Continuing my weekly series of overseas train trips from down the years……..
To set the scene, Hamish & I were embarking on an overnight train from Batumi on the Black Sea Coast of Georgia to Yerevan, the splendid capital of Armenia, via Tbilisi.
We had booked a berth each on the overnight sleeper on an Armenian language website and were hoping against hope that we had a private compartment.
We were therefore somewhat displeased to find four berths were awaiting us, but started hoping again when the train left with us remaining the only two occupants……..
Nineteen short minutes into the scheduled sixteen-hour journey, we pulled into a station named Kobuleti and were dismayed to see a crowd of people on the platform. Our worst fears were confirmed when our fellow occupants revealed themselves to be an eighty year-old Armenian lady who travelled with her daughter, who was herself aged in her mid to late fifties.
They were clearly unhappy to be travelling with a couple of ‘young’ male foreigners. Much discussion was held between the pair followed by fractious debate with the train crew.
They either wanted out or wanted us out. This would never have happened in Turkey, where you had to enter your gender when you booked, so strangers of the opposite sex couldn’t even sit next to you in broad daylight, let alone be up close at nighttime in a sleeping compartment.
It was tough luck on us all. The train would be full, so we were staying put whether any of us liked it or not.
The daughter then revealed they were travelling with their cat and asked if we had a problem with this. As she asked this, she unzipped one of her bags and the cat’s head popped out. All the while she had been bartering for a compartment change, the cat had been shut inside a holdall.
Tiddles seemed OK with that arrangement however, emerging with a meow of greeting and a lick for her owner.
Neither of us objected, even when the truth of what would inevitably happen when the cat’s toilet was placed on the floor dawned on us both. I had smelt enough cat poo & piss in my time to know that it would not be a pleasant experience if the litter tray (a plastic bowl with newspaper inside it actually) was used at any time, especially in the wee (excuse the pun!) small hours.
It would most probably have been futile to object anyway, although a cat flap would have come in very handy. At least then the feline facility could have been left outside in the corridor.
It also transpired that the cat was blind, so it had to be picked up by the owners every hour or so and placed by its pussy loo just in case the need had arisen.
After four hours of our co-existence, the daughter decided it was time for forty winks and clambered up the fold-out ladder to the top bunk. Mother lifted up the moggie, who was soon fast asleep beside her mistress.
As night fell, Hamish and I downed the beers we had bought in Batumi and soon afterwards my big-eared pal drifted to sleep. In the time it took for him to then wake up for a pee, Tiddles had done her own business. You guessed it, the inevitable happened!
My sock footed friend, kicked the half full latrine and ended with cat urine soaking into his right foot. Yuk!!!
The ladies apologised and handed Hamish some tissue. He was all of a fluster, whilst I was sniggering like Mutley from Wacky Races.
Off to the loo he then hopped, left boot on foot and right boot in hand. He returned ten-minutes later without both the offending sock and it’s twin, both now lying on a Georgian railway line. I wondered how long it would be before some urchin had Homer Simpson adorning his feet!
Fifteen-minutes after sockgate, we arrived in Tbilisi right on time at 21.40. According to the timetable that I had printed at home we would be here for over thirty-minutes, so decided to go on a mission to find us some more beer to help quell the cat pee smell, whilst Hamish contemplated whether there was indeed room to swing the cat!