Finding my way to the renovated train station wasn’t very difficult, although, after looking at my visa for the first time in a couple of days, taking a look at the stamp the Tatarstan had given me, I was in for a shock. Somewhere, someone had ripped off a page from my visa! I had no idea where that had happened, for as far as I knew, I had seen the visa only with the missing page attached. In Moscow, when at several occasions, police wanted to look at my visa, I had given it to them, with the now missing page attached to it! What had happened?!
Not really panicking, although uncomfortable, I already had visions of having to travel back to the Dutch consulate in Moscow and having to arrange a new visa just there, on the spot. Simultaneously I considered traveling on with this bad visa, hoping to not get caught. I wasn’t going to let them cheat me out of a good vacation!
To make sure what to do, I decided to call up the Dutch consulate in Moscow. I hadn’t taken that phone number with me when I left Holland, but when I was in Moscow, at some point I walked past the English embassy and figured that they might just be able to supply me with the phone number of the Dutch consulate (the phone number in the Lonely Planet already had turned out to be incorrect). They were and, lucky me, I was able to call them now.
I bought two phone cards next to the Kazan train station and started looking for a phone that could call long distance (since not all phones can). I found one and called the Dutch consulate. Turned out that they weren’t sure whether ripping a page from my visa was standard procedure or not. Since so many different types of visa’s are in use, its difficult to keep track of what was necessary to do with which one. Remembering that all police I had met where surprised that my visa wasn’t actually inside my passport, I didn’t have a hard time believing that. Still, I was stuck with half a visa.
They checked as much as they could, but all they could come up with was that it was likely that it was supposed to be ripped. Already deciding I was going to continue my trip, I also called my contact at Procter & Gamble. Happy to hear, she was assuring me of the fact that the visa was supposed to be taken apart when crossing the border. Feeling reassured, I also was surprised, since I was quite certain that I had seen it in one piece after crossing the border.
I gave Nemets a call, him having said that he was going to stop by at the train station to say goodbye. Figuring he would still be in bed I felt like waking him up. Which I did. Of course, I also a woke the girl he had taken home the previous night.
The train ride from Kazan to Yekaterinburg was different in several ways. It was a very long ride, about 18 hours, and it was very cheap, about a mere $8 and I was moved between cabins several times. I hadn’t gotten a seat assigned to me when buying the ticket, so my provodnik had to get me one after boarding the train.
I was put into a cabin with a family of three of which none spoke anything but Russian. That wasn’t the remarkable part. With only three people (a couple and their young son) in the cabin, the cabin itself was completely filed. Not because of them being very fat, but because all compartments in the cabin where used for storing luggage, their luggage. But not just ‘regular’ luggage, no, everywhere pears, berries, lemons, peaches, etc. had been stored. Maybe to sell them at their destination, maybe to have a snack ready on their long train ride to wherever they were going.
After only a couple of minutes though, I was moved to another cabin, which I shared with a fat dark guy, Alek, who smelled like he hadn’t had a bath for weeks on end. Turned out he had been on the train from way before Moscow, so he actually was traveling for quite some time now. Some time later, unlucky me, I missed the pillar at the Europe-Asia border.