I'm involved in a slight altercation. I decided to have a crafty cigarette in the section at the end of the waggon we're in; it's the place where the проводник (provodniks - the cabin attendants) stoke the coal fire that warms the carriage and keeps the samovar at a steady 80degC. Smoking here isn't as naughty as it sounds because there's a little sign saying 'smoking compartment’ fixed to the wall above an ashtray. The problem is that the Russian train guard, Pavlov, is telling me I'm not allowed to smoke.
It's 2.29am and I'm standing barefoot in a t-shirt on Brest station platform taking a breath of fresh air before the gigantic Russian Warsaw-Belarus-Moscow express train makes its departure for Moscow at 2.52. It's got pretty hot in the four berth carriage we're sharing with two others. The air-con is off because most of the systems are off on the train whilst they change the wheels to fit the wider gauge Belorusian-Russian railway system. You might ask if it makes a bit of noise? I can tell you that it makes a lot of noise.
We left Brussels and got the train from Midi station to Cologne and then all the way on to Berlin yesterday. The train was swish and amazing - putting Blighty trains to shame - even the food in the buffet car was pretty good. It was a shock to find that all the staff were suddenly German and we had to brush off a bit of the lingo. Just before we reach Cologne we were informed in a lengthy diatribe (in four languages: French, Dutch, German and English) that the train was going to terminate before our destination due to some problem and we'd have to swap trains. When we got to the station we discovered that the waiting train was full of people who promptly disembarked to get on our train whilst we got on theirs; so we swapped trains with them and ended up in the same seats. Oh and a tip about getting on a train without a reservation but with a large wheelie case: don't get on first; wait for everyone else to get on and get their seats and get on last and find a free seat. I expect you already knew that!
Arrived at Oxford station yesterday morning and bought tickets into Paddington. Boy was that train packed to the gunnels. There were a Swedish couple travelling with their three kids, a toddler and two twin babies. It seems like having a pair of twin babes is a little like trying to play two games of tennis at once. One's okay then the other goes off, then you switch to calm that one, and then the other is triggered off, and then they both go off and then you try frantically not to drop all the balls.
Anyway, we got to St Pancras, which is now a wonderful station (in fact the whole King's Cross-St Pancras area is much transformed) and entered into the sleek Eurostar terminal. The train was superfast now on the British side, unlike in the old days when it ran from Waterloo, and we were in Brussels in two hours. A quick hop on the metro and we got to our flat. A bit of a struggle with the keys and working out which door was ours and we were in.