Jamie always accuses me of getting into conversations with every stranger I meet and there’s some truth to it. OK, there’s a lot of truth to it.
In this case, as soon as we boarded the train in Moscow and put our suitcases in our compartment, I walked down the hall and introduced myself to the only other people in the car.
Lars and Denise are a young couple from Germany. She’s a air traffic controller and he travels the world working for Nokia. Her mother is Polish, her father came from Zaire, she was born in Poland, but grew up in Germany. She speaks Polish, German, a little Russian and they both speak English with just a touch of an accent.
We usually end up hanging out with them on the platform at every stop and Denise occasionally helps translate our conversations with Rustam, the attendant in our car.
We stopped at some unknown, unmemorable city this morning and as soon as we stepped off onto the platform Lars said, “This looks like a big station. Let’s see if we can find you an ATM or a currency exchange.”
Denise and Jamie looked horrified, but we tore down the stairs and into the main terminal. We saw no ATM machines, so Lars said, “Let’s see if we can find one outside.”
Out we went, across the parking lot toward an official looking building. I opened the door and a group of women with curlers in their hair stared at me like I was from another planet. It was a beauty salon. We quickly walked to the other side of the huge parking lot and still couldn’t find what we needed. Lars and I agreed that we could probably find one just down the street, but time was running out so we hurried back to our train (much to Jamie’s and Denise’s relief).
Oh, well, I really appreciated Lars’ efforts. He’s even offered to lend us money, but I’ve assured him that we won’t need it.
Denise and Lars are on a three week vacation and this trip has been her dream since she was a child. Their route is slightly different than ours. They’re getting off the train tomorrow night in Irkutsk and then spending three days with a Russian family in Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake and the only real tourist attraction out in this neck of the woods. Then they’ll catch the next Trans-Siberian train down through Mongolia and on to Beijing.
Our train, on the other hand, bypasses Mongolia but goes through Manchuria on its way to the Chinese capital.
They’re very nice people. We like them a lot and we’ll miss them when they get off the train tomorrow night.