Kris and I climbed into the old Soviet built 3rd class rail carriage at Riga rail station. We were bound for St Petersburg, Russia at 18:00 Thursday 1st October, 2009.
We settled into our 3rd class cabin (see pictures). It was all new to me as I had not traveled by train since my time in the Royal Australian Navy. However, Kris is an old hand at rail travel especially in this type of carriage having crossed Siberia in one. The cabins are actually incredibly well designed and comfortably sleep 4 people. The bottom seats, which by the addition of a mattress become a bed, lift up to reveal a storage locker for the cabins inhabitants.
There is a communal table for playing cards, mixing vodka and filling out border crossing paperwork.
Each carriage or wagon as they are known in this part of the world sleeps 56 people. At each end is a toilet and sink. One end has the staff accommodation and a hot water system which passengers can make tea or soup from whenever they feel the need. The opposite end can be used by smokers.
Kris gave me a quick tour and then we settled down to complete the border crossing paperwork. I was too excited so he did it for both of us (see picture)
I was noticing that the cabin next to us had some girls in it which is always of interest to me. I needed to think of a plan to get them to invite us into their space.
So to help me with that I figured it was time for some vodka. I poured a couple of stiff ones into our juice bottles. Meanwhile Kris and I discussed all sorts of world problem solving situations . We got up to go to the smokers lounge which caught the girls eye so I said “please make sure you look after our stuff” one of them replied “We will if you give us a chocolate” Now quite by a rare chance I had bought a snickers at the station so I dived into my bag of goodies and dragged it out. I handed it over to her and loved the shocked look on her face. Kris and I then walked off to the smokers lounge.
The smokers lounge is not a nice place. It’s really a small compartment at the end of the wagon, it’s cold and stinks of smoke so I left.
Rather than waste the chocolate I walked back to the girls compartment and was invited to join them. Note to self: Carry chocolate at all times. They were both Russian girls and both spoke English one much better than the other. So it turned out to be a great opportunity for Kris to practice his Russian and to get some pointers.
After a couple of hours chatting we were out of Vodka so Kris went up to the restaurant wagon and bought some beers. I wasn’t really in the mood for beer so I wandered up and bought some more vodka. That was probably a mistake but not a much as going up again later and getting even more.
Lights out saw us kicked out of the girls compartment, damn waste of a good chocolate!
We were too wound up and vodka fueled to go to bed like a sensible person so we headed to the restaurant wagon in order not to disturb anyone with our bullshit.
So this is where things go crazy.
We’re sitting in the restaurant wagon minding our business crapping onto each other when out of nowhere one of the biggest scariest guys I’ve ever seen grabs Kris from behind and starts laying into him. This guy is huge, totally bald and ranting in Russian. Now this is a scary situation, here is a giant brute trying his darnedest to kill your kid. So I’m thinking, “Damn I have to do something or he’s gonna kill Kris” Now I’m not that big, 173 cm so what am I gonna do?
So I race over and jump on his back with all my weight behind my leap. My arms are around his neck doing my best to strangle and break his neck which happens to be about as thick as a reasonable size tree. This incredibly smart and brave action appears to have absolutely no effect on this man bear. So that only leaves me with one option. I’m have teeth and I’m not afraid to use them. I sunk them into this bastards bald head and bit as hard as I could.
The bear lets out a deep throated scream of agony, let’s go of Kris, ( whom I’m sure is rather relieved) and shakes me off as easily as a dog shaking water off it’s coat. He then races out of the wagon much to our relief.
We start hugging and rejoicing at having beaten the giant and survived relatively unscathed except for a couple of cuts and bruises.
So we begin to relax and figure we will call it a night when suddenly we see the giant and another guy wielding steel crowbars heading our way rapidly. Action stations!
We both dive at the door as they begin opening it. We both press up against it with all our might knowing full well that if these thugs get in they are going to kill us both.
They are screaming at us and we’re screaming back at them just as loudly. For some unknown reason I keep telling them that Kris is my son and to leave us alone. Kris is now pretty much holding the door by himself and I’m pleading with the giant to leave us alone and blow me down, they turned and walked away.
We still have no idea what provoked the attack or maybe even more importantly what got them to eventually leave us alone.
This was much more adventure than I wanted and totally wore me out . The adrenaline rush mixed with alcohol was just too much so we both made our way back to our cabin and crashed out until we arrived in St Petersburg (safely) I’m pretty sure this is not a typical event on a train so do not blame me if your next train ride is nowhere near as exciting as ours
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