Trans-Siberian Railway: Irkutsk to Moscow

Tonight I leave for Moscow. Eighty-two hours on the train, I think. I wanted to treat myself to second-class travel but unfortunately the cabins were all booked. The only berths left were third-class, and not only that, but third-class up top. It will be like sleeping in a tiny cave with not even enough room to sit upright. In fact, it's not even close. I'd say you could get your upper torso at maybe a forty-five degree angle before you'd bump your head.

There are three bunks up top: two where you sleep with your head perpendicular to the window, and one where you are parallel to the train tracks. There were so few berths left on the whole train, I'm afraid I'll be sleeping parallel to the tracks. With more than 50 people packed into one train car, sleeping for days on end, it gets hot, but outside of course it is cold, so when you sleep parallel to the tracks you've got half your body constantly cold and the other half constantly too warm. I imagine you learn to rotate in your sleep like a pig at a roast.

In other weather news, I thought the temperatures might have reached positive today, but I checked and it's still five below zero, but for me it honestly felt a bit like springtime when I was outside.

I may not be comfortable for 80-plus hours but at least I'll have good snacks. I made sure to load up: coffee, bread, noodles, breakfast cakes, green tea, candy, five liters of water, dried fruits and nuts, and even some instant mashed potatoes, which I've heard are more than edible when judged by train-food standards.

I also bought some new flip-flops for the train. My old flip-flops broke. I have learned not to take Chinese markets for granted, and I wonder if every city in every country has its own Chinese market. I've so far replaced my flip-flops and gloves, both at different Chinese markets in different Russian cities, and the prices always remind me that the Chinese maybe need to pay higher wages (although to be fair, my new flip-flops are stamped, MADE IN RUSSIA.

I stepped on a nail while trying on the flip-flops. It wasn't exactly rusty but it wasn't exactly clean. Either way it made me grateful to have gotten my tetanus shot, and even so I made sure to clean it with warm soapy water and dab some disinfectant cream on it. There was a Russian who heard me grunt and make a face when I removed the nail and threw it on the ground, and with hand signals he effectively communicated that the Chinese man had dick for brains. The Chinese vendor chased him away with a wooden stick, and when I saw the Russian later, while exiting the market, we both laughed and bumped fists. It was to date my friendliest encounter with a Russian stranger.

(I forgot to mention that it was the Chinese man who handed me the flip-flops with a nail already sticking through the bottom. It's not as though I stepped on a nail already on the street; the guy puts nails through the bottoms of all his flip-flops so he can hang them more easily.)