Another lecture tour of the Ukraine begins today. On my last visit, two months ago, I visited Zaporizhzhya, Kiev, Odessa, and Donetsk; this time I will visit Kharkiv instead of Donetsk.
After lunch, Yadhu Krishna Prabhu drives Ashutosha Krishna Prabhu, Nitai Chand Prabhu and me from the Moscow temple in Kiselny to the Kursky railway station. It is a seventeen-hour journey to Zaporizhzhya. The train pulls out of the station precisely at 3:23; we are scheduled to arrive in Zaporizhzhya at 7:32 tomorrow morning (Ukrainian time is one hour behind Moscow time).
We travel south through the snow-covered countryside for two and a half hours until we reach the city of Tula, where the train stops for nine minutes. All these Russian towns are so old; it is like traveling through history. Tula was established as a fortress in 1146.
We continue the history and geography lesson as the express train speeds south for three hours to the industrial center of Orel, which was founded in 1564. We stop in Orel for twelve minutes, and then it is on to Kursk.
We reach Kursk at 11:15 p.m. Kursk was established in 1095, destroyed by the Mongols in 1240, and rebuilt as a fortress in 1586. I doze for the next hour and a half until we reach Prohcovka (a brief two-minute stop) and then I sleep fitfully for another hour until we arrive at the border city of Belgorod on the Donets River, at 1:45 a.m.
Belgorod was first settled in the seventeenth century, and is now an important transportation and industrial center. Two bored border guards board our coach to check and stamp our passports. One of them asks, "Do you have any drugs or firearms?"
I'm, like, "Um, no."
I wonder how many people have ever answered in the affirmative? I yawn sleepily, set my watch back one hour, and go back to bed. Next stop: the Ukraine.