Category: Yleinen

Existential Train Journeys

… A glimpse into the Russian soul

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Monotonous landscapes. Crossword puzzles and trashy Harlequin novels. Endless black tea and discarded bowls of pre-cooked noodles.

Train travelling in Russia takes its time, the carriages drifting slowly across the never ending tundras like afternoon cumulus. Along the way we stop in small, cheerless towns with names one rarely remembers, where the local people scrape a shabby income from selling homemade dumplings and other foods to passengers on the platforms.

For most Russians, journeying by train remains the only affordable option.

People are polite but not overly social—somewhat jarring for the foreigner hoping to prod the occasional social interaction, perhaps over a pocket-size bottle of vodka and some zakuska. Only a rare few engage in conversations with fellow passengers whilst the majority of the wagon prefers to be left alone in their private worlds, a mental substitute for actual personal space. Weary babushkas take to their shaded bunks.

As I wake from a short night’s sleep, the new sun reaching at the horizon, it occurs to me that the Russian soul is a romantic one. Some passengers spend their time day-dreaming, while others either huddle over crossword puzzles and women’s magazines, or abandon their kiosk wares entirely to stare pensively out across the passing landscapes imagining perhaps alternative realities in some parallel dimensions.

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London’s Remain Demo

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I went to check out the demo at Trafalgar Square on Tuesday the 28th of June. I’d talked with many Londoners about the Brexit vote and the majority were very disappointed and angry about the result of the referendum. I’d watched the debates closely and for me it seemed that they were based more on feelings than facts – and many voted to leave the European Union because they wanted to protest against the political establishment. I understand where this protest came from but I think that had little do with the EU and more to do with austerity politics and the financial crisis.

At Trafalgar Square I saw thousands of people united, some waving their blue-and-yellow star flags and others having more of a creative approach towards the EU emblem. As much of a cliché it may be, it really felt that the people were there as the EU slogan says “united in diversity”.

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