5:01am on a night train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. Third class. The carriage is stacked with row after row, level after level of sleeping, sweating, snoring bodies crammed into foldaway bench beds like a school of still-thrashing sardines in a vacuum-sealed can. The ventilation system doesn’t work and the windows are all bolted shut; the air is blue with the previous night’s cigarette smoke and sour because it has been breathed before. One-by-one the points of snoring cease, people awakening to sauna-like temperatures and a level of discomfort worsened by lack of sleep and unfamiliar surroundings.
Will assures me there’s air moving — “there has to be” — then suggests I put my face up to the double-pane glass windows to feel the cold. If I concentrate hard enough on the crisp, starlit landscape outside I can just about place myself in the snow.