The day has arrived! We are finally leaving Uzbekistan! Who would have thought we would be so happy to return to Russia? We feel a little bit like traitors to our country (obviously not as much as our government heyooo) but we really loved Russia and the thought of soon returning to a more modern place is exciting! But first we have to get through this train journey, crossing two borders. First we will go back through Kazakhstan, around the north part of the Caspian Sea (maybe we will see Ursula!), and then into Russia to Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad. They changed the name from honoring the scary man to honoring the river! I like! What I don’t like is that this will be our second longest train journey of the entire epic adventure, and I believe our third longest ever. Two nights and parts of three different days! Ahhh! Luckily we bought the entire 4-person cabin so we can relax without scary strangers.
We boarded the train and made our way to our cabin, holding our four tickets for beds #5, 6, 7 and 8. Remember in China how we often had to kick someone out when they were in the wrong place? Well, gird your loins, because not only did we have to kick someone out again, we had to kick FOUR someones out. People were laying on every single one of the beds in the cabin we booked out. Are you FLIPPING kidding me. We got the conductor and explained that they were in our beds. He appeared to be mute. He went into the next few cabins and started counting spare beds, looking for spots where we could go. Hell no! I yelled out to him in Russian explaining that we bought all four beds you fat dink! Ahhh such bullshit! Finally it clicked for him and the four people moved into the next cabins. Like FFS why would you not go to the places you had tickets for? Why are PEOPLE?! Did they not have tickets in the first place, maybe? Why is everything such bullshit?
So this was quite the start to the next three days. Man alive. The toilets were disgusting, as expected. I am so pumped to get to Europe, I really can’t wait. I am counting the minutes…which isn’t very efficient because there are too many minutes so I guess I am counting the days. We have three left. Sure the third day is just a baby sized bit of it but what if we experience delays?! I have to be ready for that. Oh my god please don’t let there be delays. Remember our 11-hour delay from Urumqi to Kashgar? No don’t think about that. Think happy thoughts! Everyone who voted for Brexit should be forced to ride Uzbek trains for weeks so they can experience the unmatched joy that the mere thought of being in Europe will bring. (But they should get stranded in Uzbekistan FOREVER. Europe was too good for you asshats? THEN YOU DON’T GET TO GO.)
The mute conductor keeps making funny faces at us, which I don’t really understand, maybe he is trying to apologize for the trouble with the four lunatics who don’t know how to use trains? No that can’t be it. Maybe he is making fun of us. Cool game bro.
At this point, we hadn’t really slept more than an hour so we slept till about 11am. Then we made ramen for lunch with our little emergency stash that we could finally burn through (back to civilization means back to guaranteed food for me!), adding braised canned tofu from the Marigold brand, which was actually really good! This was my favorite meal in days!
Oh man I have such a headache and I’m so nauseous why! I hope it’s not from my bulk pretzels from Nukus. Pretzels would never betray me right? Even ones that are out in uncovered bulk bins?
Okay so the conductor omg we saw him talking to someone! He is not mute! He just refuses to talk to us! What the hell man! Now we don’t know if he’s just being rude to us or if he is just frugal with his words. This is so f-ing weird.
The next car over is the restaurant car, so I went to explore. It was dire. There’s no menu; I asked the cook what they had and she said plov. That’s it, just plov. The cast of characters sitting among the booths looks the same as in our sleeping car, down to the old man at the far end wearing a smelly white tank top and not much else.
After an afternoon of reading, we crossed the Ural River – meaning we were officially (maybe? how does it work?) back in Europe! For the first time in almost three months, since we left Yekaterinburg! Omg! We did a little dance.
To celebrate our imminent return to Russia, we made kasha with the boiling water from the samovar, to mix with the jar of tomato sauce with mushrooms and beans, the jar we had been carrying since, well, since Yekaterinburg actually! So we had this emergency food jar keeping us company/adding pounds to the bags for literally all of Asia! That’s ridiculous. It was really good too!
Oh I know why! It’s because every single guard on duty wanted to come into our cabin and ask us about America!! Every single one, I’m not joking, came in, sat down, and asked us what state we were from. They didn’t believe me that I was from Pennsylvania, because they didn’t believe that Pennsylvania was a real word. One kept saying ‘No…Washington D.C. or New York??” and I was like listen Joe, there are more places in the USA than D.C. and NYC. And Joe (not his name) would look confused and then repeat “Washington D.C. or New York!” and I would say Pennsylvania! And he would be like ughhhh that’s not what I mean! I mean what state are you from! I eventually pointed to where it says Pennsylvania in my passport and he actually got angry.
We were done with the border business in less than an hour, so this is just incredibly stupid to be waiting here for three extra hours. The train men are sleeping in their cabin. After almost two hours of that 4 ½ hour stop, I couldn’t take it anymore and I asked mute/nonmute conductor to open the toilet. He laughed and said ‘not for four hours’ and I was like, listen this is not funny, you lied to us about not being able to speak, so unless you want to talk about how I’m going to pee on the floor, you will open this.” He opened it and said ‘bistro bistro!’ which means fast, and I realized that no one else had used the bathroom in almost 2 ½ hours! What are people!!
I listened to music for the next two hours, not able to concentrate on reading when my brain is so anxious, and then I couldn’t wait again and went to the toilet and praise jebus, it was still open from the last time! The guards are outside having conversations over the loudspeakers. At first we thought it was kind of funny and we were imitating what we thought they were saying in a most hilarious skit, but now it’s annoying because this is an insane waste of time.
We finally left, we finally entered Russia, and we finally got to sleep. The next morning, we landed in Volgograd. We said goodbye to the possibly funny, possibly really mean and rude non-mute conductor. We were super smelly, exhausted, hot, thirsty, and so excited to be reunited with the motherland. We have a lot of trains left but none would be quite like the central Asian horrors of the past few months, so this might be the last entry I need to write in the baby laptop diary. I hope you enjoyed our time together.