On the Train to MINSK


I’ve given up trying to write like Ron Silliman until Delta-2 on the trip home. However being transported seems to bring out the babble in me. Wrote this on the train last night so, just to share the sheer pleasure of the first hours of my first first-class experience, I’m going to post it.

I’ve spent most of today out and about in Minsk—which it turns out is a most impressive and likeable city. A little like Houston with better architecture—even if most of it was inspired by Joseph Stalin. Big and bright and open and clean. Vera, my brilliant former-professor guide, has been has been an absolute font of information, wisdom and opinion. All to say the next post may lean toward the thoughtful side.

For NOW though…It’s All About Me.

At heart I’m just a coach-class girl. But maybe I’m aging out of that category? Anyway here I am in my cozy first-class compartment on a train bound for Minsk. Now I’m happy and excited again. I’ll be even more so if I have this compartment to myself…are the odds the same as the having an empty seat next to you on a long flight? The windows in first class are clean! What If I have this compartment to myself AND clean windows. Praise be to Odin. Wow, I am really excited about this overnighter, swaying gently down the tracks, the lights of passing villages brightening my world for a moment, dour Belarusian border guards eying my documents and providing the only possible drama—what if I’m thrown off the train because of the Swaziland stamp… Less than 10 minutes to go before departure. Please please please… This writing table can be all mine if only…  I feel so international-correspondent-like. I am Christiane Amanpour. No I’m not, she never whines or uses the words ‘cozy’ of ‘cute’ in her learned sentences.

Alla of Real Russia, my best friend in the world, has me all booked on tours in Minsk first ½ day around the city and then all day out to a heritage village. And the guide will actually meet me at the train station. The money I’ll save not being cheated by outlaw cab drivers will probably cover my guide fees.


I do love trains, love trains, love trains. Let’s see if I am still saying that when I climb off the last commuter train in downtown Seoul.

Scenery. Of course much of northern/central European landscape could as well be the American Midwest with all of the pasture land, forest, two-lane roads, cows, goldenrod, purple asters (they are asters right? Robert?). This territory is much more like my part of North Central Minnesota—not that grand Capital S Norwegian Scenery. Wonder if it’s possible not to feel nostalgic in pre-autumn time? The thing about Europe is that overall the buildings are so much more interesting. As in diversity of style, color, idiosyncrasies of character and ethnicity, of political and religious history. All adding to the delights of railway journeys. Old fashioned countryside here, the hay bales aren’t wrapped tightly in heavy white plastic, or maybe it’s just that Latvia has no trolls.

You can tell I’m happy when I just babble on about my landscape of pretties. No wifi on the train although I can charge everything for a massive picture taking blowout tomorrow when I behold the Minsk square with the best of Stalin’s architectural taste on display. I finally figured out how to turn down the American pop crap that was disturbing my perfect train world and my sense of internationalism.

For four days and nights I will be without access to the outside world. For shorter periods before then on all of my other train rides but never so long as that Moscow to Ulan Bator run. Therein lies the opportunity to think profound thoughts and write moving descriptions of…the taiga. Meaning four days of trees. Since I’ve already overloaded my blog with Minnesota trees and Norway trees and now Latvia trees I may have to invent magical made-up science fiction landscapes or conduct an intense exploration of my ego/id and other various inner stuff I should remember more about from my brief stint as a therapist. Or I could try to relive and resolve some of the traumas of childhood like when my little brother tried to make me crazy or mom made me wear dresses to church or dad pretended we ran out of gas on the way to the movies.

About being an introvert. We are supposed to be inward-looking people I’ve heard. That is not true for me; it’s just that I’m frequently more comfortable being by myself. That awkward kid almost always emerges when I’m around others. But liking to be by myself (maybe not quite as much as on this trip?) doesn’t mean I think about me very much; I think about stories and history and the ever-so-interesting lives of the people we pass in their quaint little dwellings in the forest…and baby bear said…

I’ve moved on to stream-of-consciousness with periods instead of just commas. A less sophisticated style requiring few poetic devices and no talent whatsoever.

This is WONDERFUL. Land goes by. I gaze. I write. I contemplate. I take a picture. Land goes by some more. Life is just one long pastoral wonderland. I am HAPPY.

Goodnight Moon.



One Comment on “On the Train to MINSK

  1. Trees and more trees….nice. Trains are so great. Nescafe and water…..no no no. When one is traveling First Class one eats in the dining car and meets wonderful and sometimes mysterious people.

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