This week has turned colder and the leaves are starting to turn. Autumn is setting in here in South Iceland. As soon as the weather starts to turn I start to crave soup. It's what I live on during the colder months, and there's nothing I love more than a roasted vegetable soup.



My Viking has been feeling ill for over a week now, suspected throat infection. He's been drinking lots of herbal tea with honey but I wanted to get a good dose of vitamins into him.
We had a large sweet potato in the fridge that needed to be used up and some onions and garlic. This would've been enough for a basic soup but I wanted to add a couple of other vegetables so I bought a butternut squash and a small bag of carrots (the only veg that I'm absolutely sure go well with sweet potato). And the result was Roasted Orange Root Soup.


Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
  • 1 Large sweet potato
  • 1 Medium butternut squash
  • 5 Medium carrots
  • 1 Medium onion
  • 3 Cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons dried rosemary or 3 sprigs of fresh
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Thyme or 1 sprig fresh
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Chili (optional)
Method:

Chop the vegetables including the onion into small bite sized pieces. Spread over a baking tray with the whole cloves of garlic and drizzle oil over. Shake over the Rosemary and Thyme and a little salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they are evenly covered with herbs and oil. Roast for 40 minutes at 200°C/Gas mark 6.
Test that the vegetables are mashable with the back of a fork and remove from the oven. When cooled slightly, tip the veg into a blender with about ½ litre of stock and blend until smooth. If you prefer a chunky soup, just blend half of the veg.
Tip the soup into a pot and warm through, adding more water/stock if necessary and salt and pepper to taste.

*Optional* This soup works really well with a bit of spice, just add some dried or fresh chili to the blender for a fiery kick! Or for some added sweetness, roast an orange bell pepper with the other vegetables.

Serve with a chunky bread roll and enjoy!



Three cloves of garlic may seem excessive but it really adds a boost to your immune system and it possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Rosemary is also anti-inflammatory and can even help to relieve pain! Thyme can help you to recover from a cold and is great at relieving a sore throat. This soup is packed full of goodness to aid you through the winter. I hope you enjoy it!

Loppy x
*LoppyLoves is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Just so that you are aware, I may get a small fee for any purchases you make through links on this post.



Halloween is fast approaching, so with that in mind I thought I'd compile a list of costume ideas! From affordable and simple, to historical and detailed, this list should have everyone covered!

Black wings and halo - £4.99+FREE DELIVERY

Photo: amazon.co.uk

This black angel wings and halo set is an affordable way to turn any outfit into a costume! It is also available in white if you don't want to be a dark angel. It would love lovely over a simple black dress, or even a dark purple or red. Or if you're not into dresses maybe you could be inspired by the Train song Angel in Blue Jeans...

Get it here

Plus size spider - Starting from £9.99


Photo: amazon.co.uk


This stunning spiderweb costume comes in sizes XL-3XL. The prices vary (not really sure why?) with the most expensive size being 2XL at £13.67. The cold shoulder detailing and the bat wing sleeves look very elegant and almost too beautiful to be just a costume!

Get it here

Carry me® zombie - £39.99+FREE DELIVERY


Photo: amazon.co.uk

If you like funny costumes rather than scary costumes, this is the one for you! Wear your own t-shirt and this costume on the bottom, then run around the party with flailing arms screaming for help. Then please send me a video because I'd love to see that.

Get it here

Cat face swing dress - Starting from £9.89


Photo: amazon.co.uk

Again this one varies in price! It starts from £9.89 for size 8/10  to £13.49 for size 20/22. It is available in sizes 8/10 - 24/26. There are actually 28 different designs to choose from in this listing! I've chosen this one as it could actually be worn year round, and if you like to keep your costume simple then this is a great choice. You could pair it with a cat ear hairband (like this one) for a cheap, effortless costume.

Get it here

Temporary tattoo wounds - £1.17+FREE DELIVERY


Photo: amazon.co.uk

Possibly one of the cheapest costume ideas ever! Dress however you want and then accessorise with some cuts and bloody handprints. You could rip some old clothes, and back brush your hair to look like you've just escaped from something awful. These ship from China though so you'll need to order them soon to get them in time for Halloween!

Get it here

Medieval friar/hooded monk - £19.99


Photo: amazon.co.uk

Bizarrely this costume is £19.99 or £16 if you order a large. It runs from size S to XL and is available in 5 colours, although this deep red one is my favourite. It comes with a wooden cross and a rope belt so accessories are taken care of. This costume is great if you like to be well covered, and you can wear layers underneath it if the party is outside in the cold weather. The loose fitting robe covers a multitude of sins...*pun intended*

Get it here

Purple vintage style Halloween dress - £6.52+£1.49 delivery


Photo: amazon.co.uk

This 1950's style swing dress is stunning! It has a sweetheart neckline and lace sleeves with a full skirt that flares out from the waist. It is available in black or purple and the hemline features some fun Halloween motives.

Get it here

Unisex 'This is my Halloween costume' T-shirt - Starting from £8.50+FREE DELIVERY


Photo: amazon.co.uk


Another one with varying prices, It's starts at £8.50 but 2XL and 3XL are £8.99, all come with free delivery. The sizes run from S-3XL and it's available in 3 colours but this black one is my favourite. This is a unisex top so I think it would be a loose fit.

Get it here

Medieval dress £23.99+FREE DELIVERY

Photo: amazon.co.uk

This medieval dress is beautiful and comes in 2 colours. It's available in sizes S-2XL and is another full coverage option. I think this would work with a bloody choker (like this one) as an Anne Boleyn costume!

Get it here

So that's my round up of awesome Halloween costume ideas for this October. Do you have any favourites from this list? I'd love to hear what you're dressing up as this year!

Loppy x
This week's Midweek Mysteries will be based on Birmingham, UK - my home town. There are many ghostly tales from Birmingham, and in particular, the historic Jewellery Quarter. In this post I'll be telling you about the ghouls that reside in both of the JQ cemeteries; Warstone Lane and Key Hill.



You get off the train at the Jewellery quarter station and you spot the graves through the platform fence. Curiosity gets the better of you and you feel the urge to wander around the tombstones. You exit the station and walk down the side road to Icknield Street, then you find your way to the cemetery gates. Once you step inside, it seems eerily dark despite the bright daylight outside. The ancient trees block a lot of the light in the cemetery, and you start to feel uneasy.
Right in front of you there is a bench, which has been covered with rocks. There is also a large ring of rocks stacked before the bench. You shudder off the thought that some kind of ritual has taken place here...

You start to follow the path towards the back of the graveyard, noting the dates on the tombs, some of them date back to the 1800s.
You look to the left and spot a crumbling wall lined with arches of inscribed stone and decide to take a closer look. They look like giant gravestones set into the wall and you recognise some of the names. Joseph Chamberlain, mayor of Birmingham. Alfred Bird, inventor of eggless custard. It's an odd place to put a grave marker, you think as you gauge the height of the stones, at least 6ft tall. You think you hear someone else in the cemetery, and quickly glance around, feeling some deep, primal instinct to hide.

There are some loud bangs coming from different directions, and the clanking of metal hitting metal. You peer out from behind the tomb but no one is with you. Maybe it's the spirits of deceased jewellers, you think, before shaking the absurd thought out of your head.
You smell something in the air, the aroma is similar to pear drops, and intoxicating. You suddenly start to feel rather sick, and a heaviness falls over you. You need air.

Warstone Lane Cemetery

You leave Key Hill and walk back down Icknield Street, passing the turning that you came down. You spot another cemetery further ahead, this one has no fence and looks bright and airy. The trees don't block the sun out here. You step inside and see a huge coliseum-type structure towering over you. There is are a few large trees in the middle, surrounded by gravestones. It's rather beautiful, and it looks better maintained than Key Hill.
You walk up to one of the many doors lining the coliseum but they are bricked up. Memorials are inscribed on some of the doors and you suddenly realise what the structure is - the catacombs of Birmingham.

Fascinated, you climb the steps up the two tiers of tombs until you reach the top. Looking down, it's even more impressive. Nature has slowly started to take over and it's crumbling in places but that only adds to it's beauty. You look around at the rest of the cemetery, this one looks smaller than the first. A few locals are walking dogs and you even see a couple of jewellers sitting on a bench eating lunch! There is definitely a more positive vibe here, and the heaviness you felt before has lifted. The smell of pear drops has returned though. "Always smells of bloody cyanide out here" You hear one the jewellers say. "Maybe it's just stuck to your clothes from work, told you that you shouldn't have gone to the plating department..." You slowly wander around the graves, admiring the decorative carvings and glimpsing the dates. There are a mix of very old and more modern graves here, the latest ones you see are dated to the 1980s.

From the corner of your eye you catch site of an interesting looking building, a bit like a gatehouse. It looks very gothic and the charcoal grey brick work only adds to the look. You go to take a closer look. Next to the building is a large rock mounted on a plinth. There is an inscription below it reading:

This felsite boulder was deposited near here
by a glacier during the Ice Age: being at one
time used as a parish boundary mark, it
was known as the ‘Hoar Stone’ of which the
modern War Stone is a corruption

You feel a chill run over you, and have the sense of someone watching you. Looking above the War Stone, you see a lady gazing at you. She looks like she needs help, so you jog over to her. She silently starts to walk away but you follow her through the graveyard, calling after her. She smells of pear drops, maybe she was in Key Hill with you. You shudder at the thought that this woman might be stalking you and stop chasing her. You watch her walk among the graves, her long white dress trailing on the ground. She turns to look at you one last time before she walks straight through a tree and vanishes from sight. The heaviness has returned...


The catacombs in Warstone Lane Cemetery

Key Hill Cemetery (formerly known as Birmingham General) opened in 1836 as a nonconformist graveyard. Many famous people who resided in Birmingham are buried there. There have been many reports of paranormal activity in the cemetery over the years, included the sound of bangs and clanking metal. Some people have claimed to see a soldier smoking in the back of the cemetery. There was even a report of a humanoid kangaroo-like creature jumping out from the graveyard, and stopping a car in the road before returning to where it came from!

Warstone Lane Cemetery (formerly known as Brookfields) opened in 1847 as a Church of England burial ground. It is rich in history. During World War II the catacombs were used as emergency accomodation to house families. They used to be open to the public but have since being determined a safety risk and were closed up several years ago. The catacombs were found to be releasing vapours from the decomposing bodies which caused a smoking ban in the cemetery, as it was believed that cigarettes could ignite the gases in the air. The vapours were also responsible for the Birmingham Cemeteries Act, which requires that coffins that won't be buried, such as in the catacombs, should be sealed properly with lead.
There are thought to be a few spirits residing in Warstone Lane. The most famous one is the White Lady. She is said to be young, and appears in a few different costumes, the most noted one being her white dress. An aroma similar to pear drops (cyanide) follows her around and it is disputed whether she simply worked in the jewellery trade or took her own life with the poison. She has been spotted a couple of times in Key Hill too.

So that concludes our tour of the Jewellery Quarter graveyards. I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love to hear where you'd like to explore next!

Sweet dreams...

Loppy x

Sources:
Today has been a very grey, rainy day in Selfoss. The days are slowly drawing in and the temperature is dropping. Although I long for the dark Winter days, snow and log fires, it can get rather boring being holed up inside all day. The Autumn and Winter months are the time that I read the most. There's nothing cosier that curling up on the sofa with a hot chocolate, a fleece blanket and a good book.

Although I have a stack of books ready to see me through the Winter, and I'll no doubt buy some more on my next visit home, it came to my attention today that I didn't bring any bookmarks with me to Iceland! I've been using scraps of paper all year. So with that in mind I decided to spend some time today designing a few bookmarks using my photos of Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík.

They all feature the LoppyLoves web URL and a quote from one of my most popular posts; I Quit My Dream Job And Left For Iceland.

Please feel free to Download them and print them for your own use, I'd love to know if you do use them! Which one is your favourite?

Loppy x




Hello my lovelies and welcome to my new blog series Midweek Mysteries! Every Wednesday I'll be publishing paranormal stories from around the world. I thought I'd kick things off with a few stories from the town that featured in my last post, Whitby.



Whitby is an ancient town in North Yorkshire which is surrounded by folklore and creepy tales. Residing within the North York Moors, it isn't hard to picture ghostly figures wondering around on the long, dark Winter nights when the wind is howling through the silent, cobbled streets. You can read more about the town in my recent post here.

Our first story takes us up the 199 steps to St. Mary's Churchyard. Imagine climbing the Abbey steps on a bitterly cold, dreary Winter night and entering the graveyard in front of the church. It's so dark that the ruins of the Abbey are barely visible, but still looming over you. You walk around the churchyard, among the tombstones of deceased sailors who died on land and therefore couldn't be buried at sea. You think you hear horses trotting in the distance, and then assure yourself that no one is around this late. You continue walking around the graves, admiring the view of the town from the cliff top when you suddenly see the silhouette of a horse-drawn carriage hurtling towards you, the driver whipping his horses to gallop faster and faster. It's too dark for the driver to see so you start to run towards the steps, trying to escape. You hear the carriage slowing down and turn around just in time to see it stop in front of the church doors before slowly fading from view... You are alone once again.

This is the haunting of the Barguest Coach. According to legend it would come to visit the graves of sailors on the third night after they were buried. Witnesses of the carriage have reported that it is driven by headless horses and the skeletons of dead sailors ride inside the coach. They come to pay their respects to their fellow seaman, before his soul boards the carriage with them and they ride off together. Those unlucky few who happen to be in the churchyard in the dead of night might just encounter the Barguest Coach...

St.Mary's Churchyard with the Abbey in view

Our second story is on the East cliff, the other side of the town. You've now descended the Abbey steps, walked along the cobbled, moonlit streets and crossed the swing bridge. You walk along the harbour towards the sea and onto the pier. You gaze out to the ocean as you try to catch your breath, still frightened from what you've just experienced in the churchyard. You glance the lighthouse at the end of the pier and find it rather charming. You ramble along the pier until you stand at the base of the lighthouse, which now appears much larger than it did from a distance. The wind howls loudly around the building and black waves crash off the pier. It unexpectedly starts raining, heavily. You aren't wearing a raincoat and you try the door handle. To your surprise, it opens and you step inside to shelter from the rain. You think you hear footsteps upstairs, but remind yourself that it's probably the rain battering down on the lighthouse. You hear some more steps, before a series of loud bangs echoes down the spiral staircase. Terrified, you grapple for the door handle but in your frenzy you struggle to turn it. You hear a loud bang right behind you and then silence. Maybe something fell down the stairs, you think. The wind could've got through a broken window and blown something down the stairwell. You slowly turn around and see a lifeless man lying at the foot of the stairs. Frozen in terror, you are too scared to scream for help. Almost immediately, you come back to your senses and start dialling for help. You look up from your phone, the body has vanished.

The haunting of Whitby West Lighthouse. Many years ago there was a huge storm one night in Whitby, the winds were so strong that the lighthouse keeper decided to leave his home and head out into the storm to fulfill his duties. He knew how dangerous this storm would be for any boats deciding to come into the harbour and he didn't want any shipwrecks or fatalities on his watch. He only achieved the former, there would be one fatality that night. He hurriedly put on his coat and rain boots and trenched out into the storm. He climbed the stairs of the lighthouse, his coat was soaking wet from the rain. He didn't notice the water dripping onto the steps. He turned the light on, and confident that he'd completed his work for that night he hurried back down the steps. On the way down he slipped on the rain-soaked steps and tumbled all the way down the staircase. By the time he reached the bottom, he was dead. Some people who visit the lighthouse have reported seeing the ghostly lighthouse keeper walking towards the end of the pier to fulfill his duties. An unfortunate few have seen his lifeless body lying at the base of the stairs...

The West Lighthouse


Our third and last story happens in the place you might go to seek refuge from the strange occurrences. You run out of the lighthouse and sprint back down the pier, no longer caring about the rain. You run past the empty arcades and restaurants, past all the shops along the harbour front and past the swing bridge. You run down New Quay Road and past the train station. You see Pannett Park ahead and breathe a sigh of relief. You're back at your hotel, Bagdale Hall. You open the door and take in the cosy, warm reception area. The bar is still open so you order something strong to help calm your nerves. The bartender jokes that you look like you've seen a ghost. 'There's plenty more of them here' he laughs before sauntering back into the kitchen. You hear a child crying right behind you, but when you turn around the room is empty...

Bagdale hall is a 500 year old Tudor building opposite Pannett Park which boasts plenty of spirits that haunt the halls. Both guests and hotel staff have reported spooky happenings whilst inside the hotel. The most well-known ghost to manifest is of a pirate called Browne Bushell, who owned the hotel during the 17th Century. He often jumped sides during the English Civil War and was eventually beheaded for his treason. He supposedly returned to the hotel after his death and a sense of doom lets frequenters of the hotel know when he's around. There are many other spooky occurrences at Bagdale, including the sound of children playing in empty rooms and poltergeist activity.

So that was my first Midweek Mysteries post, I'd love to know what you thought of it and if you'd like to read more of this series! If you have any suggestions for what place I should feature next, please let me know in the comments below.

Sweet dreams...

Loppy x

Sources:
https://www.thewhitbyguide.co.uk/five-haunted-places-in-whitby/
https://shoreline-cottages.com/whitby-life-blog/whitbys-famous-ghost-stories-and-mythical-tales/
I don't particularly like my hometown of Birmingham in the UK, this is no secret. I'm not overly fond of my home country either which is why I left, there's a lot of problems there that I don't think will ever really be fixed. Having said that, there is one place in England that I adore, and if I ever had to move back home it would be the place that I'd settle.

Whitby is a small seaside town in North Yorkshire that appears to be frozen in time. Once a major whaling port and jewellery manufacturing town, it's main source of income now is the fishing industry and tourism.

The view from the East Cliff

A Brief History

The first recorded permanent settlement was in 656, when the first Abbey was founded. The town was known at this time as Streanæshealh. In 876 the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders. The second monastery was founded in 1708 and around this time the town gained it's current name of Whitby, derived from 'White Settlement' in Old Norse.

Whitby Abbey

Around the mid-18th Century, Whitby developed as a major whaling port and shipbuilding centre. This nautical history is marked today by statues of Captain James Cook and William Scoresby, and the Whalebone Arch that stands on the West Cliff. There is also mini replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour (called the 'Bark Endeavour Whitby') that takes tourists for short sailing trips.

During the mid-19th Century Whitby's whaling industry came to an end due to a succession of unsuccesful trips. Whitby's jewellery industry grew around this time. Whitby jet is a rare gemstone found only along a short strip of coastline just a few miles long. Jet can be found in other countries but Whitby jet is thought to be of the highest quality. The gemstone is black and very lightweight and is made of fossilized wood. It is still possible to find pieces on the beach. A couple of years ago I spoke to a jet carver selling his pieces on the street, he told me that he camps near the beach during storms just to find the washed up pieces of jet to use!
Whitby jet became very popular during Queen Victoria's reign due to it's black colour, and therefore was used in mourning jewellery.

Whitby at dusk

Dracula

Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby while he was writing Dracula. He stayed on the West cliff, with a view of the Abbey. It is also believed that he discovered the name 'Dracula' in a book in Whitby Library. The town is featured in the novel as the place where the Count's ship Demeter was wrecked.

St. Mary's Churchyard and Whitby Abbey

Whitby Today

Today Whitby is a vibrant, yet gothic town. The Abbey dominates the East Cliff, looming over the Victorian town. A whalebone arch stands on the West Cliff, with the view of the Abbey centred through the middle. The orignal whale jawbone was donated by a Norwegian whaling company in 1963 but due to weathering it eventually had to be replaced. In 2002 a new whalebone arch was donated from a town in Alaska.


Whalebone arch with the Abbey in the centre

It is beautiful in all seasons but my favourite time to visit is in the Autumn and Winter. The harsh Northern weather and moody Winter darkness make this town hauntingly beautiful. The first weekend in November, and the last weekend in April, there is the bi-annual Whitby Goth Weekend. It is a festival of music, crafts and all things spooky. Many gothic and Victorian-clad alternative folk ascend on the town and truly bring the place to life. Halloween is celebrated well in Whitby and I think it's the perfect time to visit.

Whitby in the Autumn

Jet jewellery is still available to purchase at any of the many jetworks in the town, and fishing is still one of the biggest industries there. It is said that you can get the best fish and chips in the UK from Whitby, and fresh Whitby scampi.

One of the weirdest local foods that you must try if you ever visit is a 'lemon top ice cream' (or goth tops during the WGW season). It's a cone of ice cream topped with a scoop of lemon sorbet (blackberry sorbet on goth tops). The ice cream is sweet and creamy but the sorbet is so sour and a sharp contrast to the ice cream. It's worth trying at least once!

Beach combing is a fun activity in Whitby, colourful sea glass lines the shoreline, and fossils and jet can sometimes be found. I found a decent sized ammonite on the beach during my first trip to Whitby. Most of the gift shops sell ammonites or inexpensive pieces of jet from the beach.

Whitby beach is full of treasures

I'd love to hear what your favourite town is, let me know in the comments below!

Loppy x

Sources:
Recently I went on a trip to Russia during World Cup season. I'm not a fan of football myself but I do have a Viking who desperately wanted to see Iceland's first time playing in the World Cup, so the trip was booked and off we went.
We weren't really prepared for this trip at all, we'd booked the flights and hotels 3 weeks before we left, didn't have any currency, and hadn't thought out our cross-country travel well. We were flying from Keflavík to Budapest, Budapest to Moscow and then travelling to different cities for games. We'd booked flights for our journeys between the cities, all except one, Volgograd to Rostov-On-Don, and then onto Taganrog.
There was no flight that we could've taken. There was an extremely long bus journey which we thought would've been too uncomfortable so we booked a 12 hour sleeper train. Except there were no overnight journeys available, the options we had were to leave at 4am, or 7:40am. We chose 7:40am. There was only a second class 4-berth cabin available.

Our tiny 4-berth cabin

We had stayed in Volgograd for 3 nights, and had learned that our hotel wasn't in a great location (right on the outskirts of the town) and we couldn't necessarily rely on taxis to turn up. Apparently the drivers don't like driving so far out of the centre (which was only 20 minutes away!). We waited for our taxi, and waited. A few times we asked the lady on hotel reception if she knew how long our taxi would be, the answer was always '5 minutes!', we waited for 40. We were getting dangerously close to the train's departure time. Finally our taxi showed up and got us to the train station with less than 10 minutes until the departure. We ran through the security (Russian train stations have airport style security, bags have to be scanned), and found a World Cup volunteer to help us find our platform. He looked at our ticket and looked alarmed as there were only a few minutes left, he ran with us through a maze of tunnels connecting the platforms. We would never have found the right platform ourselves. Frustratingly, while we were running up some stairs towards the train, suitcases in tow, one of my shoes fell off! Biggi picked it up behind me and told me to carry on running, I could put it back on when we were on board. The volunteer shoved our tickets in the face of a train conductor and shouted something in Russian. The conductor shook her head and pointed down the platform. Our carriage was right at the other end of the train, and leaving in 1 minute. We ran as fast as we could, exhausted. The volunteer stopped the train carriage from closing and helped take our suitcases on board. Another conductor (who didn't speak English) took our tickets and asked for our passports. He then said "nine" and pointed down the carriage. The cabins had Roman numerals on them, we walked along until we found IX. There was already a couple inside, wearing Iceland football shirts. They smiled as we walked in and asked "Ertu frá Íslandi?"

They'd occupied the bunks on the right hand side, so we took the left. I climbed onto the top bunk using the smallest ladder I've ever seen, mostly having to pull myself up with my arms. Above the door was a shelf to store luggage. Biggi and I only brought carry on cases but the other couple had full sized luggage. Everything just about fit but if we'd all brought large cases there wouldn't have been enough room.

Barely enough space to store luggage!


The cabin was tiny and old. I wasn't expecting it to be nice, or even modern, but I was expecting it to be better than it was. It looked as though it hadn't changed since the war. The foldaway ladders to reach the bunks were wobbly, the walls were grimy, and the little nets on the wall to store belongings looked as though they were starting to rot away.

Small nets for storage


The conductor brought linen for us all, clean and packaged in disposable plastic bags. We had pillows and duvets on our beds, but in 30°C heat, the duvets were useless. We all chatted for a little while before trying to get some sleep. The game in Volgograd had been the night before so everyone had stayed out late. Sleep was near impossible to come by. The train was loud, hot and rickety. The air conditioning didn't work,and the tiny open window didn't provide much relief from the heat.
About 30 minutes after departure the conductor came in to mop the floor, he didn't say a word as he picked up our shoes and took them into the corridor while he mopped. After he left I gazed out of the window for a while. The terrain reminded me of an African Savanna, then I spotted two camels! I thought I was seeing things, maybe having a mirage from the heat but when I shouted "Camels!" everyone else could see them too. It was incredible.

No air conditioning, or maybe no Icelanders allowed...


Eventually I fell asleep, not for very long but I felt more rested when I awoke. I woke up to a young girl standing in the doorway speaking Russian. The others woke up too and the Icelandic lady in our cabin spoke a little Russian! She translated for us. We could order our breakfast and lunch ife we wanted it. Biggi and I hadn't eaten a proper meal for a few days so we couldn't wait for our breakfast! There were 2 set menus so we ordered one of each to share. There were no vegetarian options for me but the breakfasts came with a few veggie things.

After half an hour the girl returned with our food. They'd only got one of the set menus in stock so we both received the same. She said the price and Biggi said he'd like to pay with card (we had no currency!), she told him he'd have to go with her to the dining cart. He left and I sat down to start eating. The cheese sandwiches included were made on stale bread, the cheap cheese slices were melted in the plastic wrap and the fried eggs contained chopped up pork. I shovelled the fried tomatoes onto the tiny cheese sandwich and wolfed it down, still starving. Our meals were supposed to come with a cup of tea each. I found 2 tea bags in the bag our food came in, but we weren't provided with cups or hot water! Biggi was taking a long time to pay, the Icelanders commented on it. After over half an hour he returned with some bottles of coke and water and told us that they'd charged him 4 times for the meal. None of the staff spoke English, and although he could clearly see that the payment was going through they kept telling him he had to try again. He also found a carriage with air conditioning, near the food cart, which was about 10 carriages away.

The other couple decided to explore the rest of the train and find the air conditioning, we decided to try to get some more sleep.

Ridiculously tiny ladder open...

Ridiculously tiny ladder closed.


A few hours later the couple came back and told us it was lunch time, and lunch had to be taken in the dining cart. We followed them through endless carriages. There were large gaps in the floor where the carriages connected, I could see the train tracks below and I felt terrified walking between carriages.

We finally reached the air conditioned carriage, the cabins looked a little nicer. This might've been first class, but it still didn't look very comfortable. We found a table and waited for the food that we ordered earlier, a waitress brought menus over to us. We realised that they didn't know we'd already ordered so we asked for a couple of bottles of water and decide to skip lunch as breakfast had been so bad. I opened my water bottle and we walked over to pay. The lady told us we couldn't pay we card, the machine only had 4% battery charge left on it and she wouldn't even let us attempt to use it. We told her that we had no money and she scoffed at us. With help from the Russian speaking Icelander we told her that we'd come back to pay later, there was a long stop coming up and we hoped there'd be an ATM there.

The dining cart


Eventually we had a break from the train, we had 30 minutes to find food and money.
We walked up and down the platform, there were no ATMs. We asked workers on the platforms where we could get cash from, they shook their heads at us. We panicked. We stood in queue to buy food and hoped we could somehow get money from the cashier. The Icelandic man in front of us had been in the dining cart with us, he started talking to us and asked if we needed cash. He gave us 5000 roubles and his bank details to send money back to his account (Takk fyrir maður!). We were relieved. We stocked up on food and water at the shop, which was much cheaper than the train had been. We boarded the train again, paid for our water bottles and then returned to our cabin.

We'd been on the train for 8 hours and hadn't used the bathroom yet (partly out of fear of what it would be like). I opened the door to the toilet next to our cabin and was mortified. A rusted steel toilet and sink stood in the tiny, filthy room. There was a foot pedal to flush the toilet, the bar of soap looked as old as the train, and barely touched. I suspect everyone else was scared to touch it too, afraid of catching some deadly disease. Finally, to my horror, no water ran from the taps.

The terrifying toilet

The broken sink


I rushed back to the cabin and decided to stay in there for the rest of the journey despite the heat. A few hours later we finally pulled up to the platform at Rostov-On-Don and I almost ran off the train! My first mission was to find food; finding a proper meal was hopeless but I found a place selling cabbage pies and cold potato wedges. That was good enough!

Now we just had to find the bus to Taganrog...

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