Chugging along at sixty miles per hour, this rickety convoy of twenty-seven carriages is filled to the brim with football fanatics and locals. Life aboard the train is simple, with bunkbeds, fresh linen and a few plug sockets per carriage- but for a handful of these weary travelers, the train feels like the lap of luxury.
Such is the case for Sumit Tailor from Leicester. For him, the lumpy top bunk is the first bed he's laid his head on for four nights. It was Wednesday afternoon when Tailor decided to come out to Russia, Thursday morning when he flew out, and it has been full steam ahead ever since.
"I made the decision to fly to Russia on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30. I was checking the FIFA website for a ticket, refreshing the page to try to get one for the England vs Colombia game. There were none available, but one came up for Brazil vs Belgium."
Alas, even with a ticket to his name, it wasn't all smooth sailing from there. Of all the obstacles standing in the way of the World Cup, he claims that taking a selfie for the Fan ID was the trickiest to overcome.
"Getting the Fan ID was a nightmare. You need a picture of yourself on a white background, but my whole house is decorated in cream and yellow. Without the Fan ID, there's no chance of me getting into Russia. I even ran around to my neighbor's house, to borrow his white wall, but it wouldn't work."
Not ready to admit defeat, Mr. Tailor booked a one-way ticket to Moscow and summoned his father for a lift to the airport. On the way, they stopped at a wedding photographer to try to get the coveted Fan ID snap.
"The guy got out his massive camera and tried to take a picture of me. I told him to put it away and asked him to take one with my iPhone. He was puzzled, to say the least."
FIFA accepted the photo, the wedding photographer got a fiver, and Sumit's journey to Russia began by speeding down the M1, the first of many roads to Russia. Mr. Tailor's next hurdle was to let his girlfriend know of his intentions to fly out.
"While we were coming down the M1, I rang my girlfriend to tell her I was on my way to Gatwick. She couldn't believe I was going, so I had to send her my confirmation email as proof. The first thing she said was ‘Why are you going to Gatwick, when you are flying out from Heathrow?'"
Coasting down the runway in Moscow, with just three pairs of boxers, and a t-shirt and shorts, Sumit Tailor's next stop was Kazan. He arrived at the train station to find out all the trains to Kazan were fully booked. It was the same story with the busses. Everything was sold out.
"While I was at the train station I met two Brazilians: Victor and Cezar from Sao Paolo. They had the same issue. So, the three of us ended up taking an overnight taxi from Moscow to Kazan. It was nearly 15 hours of driving, and cost about 27,000 roubles, working out to about 100 pounds each."
Mr. Tailor was hesitant to go into the details of the taxi ride, but luckily, Cezar chipped in to fill in the gaps.
"We were three in the back of the taxi, we were very squeezed. But it was nice when we stopped. We stopped in a petrol station, and the guys there were selling fish. We bought one for our taxi driver. It was very weird. The smell is something different. The other thing that is strange is the light. The sun is always on! So, we were traveling with the sun almost all the time, and then with the smell of the fish. Crazy!"
The boys made it in time for Belgium vs Brazil match, which unfortunately for the Brazilians, was championed by Belgium. No time for mourning, as they were soon in another taxi, bound for Samara. Sumit and Cezar explained that when you are not sleeping or showering, eating well is a must. But when their second taxi driver took them for a Uzbekistani meal to refuel, something didn't quite agree with Cezar's stomach.
Arriving in Samara for him, meant calling the doctor and a quick ride in an ambulance before Sweden vs England.
"We were in the taxi for six hours, my tummy growling and growling. Oh, it was horrible! When we got to Samara, I had to get my friends to call a doctor — they gave me medicine and a drip, and it was harsh, but I am still here to tell the tale!"
Having slept sitting upright in taxis for the last four days, this little group of adventurers was baggy-eyed and pungent as they told their tale. The eighteen-hour train, for them, was the perfect way to celebrate England's win on Tuesday. No air-conditioning, but, at least a bed to get some rest.