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Carmarthen Cameos-2

It takes slightly longer than five hours to get to Carmarthen from Manchester. It’s longer than a journey to London, which is three hours, but shorter than a journey to St Petersburg, Russia’s pre-revolutionary capital, which is eight hours. Every time I went to St Petersburg I took a night train; I would always sleep on the way there, and I would always toss and turn on the way back to Moscow. The train to Carmarthen ran at 9 o’clock in the morning, and the route of about 20 stops led through Shrewsbury, Hereford, Abergavenny, Cardiff, and Swansea.

In the past I travelled along the Northern Coast of Wales in a car. As you know, I love knitting, and my Mecca was a place which name I never remembered and where Abakhan Mill was located. I went to Conwy Castle and Llandudno, for day trips, and my only impression was that of the multitudes of people exploring the castle or strolling to and fro the promenade near the sea. A week in Carmarthen is thus really a gateway to my discovery of Wales.

I am travelling next day after the end of my working week. The tiredness that I don’t initially feel gradually wears on, and somewhere around Hereford I finally succumb to a short nap. When I open my eyes, the train approaches a station with signs in two languages.

Later on, when I see the Welsh name for Swansea – “Abertawe” – I realise that “aber” must mean “sea” or “river”. I’m not completely wrong: “aber” means “the mouth of a river”. The Welsh for “river” is “afon“, pronounced as [avon]. Not everything is so straightforward, however: the Welsh name for Abergavenni is “Y Fenni“. From what I gathered about Welsh language, “y” is equivalent to “the”, and “fenni” must be equivalent to “venni” because the Welsh “v” is pronounced as “f”. But I don’t know what either “fenni” or “venni” means.

About four stops before Cardiff people begin to flock into a three-wagon train, a lot of them are fathers with sons. It’s June 2nd, and the majority are going to watch Ryan Giggs playing his last international football game for Wales. Some people still have to alight before Cardiff, and somehow almost everyone standing in the aisle happens to be not quite slim. In addition to rocking gently, as becomes a train, the wagon in which I sit also breathes, sweats, shouts in children’s voices, speaks in male smoky basses, throws exasperated glances all around hoping to arrive sooner rather than later, – and then the train suddenly stops in Cardiff, and the endless stream of people and luggage floods out on the platform. A somewhat disturbing silence suddenly settles in.

We continue the journey to Swansea, where the train stands for some time. Then it moves on, and in the next (and last) hour I am riding against the train’s direction. In the last 20 minutes we go past the dunes, and some hills with the castle’s ruins on one of them. The changes in landscape have been rather dramatic. Within five hours you go from industrial dens through lush hills, through hills pretty dull but accompanied by patchwork fields with sheep, and cows, and horses, to the dunes, and finally to a semi-rural, old, historic town of Carmarthen. Turns out, the hotel is only 3 mins away from the station, and the taxi driver doesn’t seem to be glad to have only earned a couple of quid.

What looks like a dull seascape on this photo, taken on the 2nd of June around 2pm, was a complete difference to itself just a week later. The sun was shining, the water was dazzling, and the yachts of all colours and sizes drifted along the coast. Alas, I couldn’t take a picture.

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