That we “started” our traveling by flying to Vilnius, then catching buses to Riga and then Tallinn, wasn’t really the beginning of the trip. The start for me was always Russia.
When we first began noodling this over and wondered where we would go, we contemplated “Lets just fly to Bangkok and go from there”. And every time it rains (and it has already rained a lot!), something doesn’t go quite right or something is ridiculously expensive this gets sung out by either one of us.
It was Russia though that grabbed my imagination. Ever since the sixth form and Russian History, I’ve wanted to go to St Petersburg, and once we started talking about a trip through Russia it all fell into place for me.
So getting to Russia (after all the visa palaver) started at the train station in Tallinn. Buying tickets in Estonian, the ticket seller laughed when we asked for third class, and said “no”, and we had to settle for second class.
Promised wifi and a buffet car by GoRail, who operate the route from Tallinn to St Petersburg, we took no chances and stocked up on lunch from the supermarket at the station. I managed to throw the hot coffee all over the station floor, missing all present persons, myself included.
And then we were on the station, getting onto the train. Getting into an empty carriage. On the two worst seats in the empty carriage. Middle of the carriage, no window, facing backwards. We moved once it became apparent there was no one else boarding. And cursed the “friendly”ticket seller.
No wifi for us, but the light you can see through the train doors? That’s decades ahead of our carriage (even thought it was behind us). It’s new, its got wifi, its got a buffet, its got tables, its first class and yes it was built in a completely different decade. Welcome to $50 a day!
In traveling from Estonia to Russia we’re moving currency and language and even alphabet. Our challenges with the “friendly” Estonian ticket seller were probably the best it was going to get. So that means we had some Euro’s to divest. Notes we could change, but coins, had to go.
Anxiety crept in as we rattled and rolled closer to the Russian border. Was the fact that my visa was on the facing page to the Mongolian visa going to be a problem? What happened if they didn’t let us in? Was this rain really going to follow us everywhere?
And then, after a short stop at the Estonian border, over the river and we were there. Russia. A bag check (open it up, pull out a few clothes, put them back in), a couple of border agents disappearing with passports and returning 20 minutes later with a migration card, a curt “Goodbye” and we were done. Trundling onwards into St Petersburg.
For about 10 minutes. Which was 30 minutes too little to get to the hostel. But we made it, we got started. Finally.