Yes I travelled from my parent’s home in the UK to Australia by train( Well mostly).
We had flown the final stretch between Hong Kong and Australia.
It was 1996, not too long after the Iron Curtain had fallen and travelling freely between Eastern and Western Europe had become almost routine,
We had stopped off in Paris on the way, where my new husband(We were to spend our first wedding anniversary in Ulaanbatar in Mongolia(1996.)) had been accosted by a lively woman in a bar. She was fun. I still have her photo. We had then ventured across France and Germany travelling in the relative comfort of first and second class trains. Berlin had been our last stop before heading into Eastern Europe.
Homework: Does anybody have footage of Ulaanbatur from around 1996 they wouldn’t mind sharing?
I had not particularly liked Berlin. It is a place which has played a central role in the history of the world in the last 100 years. This seems to have scarred it somehow. A place where Nazis have goose stepped and which the Russians had held to ransom. In 1936 viewing a film from that year everything seemed relatively normal. Colour film of Berlin in 1936. People are dancing. Business and transport all.running with typical German efficiency. Yet the seeds of WW2 are there. The most chilling sight for me is not the Nazi soldiers. It is the Hitler Youth.
I remember the Hitler youth from The Sound of Music. The “sweet” young man who sang Sixteen Going On Seventeen is perhaps always a sinister figure. I see this scene as the beginning of a toxic relationship these days. On the surface he appears protective but I recognise the signs of control.
“I will protect you from all the other nasty men out there.”
Ralph soon becomes a fully-fledged Nazi.
The sad thing is Germany paid a terrible price for its venture into Nazism. It had seemed to be the answer to all their problems for a while. The Berlin of 1936 appears to be thriving, yet by 1945 it was a war-torn disaster zone despised by much of the world, who is totally at the mercy of its enemies and ultimately it was caŕved up between its enemies. (Had a slight Homophone issue there myself.)
Source: Chronos-Media History
Source: franklinnose https://youtube.com/user/franklinnose
Leading Nazis had faced trial (As my father had put it, the gallows had been operating continually.
Source; British Pathe https://youtube.com/c/britishpathe
Source:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHcFbI4uHnAr7gnz1ZWDySA Бидэнд тохиолдсон хүндхэн хөгтэй явдлууд According to Google translate this means:
We have had hard times.
I had been quite apprehensive, having lived through the Cold War and having heard the tales of people throwing themselves out of windows to escape East Berlin. In fact I had once been an avid listener of a radio series about people’s escapes from East. We had a very different view of people smugglers in those days, when they had almost been considered brave heroes.
Source: Moments of History
Berlin was interesting. At that time it had been regarded an island of The West, marooned in Eastern Europe. I had always imagined Eastern Europe to be grey and forbidding. Travelling on from Berlin, initially at least, that had appeared to be the case. However I remember noticing Poland and Belarus had appeared pretty.
The Trans-Siberian Railway
I will discuss Moscow in another post.
Somewhere in my brain I had confused romantic images of The Orient Express with The Trans-Siberian Railway. My shock had reverberated around the platform, when I had first seen the train, which was to be our home for the following few weeks. We were surrounded by traders loading their huge bundles of goods aboard the train. I had not reacted well. Our train appeared rough – crammed with goods and people, I had initially stalled and refused to get on. In my defence I had still been pretty upset about my trip, knowing it was one way as I was leaving my home and family behind.
Not sure of the year in which the video was produced. The train appears more luxurious than ours. It also features another Anglo-Australian couple making their journey to Australia by train.
Eventually I had boarded reluctantly.
We had found ourselves in one of the less crammed carriages (after I had complained) with L ( a delightful Russian woman, travelling with a bag of apples.) Over the following weeks, we had shared our compartment with an assortment of people.
Moscow is actually a beautiful city. I remember however having a Ministry building pointed out to us which was one of four they referred to as
The two who are particularly ingrained in my thoughts, are two smartly dressed but dodgy, (or so it had seemed to me at the time ) Mongolian men. Finding myself stuck in a train carriage with three porn-viewing males (Yes my new husband had also been casting an eye over the magazines) had been more than a little unsettling. Possibly the thing which had made me most suspicious (of the two guys with the porn in our carriage) was the amount of money they had seemed to be carrying. They had told us that they were just gamblers but I was not convinced.
It was one occasion when I was glad I had studied languages, as the train was totally non English-speaking. Fortunately L the first Russian lady in our carriage, spoke German too, so I had chatted happily to her for days. I do remember the jovial Russian who had bounded in to our carriage with a bottle of vodka and carted off my husband. Russia and Eastern Europe had been less bleak than I had anticipated. My first impression – I remember thinking Belarus and Poland had seemed quite pretty from our vantage point on the train.
One of the travel guidebooks had recommended carrying a plug. I was particularly glad of mine on the train. It had meant I was able to make a reasonable attempt to wash in the understandably tiny bathroom.
After my difficult start, I had adapted to the basic conditions and steadily got to know our fellow travellers a little,
I had briefly left my plug with chain in the bathroom. It had disappeared but was finally returned, minus the chain, after I had protested vociferously.
WHERE IS MY PLUG!!
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