Today was spent on board the train, generally reading, talking, drinking coffee and looking at the world go by. The taiga (thick Russian forest) gives way to various towns and cities and the occasional stream or river. Todd lent me a murder/ mystery book that he had been given to read by Theresa. As it was an uncorrected proof, and not due for release until May 2018, I won’t mention the author or title, suffice to say that it was an enjoyable read and reminded me of Matin Cruz Smith and his ‘Arkady’ novels. We had ‘breakfast’ in the dining car, and were served by the other waitress, and we instantly knew why the Brits had stated that Maria was the friendly one. English? Njet! Smile? Njet! Still, we managed to get something to eat and then settled down for the day. Ben and I did off the train at Krasnoyarsk and again at Novosibirsk, buying a Coke for 75 Roubles ($1.50 AU for 500 mls).
The highlight of the day cake at dinner, when we went down to the dining car with the Brits/Germans. There was a bit of discussion over who should be served first, our table or theirs, with Maria going over to them (apparently she speaks some German) and we got the other one. There were 2 Russians in the dining car as well (one appeared to be either passed out or sleeping). Seeing as we wanted to ensure that we got served first, and to put us in good stead, I went back to the cabin and grabbed 2 of the clip on koalas I had brought as gifts, and gave one to Maria and one to our waitress. The atmosphere certainly improved, and it was at this point that the awake Russian started telling us, in Russian and broken English, “Russian vodka, good!”, and offering everyone a shot. In order to promote peace and harmony between the Russian and Koala Bears, I dutifully accepted, and with that had to down my first shot of Russian vodka, of course telling the individual about how good it was. He then got hold of the portable stereo of the dining car and we were treated to some very loud renditions of local music, with Maria putting on a short dance for us as well. Our meal had now turned up, complete with beer, whereupon our Russian friend now tried to persuade me that 1 Russian vodka was ok, but THREE Russian vodkas was what should be drunk. Oooookay.
Suffice to say that we then toasted each other, and wished each other good health (at least that’s what I think I said) twice more, and he seems placated for a while. Of course, three Russian vodkas was acceptable, and good manners, but FOUR Russian vodkas would be better. At this time, I terminated our foreign negotiations and we went back to our cabins, leaving the Brits and Germans (and Maria] to tend to the diplomatic relations!