My first trip abroad

It is 1985. She is five and her family is making a summer vacation trip to the Black Sea in Bulgaria, this is her first time leaving abroad. Grandad got them a vacation voucher (putyovka in Russian). It does not surprise her that the grandad helps with this arrangement, as he does with many other things in their everyday life. He is a bit of a head of their family, after all. It is her, mom and dad making the entire journey by train from Moscow through the republics of Ukraine and Moldova, and then Romania and Bulgaria. Before they depart, she gets a little doctor’s playset to entertain herself during the long journey. They don’t know anybody on the train, but it is not difficult to make friends. She became friends with a girl and a boy both older than her age – they are from other parts of Russia, towns that she doesn’t remember hearing of before. The boy’s dad is a sailor. He often goes to smoke and looks extremely skinny. These all make him look very exotic to her, also because she comes from a town nearby a big lake and she has not met a sea sailor before. The train stops – there is a field of sunflowers in full bloom. She has never seen a sea of sunflowers like this. She steers out of the window, wants to touch them, wants to get one for herself. But they cannot leave the train. The train is moving again. Her face is stuck to the window in fascination. They arrive at a station where the train’s wheels have to be changed. The rail tracks in the rest of Central Europe are different from the Soviet Union, so their train gets a new set of wheels for the remainder of the trip. Each train car is elevated in the air by some sort of a mechanism, and the wheels are changed. She hangs in the air for a while and feels something happening underneath her feet.