The Knickers Nicker Strikes on the Trans-Siberian Express
The Case of the Stolen Undies
I was travelling with my business partner, let’s call her Joanna (not Lumley), with a large group on the Trans-Siberian Express – a private train from Beijing through Mongolia and Siberia to Moscow. We were trying out the program for future inclusion in our brochure. You might think this was a bit of a “jolly”, but much of it was just plain hard work, taking photos, inspecting hotels, taking lots of notes. And we weren’t exactly in luxury – our carriage of 9 compartments shared one toilet and no shower! More about that in a later blog.
Our 200 travelling companions were 50% German, and the rest a mix of nationalities – English, Australian, Scandinavian, Argentinian and even some Indonesians. We were a happy lot.
After leaving Mongolia our next stop was the city of Irkutsk in the heart of Russian Siberia. We’d been travelling for about 5 days so it was time to do some washing of clothes. So when we checked into our 4-star hotel at about 11am, the tour organisers gave us each a laundry bag in which to place our clothes for dry cleaning. This was done with about 30 of us in the hotel lobby – there we were with undies, socks etc all over the floor as we shoved them into the bags – not a pretty sight!
We were instructed to attach a hand written name tag with a clip on each item which we thought strange, but we did it anyway. Our clean clothes were due back in our rooms that evening – we were very impressed.
Sure enough at 7pm there they were back in our rooms but there was a problem for Joanna – she was missing a pair of ladies silky, lacy, black knickers. But she had acquired a pair of men’s boxer shorts! At first, she was amused, but then very annoyed – what man had her expensive knickers? And how did we find him and do the swap?
I just had a vision of the latest movie Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks where he also did a swap of a different kind. We were not about to do a swap with the Russians on a bridge in East Germany during the Cold War, but gives me a laugh now thinking about the crazy possibilities. Anyway back to solving the missing undies.
To me the solution was simple – we’d ask Helmut the German tour director to make an announcement on the train asking for a swap to be arranged. He made frequent announcements in German and English from his little office on the train, so this was no big deal – so I thought. He refused point blank. I suggested that he could even make a joke about it, and give all on the train a laugh. But no – Helmut was not into knickers’ jokes or any jokes I suspect. We had hit a brick wall.
We couldn’t really go through the train asking the 100 men if they had Joanna’s knickers, so we had to be content with trying to work out which man might be wearing them. This at least was a great source of amusement.
So we would sit in the dining carriage before dinner each night, and watch the men go by and speculate about each one. We had decided that the offender would give himself away by the way he walked! My money eventually was on one younger, handsome German guy, with a strange rolling gait who always smiled at Joanna as he passed – it was him and he knew they were hers! But we could never prove it…
The men’s boxer shorts were ditched in a charity clothing bin, and somewhere in Siberia, a man is wearing the German’s boxer shorts. Meanwhile the German goes to work at his plush office in Berlin wearing the lacy black knickers under his expensive business suit – anyway, that is what we imagine.