Lets start with what I thought the trip would be like:
We, Michael, myself and Denis and his wife would enjoy a leisurely comfortable trip in our own luxury compartment riding through the night to Kiev. Like something out of the movie Dr, Zhivago, and Harry Potter. As we start our journey from a quaint white pillared country station in Simferpol, in a old European passenger train. We immerse ourselves in the bustle of the local market place, the hustle of taxis and other family’s starting a journey on a cool November evening, warm and happy with full stomachs from our early supper at the McDonald’s that is across the street from Kiev, perhaps we would enjoy some hot mint tea or coffee from a café while we waited to board our train.
Hmm that is not the Ukrainian way,
Michael and I awake as we usually do, with a cup of tea and coffee, while Michael takes a bath, I wake up slowly and think about what needs to be done to get ready for our trip.
Our train does not leave until 4ish we plan on being picked up by Denis and his wife by taxis by 330 pm at the latest. We are going to have “plenty of time” I thought to myself.
Michael phones me around noon, and says can you get dressed Denis and his wife want to go shopping , “we can pick up boots and a sweater for you and we can look at getting a pair of jeans for me”. Denis and his wife will be waiting downstairs and I prepare a few things for the journey throw a few essentials in a bag, and in my purse, instructions for clinic, our passports, and other stuff
The shopping trip should not take long, for me to come home and pack. Of course we end up later at the market then expected but as long as we are at the train by 4 pm we are going to have “plenty of time”
After an hour of shopping we stopped to have lunch, Michael begins to get concerned about the time . well to our chagrin , Denis had thought we would go back to our apartment and pick up our bags and go straight to his house. in a typical Ukrainian fashion this was on a need to know basis
Michael decides that since its now 3pm we do not have time to drive home to our apartment and then go to Denis ‘s house so Michael will go to our apartment and pack our things and we will then pick him up by taxi on the way to the train station.
Okay still “plenty of time”
Unbeknownst to Michael, Denis and Natalie have not finished their shopping , We left the central market at 3:17 pm , the taxi was supposed to pick us up at 3:30 pm from their house.
Okay I’m sitting in the car thinking , hmm “PLENTY OF TIME “ all we have to do is go to their place and pack, Now the reason I’m with Denis and Natalie is they have decided I do not have a proper coat and they have one at home for me to wear.
We arrive at Denis’s home and Natalie runs up stairs to wash her hair, I’m thinking she doesn’t have time , maybe she’s go to Kiev with wet hair, Her mother brings me over to the closet and shows me ‘THE COAT”
“ A FUR COAT” I think to myself “OH MY GOD they have shot SMOKEY THE BEAR AND HE’S HANGING IN THE CLOSET” well the coat is huge and I stand there with a smile plastered on my face and think “ I can do this it will be like the kids in Narnia, the kids put on fur coats from the wardrobe .
What fun ”I m mean I am in Russian, when in Rome” I’ve seen a lot of fashionable beautiful fur coats since I have arrived, “This is not one of them”
This coat is a Russian classic, I think they wore this type of coat in Dr Zhivago, or maybe that was only the men. Its Dark, huge and black, my romantic fantasies of Russian are quickly disappearing. This thing belongs on the shoulders of invading army.
Okay be polite at least try the coat on for appearance sake, I think I can do that until I step closer. That is until I smell the coat, one amazing result from increased hormones during pregnancy is a increased sense of smell. Something had died in this closet , ohh it was the coat , it smelled like a cross between wet dog (I don’t know what species of dog).combined with and wet rug . I took a big step back
I begin to suspect that they do not uses moth balls in Russia, and this is Natalie’s mother coat , so I guessed the coats age could have been between thirty and fifty years old. “ the bear” who gave his life must have been huge. The coat is floor length a sweeping thing, with huge shoulders, and then the piece doe resistance a huge furry collar , something I had seen on almost every winter coat we passed in recent days.
I some how mumble that I think I might not be able to wear the fur coat, panicking thinking Ukrainian hospitality would compel them to insist I wear the coat. I think I would need my own train car to wear the thing, How would I walk in it?
“its too nice, too heavy, too furry , “ I race to think of an appropriate polite response umm lucky for me behind “ THE FUR BEAST” on a hanger was a lovely sheared wool winter coat which I took out of the closet. Natalie immediately offered this one instead to which I gratefully said yes.
Whew, okay all I need to do now is sit tight and wait for the taxi,
Well time has passed a lot of time, the taxi is late I think, I’m not sure , I don’t have a watch and I only hear Russian, but finally we are off in the taxi,
“I’M THINKING WE ARE OUT OF TIME”
A rapid volley of Russian is going on in the front seat between Natalie and the driver and Denis.
Denis has arranged or his father to pick Michael up from the apartment to meet us at the train.
Now we go to Michael’s story.
Michael gets a frantic call form Denis , “Michael my father is waiting downstairs in a BLUE TOYOTA” Michael a little upset does not understand why he was not told to go down and be waiting for his father .He had time to clean the bathroom, the kitchen, pack, and burn cd’s while waiting for the train he suspected left around 4ish .
Michael finds the Toyota and gets in and starts to introduce himself to the distinguished looking gentlemen with a ear pod cell phone piece in his ear , who looks like a an extra from the “Bourne Identity” who is his driver
“NO TIME” shouts the driver and Michel is on the journey of his life away from the apartment , imagine any foreign film you have ever seen where there is a muddy car chase. dashing down back alleys, the blue Honda making amazing maneuvers in an out between cars ,completing a strange steeple chaise as his Driver drives like a mad man through pot hole ridden lanes and narrow streets, at the same time driving the car with one alarming noticeable quirk.
Michael had never been scared driving before he was today. Denis father is an orthodox roman catholic, so as they pass every church, Denis father made the sign of the cross, the only problem with this is he’s driving at this time. Michael thought he was doing this because he knows he’s going to die turns out this is the normal way Ukrainians drive.
When Michael gets nervous or in fear for his life he likes to talk. As the Toyota is momentarily slowed to a stop behind a big truck, Michael points and says “ DRIVES LIKE A WOMEN” Denis father thinks this is hilarious, pounds the wheel, laughs and drives the car up onto the curb and around the trunk and make the turn onto the highway.
Michael asks when the train leaves and Denis’ father says “10 minutes ago” Michael has stopped to take a breath and realizes he’s not going to the train station and wonders ‘WHERE ARE WE GOING AND WHAT ABOUT THE TRAIN” as his driver points to another driver he has cut off and merged in front of “ WOMEN “ as he cackles and laughs manically .
Meanwhile < I too am thinking to myself as “WHERE ARE WE GOING AND WHAT ABOUT THE TRAIN” as we too have pulled off to the side of the highway. And Denis and the driver have gotten out to have a smoke. Well as its it’s seems that it’s a Russian thing not to say more than is necessary, Natalie fills me in, :
“Don’t worry this is normal, we missed the train ,we are going to drive 100 km in dark to the next station, Michael is going to be dropped off by Denis father.
Okay does everyone remember there math skills
Take an old Russian Fiat that starts out traveling from Simferpol sitting by the highway 10 minutes late for the train, add 12 minutes for Michael to meet up with us on the side of the highway. and add the Russian Train that has left the station on time. “ I HATE MATH WORD PROBLEMS”
I cannot describe the hour long trip in the detail it deserves , the sensation of pins and needles ,the death grip I had on the car seat , the horrible view I had sitting behind the driver , seeing him pass all cars by pulling out head on into traffic.
An amazing 50 minutes later we arrive at the next station, and run down to the platform with a good 3 minutes to spare, we literally run down the platform hitting train car door windows waiting for someone to open up a door, Denis runs off the platform and down the track to another car train door, Natalie looks kind of funny reaching up and tapping the window the windows with her long umbrella handle. I wonder what we would have done if we did not have that umbrella. Finally someone looks out and opens the door and puts down the steps, after a rapid exchange of Russian we get on the train
As we settle in to our car and our porter brings us our hot cups of tea with slices of lemon and sugar .the start of the train trip is never mentioned again it’s the Russian way.
The Ultrasound was so amazingly normal. The place we went to ISIDA is the first private obstetrics and genealogical hospital in the Ukraine specializing in IVF .
You can see links to our new little one, at http://erdnase2000.livejournal.com/16674.html
Everything was normal, I roughly around 14 weeks and they said I should see a doctor when I get home.
The afternoon was pleasantly spent looking at tourist souvenirs , with Michael being pestered by surprising aggressive vendors. “MY FRIEND , I HAVE WHAT YOU WANT,” “MY FRIEND THE BEST SELECION IN KIEV” MY FRIEND WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIG FOR”
You would be amazed at how easier it is to start a train journey in the Ukraine at the actually station. such a difference to just settle in to your own private compartment <,
I must describe what it’s like to travel by train.
.Its seems the custom that once you settle in to your car you must at once, order hot tea with lemon slices or hot coffee from the porter, I notice other families and groups seemed like they have brought meals from home. Glasses and cutlery, bottles of vodka and wine. , pickles, cheeses, sausage, whole chickens to eat.
I think privately hmm they must not like traveling in the normal way, they don’t look like they have just driven for an hour and then jogged the length of the platform to get on the train. “Very suspicious, maybe they are not Russian”
You are provided with tissue paper, a towel , a two sheets, a pillow case , pillow a mattress pad and a blanket, Not just any blanket a 2 inch thick heavy brown itchy wool blanket. Lucky we have the sheets.
Russian etiquette requires you to wear a towel around your neck to indicate that you a waiting for the bathroom, which you are only allowed to use while the train is moving, I ask Michael to go with me every time , visions of myself trying not to fall into the stainless steel bowl as the train hurtles down the track. Oh I will never forget the washrooms or the smell.
We had thought the first day that the train did not have running water as the taps seemed to soldered shut, turned out there is a weird little button you pull forward for a tiny trickle of water. Water which you are not supposed to drink. Our Russians friends thought this was hilarious, thinking we where silly.
We went to the dining car each night to have dinner, the food menu filled two pages the drink menu four pages. As we sat down next to a table of full of Russians who could only have been drinking for 20 minutes, since the train had left the station, but somehow looked like they had been drinking for three days
As we wobbled down the narrow aisle Michael almost fell into their table and into the blond sitting there. Michael could only stare at the blond vision of “cleavage” um “ loveliness before him.
We quickly sat down before the blonde’s boyfriend hit him, but they where completely oblivious to all around them, we chuckled at the party, wow they are drinking a lot of vodka, I privately thought “I PITY THE PEOPLE INEXT TO THEM ON THE TRAIN”
Despite the short menu dinner was good, they have a custom that if you ask for an orange or apple they cut it up and serve the fruit sliced for you on a plate.
I loved that .
We made our happy way back to our compartment, only to find out that our drunken Russian friends where our neighbors. The Russian stamina is amazing and I’m not talking about drinking , I think our Russian friend by himself was able to flirt with every women on the train, myself included.
After finding out we spoke no Russian , he would smile and nod at Michael and say “ WELCOME TO THE USSR” and every time I walked by to go to the bathroom he would give me a lavicious wink and say in a heavy Russian accent ‘ BEAUTIFUL WOMEN”
.“ITS GOING TO BE A LONG NIGHT”
So we listened to Ukrainian radio that plays non-stop and listened to the Russians silly drunken conversations which Natalie happily translated
“YOU ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN … ON THE TRAIN” our Russian friend qualified
‘LET ME SHOW YOU HOW TO KISS”
“LET ME KISS YOU BETWEEN THE CARS” who said romance is dead
the Russian never gave up he flirted and got shot down and rejected for hours its was quite amazing to watch. .
Its was hilarious ,we played cards until 11 pm when its mandatory for the main compartment lights to go out. . as our we listened to the clickety clack , clickety clack we tucked ourselves in under our itchy blankets and tried to sleep perchance to dream to snatch a few minutes of rest.
That is until the next station or track change when the train would list alarmingly and you would feel like you where about to fall out of your bunk, or the way you fight to breath against the constant stream of European cigarette smoke drifting in from the hallway, or the way you try to ignore the steady pounding of the old porters stomping footsteps.
I will never forget the Romance of traveling by train, its something everyone should enjoy at least once.
So I hope you all have enjoyed living vicariously in the Ukraine , until my next post