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Pole to Pole

Day 25: Tallinn to Leningrad

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleI would very gladly have lingered here a day or two more but we have another Pole to get to and having run due south from Arctic Norway to the southern shores of the Gulf of Finland it's time to turn eastward once again to pick up the thirty degree meridian, which will be our guideline down through Russia and Africa. To this end we assemble beneath a dominating bas-relief of Lenin on the wall of Tallinn station to make the eight-hour journey to the city to which he gave his name.

Every coach of the train bears the emblem of a wreath intertwined with a banner on which is written, in the languages of the fifteen republics, 'Proletariats of all Countries Unite!', and beneath this a crossed hammer and wrench. Bold design which makes British Rail's spectral swallow look pathetic. Prices, too, are competitive. My fare for the equivalent of a journey from London to Newcastle is eight roubles and forty kopecks - about thirty-five pence. The train is very hot and slow. Everyone seems helpful and friendly, none more so than the beleaguered proprietor of the buffet. He has two problems. One is having nothing to sell and the other is having to explain this to an Englishman who wants to try out his Russian conversation.

'Have you tea?'

'No . . . '

'Have you coffee?'

'No . . . '

'What do you have?'

His reply, being more elaborate than in previous exchanges, is quite incomprehensible, and I end up with a cherryade and a piece of cake.

We cross the Estonian-Russian border at Narva - from the smallest of the Soviet republics (27,000 square miles) to the largest (11 million square miles). Within two hours we have reached Leningrad. A hot and sticky night as we hit our thirty degree meridian for the first time since the fishing-grounds of the Barents Sea.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 25
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Tallinn
  • Book page no: 56

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