Note: Sorry the last few posts have been out of order. I don’t think it’s that hard to keep track of, but still, it’s poor form, if there is such a thing as form in blogging. I believe in you.

 

My inauspicious last day in Ekaterinburg took a steep decline when I got on the train and opened my compartment door to see a 10-year-old girl dabbing her nose with a crumpled tissue, and a woman wearing one of those masks you see in news reports about Beijing pollution. Some toxic-looking green liquid was sitting in the teaglass on the table next to some medicines and a box of antibacterial wet wipes. What’s more, whereas I was sure that I had booked a bottom bunk for this leg, the patients were occupying both bottom bunks, which meant that I had no table to eat at and would have to spend the entire 25 hours in bed. Perhaps this was for the better, though — I hoped that being up above them would keep some of the germs at bay.

A few minutes before the train left, the father came in, also sick, and laid his newspaper on the bunk opposite me,  deflating my “germs stay on the bottom level” theory. He brought with him a Boston terrier that would spend the remainder of the 25-hour trip in apparent gastric distress.
I came up with a couple of escape routes, but neither would pan out.  First, I asked the provodnitsa if there was an empty spot in another car, and she said there wasn’t. So I toughed it out for the night, doing my best not to breathe in the flu-and-dog-flatulence-scented air, until the morning, when I took off for the restaurant car exactly at opening time. I was unprepared for the junction between the two cars, which consisted of a few overlapping sheets of metal that flapped up and down and wiggled back and forth as the train moved. On either side through gaps big enough to fit a very unlucky person’s lower leg, I could see the snow-dusted railroad ties racing by. I conjured up an image of Yoshi and leapt across the death trap, finally taking a seat in the deserted restaurant car. Not thirty seconds had passed when I heard a voice.
Attendant: Devushka! (“Young lady,” standard form of address for any woman under the age of, say, 70)
Me: Da?
Attendant: What are you doing here?
Me: This is the restaurant car, isn’t it? I’m visiting the restaurant car.
Attendant: Well, what do you want?
Me (I had hoped to be able to just sit without ordering anything, as I have done on American trains and as Nathan has done on Russian ones): Could I have some tea?
Attendant: No, our tea’s expensive! 100 rubles–I mean 50 rubles!
note: I am not making this up. She literally wouldn’t sell me her own wares because they were priced too high. I can’t even…
 
Me: Well, can’t I just sit while no one’s here?
Attendant: No, you can’t “just sit.” Rolls eyes and walks away. 
 
So I returned to my car and spent the entire day watching Season 6 of Friends while trying to minimize cardiovascular activity.
When we finally arrived in Vologda around 10 PM, I sort of staggered-fell-catapulted off the train with my suitcase (which somehow got heavy again, even though I didn’t add anything…?) and high-tailed it to a pharmacy, where I encountered — you probably guessed it — a comically unhelpful pharmacist.
It was cold, but beautiful: especially under the bright lights at the station, the miniscule snow/ice particles glittered, evoking my favorite Russian poem, which I will attempt to translate a bit later.
Anyway. I dragged my bags down the road into town (in general, I find that it’s easier to just walk than to try to decipher the bus system of an unfamiliar Russian city), arriving at the hostel moments before my nose would have fallen off from the cold. The hostel was surprisingly normal–the first of its kind in Vologda, and for 400 rubles ($5.10) a night, I was thrilled with it. Nice central area, lots of books, knives and plates in the kitchen, and just one other person in my room. 2×2 Hostel– check it out if you’re ever in the area.
12
The next morning, I woke up early and allowed myself a few hours of wandering before hopping on the bus to Cherepovets. From then on, everything except my health was markedly better.
“Белеет ночь. Деревья сквера…”
Valeriy Yakovlevich Bryusev
The night was white. The trees in the square
Rose up above the mossy ground.
And there, beyond the rooftops, the chimaera-moon
Bathed the heights in light.
And in the phosphorescent glow
A pale world of wonders unfolded:
Houses stand like little carvings
The vaulted heavens hang like a curtain.
Like the decorations of fairies,
The trees stretch towards the moon.
And someone is standing in the deserted square,
Their hands raised on high. 
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