Mongol-mart where we sell it cheap because it is....
As a preface, I am admitting upfront that I have a lot of typos, misspellings and grammatical errors in my blog entries. I am not going to get balled-up about it because it cost money and time to sit at an internet café. I enjoy writing this blog but worrying about other people’s criticisms is not high on my list of things to be concerned about. If my writing errors drive you up the wall then do not bother to read the blog. Further, who made you the writing Nazi……?
Whew, I feel better….
So, we got on the No. 5 train on the 26 of June at around 1:30 pm. Little did we know that this particular train is also referred to as the, “Smuggler’s Train”. Apparently, Mongolian’s buy a bunch of cheap Chinese merchandise, pack it onto this train and proceed to sell this cheap crap (knockoff designer handbags, clothing, blankets etc.) at every stop through Russia.
Here is where it gets very interesting. Russian customs only allows an individual so many items of the same type and also limits the overall amount an individual brings into the country. The way they get around this is by unpacking their wares and dispersing the items among the various riders. This all works fairly well because the majority of people on the train are smugglers. As the only westerners in our car, we had several individuals trying to get us to allow them to leave merchandise in our kupe. It took some insistence but it got around that the white folks in kupe #2 were not participating in the scam.
It was the most well organized scam I have ever had the opportunity to witness. Everyone, including the ladies that oversee each car were involved in this enterprise. Even some of the Russian workers were either participating in Mongol-mart or were buying/being bribed by the Mongolians.
After the initial shock of what was going on we settled into the routine of the smugglers and the ride through Russia. The saving grace of a long train ride through Russia is the hot water boiler located in every car. This was the only form of heating and cooking food brought on to the train unless you wanted to eat in the dining car, which was very expensive. We brought tea, instant coffee and Ramien (sp?) noodles to eat on the train. On occasion we bought something to eat from vendors at different stops. One stop, I bought some homemade potato dumplings, yum.
Keeping clean was another issue. After so many days, a spit bath ain’t going to cut it. By the time we got on the train to Tallinn, I was not too terribly fresh. I felt sorry for the woman sitting next to me for 14 hours.
The moment we got a place in Tallinn, I took a long, hot shower.
Well, more later.