Of Provodnitsas and Samovars

Of Provodnitsas and Samovars
Valday, Russia

Valday, Russia

Dog box to Moscow tonight. So far I’m sharing with a shy young non-English speaking student. The large wagon-matron, the provodnitsa, is already sternly calling the shots clearing the train of non-ticket holders. Mid evening and the fluffy seeds make the sunbeams casting across the tracks move like gimlet-coloured polyp-filled water columns.

The provodnitsa tends the hot water machine, the samovar, and I hear the endless tinkling of cups of tea being prepared emanating from said matron’s cabin.

I’ve just had a canned pint of Baltica. And as the long northern twilight began to produce its entire northern horizon explosion of pastel greys, blues and pinks I emerged from the dog box to take a photo from the corridor window. The young lass in number 7 had the same idea and it seemed we’d emerged in perfect synchronicity to photograph the same scene.

My fellow dog box companion is snoring soundly just centimetres from me. Like ships in the night we rush past north bound trains. Tw beech, oak and confer forests are interspersed with low shrub lands surrounding marshes and small lakes. Occasionally in towns and in industrial shunting yards I spy men cutting through the bush to cross the tracks the unofficial way. I wonder I’d we’ll have additional occupants tonight. They’ll have the top bunks if the do come.

I’d just brushed my teeth, made up the bed and was lying down looking at the passing forest and fading sunset reflected from the window behind my head in the mirror behind the closed door of the dog box, when we pulled into a small station and suddenly the door opened. The final two occupants had arrived. Being young and lithe they speedily stowed their bags and made thir beds without a fuss. The provodnitsa presented large glass mugs of tea and they then proceeded in silence to sit in their top bunks and eat fried chicken. Lucky I’d eaten. But the smell was vaguely soporific anyway.

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