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Published: August 2nd 2006
Long relaxing day as the train chuntered through the rest of Poland and then reached the border with Belarus - 1st stop in the former USSR. An amazing experience with changing the bogies - the track width is different in Russia and Europe so the whole train is lifted up, the undercarriage removed and replaced - takes many hours but is incredible to watch. Only downside being the lack of toilets for 6-7h - amazing how this thought makes you think of nothing else but needing the loo! Men crawling underneath train was very scary to watch! Women entered the train trying to sell us beer and other goods continually - nobody seemed to buy anything so we don’t understand how they make their money. Had to fill in customs forms which was made a little complicated by them being only in Russian - fortunately Thor’s Russian roommate translated them into German for us (and we were even more fortunate that Thor’s German is excellent!).
Belarus is so different from Western Europe - very poor in places and people walking all over the railway tracks - beautiful birch forests - ancient tractors and old farming equipment - new houses built
out of breeze blocks with tin roofs - those robust Russian trucks and Lada’s everywhere! Went to the restaurant car for dinner which was very funny - only room for 6 people, 2 who have to sit on upturned crates (train had over 20 carriages!), a lovely cook who treated everyone like royalty, wallpaper designed to look like the walls were made of stone, hawaiian garlands on the walls and a great menu consisting solely of meat and potatoes and vodka!
Bed again and slept badly waiting for the Russian border crossing to come - wasn’t until the morning that we realised the train doesn’t stop there - crossing into Belarus was the Russian Border.
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