One of the things on my bucket list was to take a long train ride. When I say long, I mean a few days. So when I got the opportunity to take a 40 hour train ride from Moscow to Paris, I jumped on the opportunity.
First, the catalyst. I was taking my flock to get their various lab tests and vet visits so we could leave Russia and go back to Europe without a problem. Our flight was supposed to be at 10:00 the next day and I was getting everything ready to leave. In the car, I noticed Miss Piggy (one of the pigeons) started to show signs of stress. Though birds are dinosaurs, their hearts can be sensitive and stress can be fatal. I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to put them on a plane since I was afraid I’d lose Miss Piggy.
Just to clarify – they ALWAYS come with me in the cabin. I never put them in cargo.
So at the last minute, I had to go back and change the text on the letters from the vets, purchase a ticket for the train, etc. Now I had to choose what type of ticket.
I wanted to be comfortable since 40 hours is not an amount of time I want to be cramped in a seat with someone next to me. I also wanted to be able to let the birds out and fly around free. So… for the sake of everyone, I got a first class private cabin.
The train goes from Moscow to Paris via Belarus, Poland and Germany. I did not expect this but I needed to get a visa for Belarus. I didn’t have time to do it in Russia so decided to take my chance and do it on arrival in Brest hoping that my EU passport would be enough not to cause me too many problems.
And the train goes off… I closed the door, let the birds out, let down my bed and lay back to enjoy the sites. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before so I fell asleep to the movements of the train on the rails.
I woke up the next day to some gorgeous views. The birds were sitting by the window staring out. I had to get ready to leave the train once we reached Brest with all of my documentation and the birds’ paperwork. I took a quick shower, got my papers ready and waited for the immigration and customs agents to arrive. The lady in charge of my cabin who had fallen in love with the idea of me traveling with birds quickly told them that I needed a visa and that I had all of the documents for my flock. Since I was standing there ready to go, off we went. Since I’d just spent a few months in Russia, I was able to easily withstand the cold. I could hear them behind me wondering to each other “isn’t he cold?”. At some point I hinted to them that I understand a little bit and that got them blushing and smiling.
Now let me say, the women in Belarus are absolutely beautiful. Most of the agents were women. The idea of spending a few hours with this group of women was keeping me in a very good mood despite having barely had time for a shower and no time for coffee. One of them asked me my name and I told her my name with a Russian accent which had them doubled over with laughter.
The local government vet was called over and we chatted.
The agent who was with me through the whole process was a gorgeous blond. We started chatting about what I do for work, travel, etc. Since she had never been to Paris, I joked that there’s a train about to leave for Paris and she should hop on. She looked at me, smiled and said that her passport was at home. I thought it was a sweet blow off but as they were doing their last rounds of the train she came back to my cabin to say goodbye.
When I was finished with customs and immigration, the lady in charge of my cabin knocked on my door and brought me coffee since I hadn’t had time to drink anything in the morning.
I then spent the day taking pictures of the countryside. I saw many things I was not expecting to see. For example, in Poland in the middle of the absolutely, completely empty fields there was a square patch full of bumper to bumper cars placed there. All incredible colors. Many of them bright yellow. And then they were gone…
I arrived in Paris, Gare de l’Est middle of the day after almost two days of having been completely off the grid. Phone started buzzing with all of the missed messages and I just wanted to run back to the quiet of my private cabin on the train…