Another last minute dash after horseriding, and I get to Platform 1 just in time for the Latvijas Ekspresis from Riga to Moscow Rizhskaya station.
A bunch of purple chrysanthemum placed in a glass vase, balanced precariously on a ledge opposite the train attendant’s own little compartment, suggested a certain pride and ownership of the carriage on her part.
The boiler was clean and the attendant had thoughtfully provided a plastic jug for dribbles.
I tried to make my first (and free) cup of black tea since leaving London last as long as possible.
Having never seen a train loo so sparkling clean, I thought it warranted in photo in full colour.
The other people in the compartment stared openly at me at first, and did not return smiles. But, as would be the normal course of interaction over the next few days, they warmed up quite suddenly. The train attendant, through many gestures and motherly facial expressions, suggested that I ditch my very cheap upper bunk and sleep along the corridor instead. Not an upgrade, but a sign of care perhaps.
My compartment-mates were a Latvian law student with a blonde afro returning to Moscow for studies, and a Latvian grandmother in her jammies who said she studied English way back in university. The law student said his first language was Russian, then Latvian, then, perhaps a little English. He loved Russia fiercely and considered Latvia a backwater.
Unable to converse much further, I spent the rest of the evening learning the Russian alphabet and some key phrases. The Russian border policemen smiled to themselves when they saw this as they trudged past, menacingly rousing sleeping passengers and looking into luggage storage compartments under the lower bunks.
In the morning, I got my first glimpse of Moscow and was duly excited.