM town car, I checked my wallet and found it, but quickly determined my passport was missing. Dropping my bags, I ran back to Car 3’s door and starting slamming it in a panic. The door opened and I found the gaggle of female porters laughing uproariously in the first compartment. They had watched everything and had something additional to laugh about.

I quickly walked past them, recovered my passport from compartment #4, and headed back to my bags on the train platform, totally relieved and oblivious to the cackling porters.

Ah, travel. So enjoyable.

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