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Hitching to Russia in deep winter

The Chronicles of Narva (and Ivangorod)

ESTONIA | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [177] | Scholarship Entry

My companion and I accidently binge-sleep; its midday before we leave, the winter sun already fading. At the gas station on Tallinn's east cusp, overhead boat signs curve arrows in directions of Stockholm and Helsinki. Our days aim is Narva, Estonia's extreme east and our gateway to Russia.
Gleaning our first ride after gently frosting over for two hours in -8, so begins our journey down the magical E20, hitching a coach and bemusing the passengers with two icy, foreign beings descending upon them. My feet tingle painfully with slow defrost and I gaze out the window at the dense shadows of drooping, snowy firs flickering by.

50km later, we're back on the roadside and attempting another ride,captivated by the ethereal purgatory of twilight. The full moon had already opened her eye, as the sun shut his, watching over us in the darkening, dangerous roadside. The diminishing bright Baltic light, an LSD pastel rainbow for a sky and the thick tufts of snow holding only our tracks, feels otherworldly, and mystical, not like we're competing with diminishing daylight and a hostile January to reach Russia.We blend into the dark areas by the sides, narrowing our chances of a ride further east, trudging on in coming darkness, nervous with cars whizzling past.

Its well into night when we reach Narva's jutting edge, after shards of short rides, each a handful of kilometres to the next junction.Trembling on the cusp of Europe and Russia, I'm retained upon the bridge-border, anticipating my entry or rejection. I observe those with dual and undefined citizenship casually shuffling back and forth over the border, carting cheap contraband from Russia, old ladies waddling with boxes of laundry powder and rattling alcohol bottles in their full arms. I'm granted permission into this new land, and over the bridge into Ivangorod flings us two hours into the future. We find a lurid florescence of tacky bars,(strange after the pure prismic roadside skies), empty streets, monumental blockhouses and feeling like an anachronism from the vast future.

We continue, despite the days culmination. Out of the city, we find ourselves at crossroads, a midnight of -15, and forest sticking in every direction. Cars are few, and no one wants to assist hitch-hikers in the dark. The full-moon is our only other companion, lighting our silhouettes on the wayside, other than the great gulps of vodka which sustain us against the cold and the growing concern of where we would spend this night.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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