Andrey and I boarded a west-bound train in Moscow at 6:25 in the evening. It is a nine-hour ride to Volkhov, so the cars are equipped as sleepers. This meant that we shared an open compartment with two other people, and then at some point of mutual agreement we made our beds by placing sheets on thin mattresses and spreading them out on the seating benches and the two suspended bunks above. Andrey and I had upper bunks, which meant we climbed high and slid ourselves into narrow alcoves about two feet wide and something considerably less than 6’3″ long. My sock-clad feet hung out over the aisle, unfortunately, to be frequently bumped with a whispered “izveeneetyeh” (excuse me). Since our stop was at 3:15 a.m., I didn’t sleep well because I was worried they wouldn’t wake us.
The uniformed car attendants did wake us in time to fumble on our shoes and gather our luggage as the train slowed. I lugged that 57-pound suitcase of equipment down the dark aisle, doing a set of my own izveeneetyehs. We were dropped off on a railroad siding opposite the station, so all the passengers as a matter of course climbed down onto the tracks, crossing them in the dusky lighting of one of the famous “white nights”. We waited in the station another six hours for a local train to take us fifteen minutes to the field house, which is fortunately only 200 meters from the tracks. The temperature was 40° F with a light rain — not nearly as warm as I expected!