The train was due in at 16:00. So it didn’t matter when I woke, or when I got, up. Nor, having woken, did I have to worry about maid service needing to get in or anything similar. My roommates had been replaced in the night. The couple got off around 10.30, and the other lady around 11.30, replaced by another lady on her own. When I woke in the middle of the night it was to grandpa and granddaughter settling in. He became my friend by virtue of his discovering and using the light switch. All dark, all ahead. Apparently it was quite a long stop, so I must have slept through most of it.
Knowing I was getting off later meant I had time to worry, and check several times, that I had my timings right. How would I know if they were running two hours late and announced it? In the event, the carriage monitor wandered down, checking bedding was all rolled away just before the stop, so I guess that’s how. We were on time, of course, just as well as my plan to get through the day on the second of my naked goods picked at random and water was right up against its limits, and I was holding out for emergency coke and snickers. Then maybe a run the other end.
That never happened. The hostel picked itself, I had to stay there, partly because it is new and in an apartment, partly for it being called ‘omnomnom’. If you say that to me I will downgrade you to ‘dim friend’ but it seems I find it amusing in Russia. The directions were excellent, just three stops on the little metro-three short lines of 9/10 stops make up the entirety of it-which is just 23 rub per ride, as against 30 in Moscow (itself a bargain-50r to the pound, and a ride can be as long as you want). I’d stopped in the station for that cole, though the can picked up on the sense of emergency and came bursting from the top, excited to meet my shirt and anything else in the world it could. I got to the hostel further unscathed, to find one other guest, Ciaran, another Englishman. He’d been on the same train, in fact, making it there more quickly by virtue of better and quicker reading of Russian. I’ve lost another two hours, so while it was 5 in Moscow it was 7pm here, and time we headed out for a drink. Ciaran did some quick research and we headed in search of a pub, which couldn’t have been more anglicised, then to the restaurant they recommended. Turned out everyone else recommended it, too-full. We went next door for a Georgian bread/cheese/egg cooking on top starter and meat main. The youngsters at the next table seemed curious about us and we found out why-once they’d finished their spokesgirl, who teaches English, said they were going dancing and we were welcome to join them as we had finished.
So we did. Night time in Yekaterinburg, and the young take a sound system and themselves to the waterfront, with city lights reflecting on the water and, by special request, two Englishmen making a right mess of the basic steps, let alone their attempts at the sombrero. Fun, free and sober, and we even moved along the front a little to hear Grecia play his guitar. And to make a mess of a few more steps. One of the dancers who could, Alexei (I’ve also ticked off an Andrei, Vassiliy and Natacha, not too many more in the big book of great Russian names to go), who buys and sells heavy machinery, gave us a lift home. “How do you know what counts as heavy machinery?” I didn’t ask, “try and lift it” he might have said.
Yekaterinburg already seems like a more manageable size, and less intimidating a city than others, so mission part accomplished on the ‘see more of Russia’ front. As we wandered through the centre we even found men playing chess on the front. One had a beard, perhaps 50% under the level you might want in that picture, but still a satisfactory level of Russianness.
Distance to Moscow: 1818km Reading: don Quixote, dr futurity, pk dick.