Blog - The ride home

Added on Saturday, 2013-04-27 05:34 CEST in categories Moscow, Prague
After a long road of bureaucracy in Moscow, it was finally time to go home, to Prague.

When a few years ago we moved to Moscow, we did so by car, which we had fully loaded up. Over the years we amassed more and more stuff, and we sold our car, so that by the time we moved to Prague in September, we couldn't possibly take with all our belongings in one go.

Thus, whenever we'd visit Moscow, we'd take our belongings back in batches. There's a direct train going from Moscow to Prague, which allows you to take with as much luggage as you can possibly cram into the compartment (no weight limit!), and it's exactly this train that I took to get home.

The ride

Because I only knew if I could leave that day, on that very day (I needed my Russian international passport to get through Belarus, and left as soon as I got it), I could only buy the ticket at the train station itself, which proved simple enough.

That evening my brother-in-law and I loaded up the compartment (big thanks!), which I had completely to myself, and off I was :)

Like custom dictates, during the day it's way too hot in the train (and the window doesn't open…), but during the night a tiny draft got through, leaving its effect on my throat… When I woke up, we had already entered Belarus (there's no border control between Russia and Belarus).

I haven't got much to say about Belarus. It's apparently Europe's only remaining dictatorship, but when you travel by train, you of course don't notice that. It's a lot like Russia, a bit more dilapidated perhaps, and has the same unexpected oddities, like an overhead bridge being supported by loose bricks.

After a few hours we got to the border, where the undercarriage of the train had to be changed: the former Soviet Union has its rails further apart than Europe does. This took forever. We kept on driving back and forth and back and forth, uncoupled, coupled, drove back and forth some more, but then, after two or three hours, we were on our way into Poland.

In the meantime I was leaving Belarus on my Russian international passport, and entered Poland on my Dutch one. Go two citizenships! :) (When I now travel from/to Russia, I have three passports with: my Dutch one, my Russian internal one and my Russian international one :P) Customs were very relaxed: "What've you got with?" — "Well, we're moving, so clothes, books, magazines, some kitchen stuff, etc." — "Hmm, OK." They lifted the foldable bed, and that was that.

The next morning I arrived in Prague, with my darling wife already waiting for me :)

Reflections on Russia: the enemy?

During the long trip, I reflected some more on how easy all of this has become. When I grew up, Russia as a country had only just formed. During primary school, in 1995, mind you, we were supposed to make a life-size Russian flag, and were told to make it completely red with a yellow hammer and scythe… So deeply was the Soviet Union still ingrained. Before I'd ever visited Russia, really all I knew about it was: communism, Lenin, Stalin. To me it was pretty much unthinkable to go there back then, it was such a completely different world.

And then when my dad brought me a surprise visit two weeks ago, we reminisced a bit on how Russia before that, in the mind of the West, wasn't just a completely different world: it was the enemy! "The Russians are coming!" is still a popular expression.

But those days are long gone. I now know several people who hold citizenships in both the East and the West, and the only noticeable transition between them is one simple passport check. These are good times :)