You recall the first part of my trip when my ATM card was blocked, and my computer would not work, right? Well it got even better yesterday as I was headed without a care in the world from Yekaterinburg to Moscow. I got to the train station in plenty of time, and waited until my train, the #15 to Moscow was posted.
So, I headed out to Track #8 as it was posted, the train arrived shortly, and I went to car #11, as stated on my ticket. The providnitsa shouted some angry words in Russian, and told me to go away, which dutifully did. I headed back into the main station, and re-checked the board. It said #8, but did not say whether the train had arrived. All trains listed had an arrival time, departure time, and time in station so passengers could walk around or buy something, time permitting.
So, since there was no arrival time for my train, and since the providnitsa sent me away, I assumed my train had not arrived yet. So, I waited, and I waited. Well the train never arrived, but soon after the 10:12am scheduled departure time, the listing disappeared from the big board. I then came to the conclusion that my train left without ME!!!!
I was correct, after confirming with more angry Russian train station personnel. So, they sent me to a “trouble” window, where I waited in line for about 30 minutes, until the lady staffing it closed the window and left!!! Now what? I thought I could either go back to the hotel and catch the same train tomorrow, or even fly from Yekaterinburg to Moscow to recatch my train and stay on my itinerary.
But I was able to read a sign that said, “administrator”. Aha, perhaps she can help me. So, I stood in line another 30 minutes, bearing in mind both lines were quite short, as was the temper of the woman staffing it!!!
When my turn came, she started yelling at me in Russian, and I knew I was in deep trouble. But the travel angels must have been looking out for me. A young Russian young man of about 22 or so came to my rescue, with enough English to convince the “Administrator lady” to credit my first class ticket, and re-issue a second class ticket on the next train at 13:10. And issue a refund for the balance. My lucky day, right?
Well, the time came to board again, I went to track 8, and this time there was no train at all! Somehow, some weird logic prevailed in my brain, that perhaps number 8 was not the track, but perhaps something else, like a platform. Aha moment number 2!!!
I now had about 2-3 minutes to avoid missing my second train in a row. I found what looked like Platform 8, and saw a train about 300 yards ahead. I scrambled along the platform and had to run all the way to the front of the train to find my car. Yes, this was it!!!!
I boarded, found my cabin, which is now a second class cabin with FOUR beds, two upper and two lower. Guess which one I got? Yes, an upper that required some creative gymnastics to climb and descend! It was not gong to be a good trip to Moscow, so I presumed at this point!!!
Two stinky commuter rail employees are in the cabin, wreaking of both B.O. and cheap cigarettes. Fortunately, they fell asleep right away, and I decided to hang out in the hallway, for lack of a better place to be.
When I boarded, I noticed three young students in a cabin at the other end of the car. After some eye contact, they scurried down to meet me. This began a great and long conversation, in English for the next 6 to 7 hours. They were three Ph.D. students from the university in Perm. They had been at a conference in Tomsk, and had boarded in Novosibirsk. I enjoyed the next several hours in their cabin, talked about everything in the world, and made some nice friends. I was so sad to see them go.
Meanwhile, things in the cabin got stranger yet. I lost the two Stinkos, and got two middle-aged biddies, and a young, military type young Russian. So, since I needed some rest, I just called it a night around 1am, in my new loft.
Morning brought the best surprise of all. A group of Intrepid travelers from Australia, Canada, and Scotland invited me to join them. I spent the entire days in their cabin, shared food and stories, and just had a grand old time.
Out my rather challenging situation came some of the best experiences of my trip, so far. I met up with my friend Michael from Switzerland in the hotel bar, and proceeded out on the Moscow night. We ended up walking over the Red Square, to a cute little café, for some Italian food. It was certainly not the Red Square we were brainwashed with during the Cold War with the Soviets.
Red Square actually now looks like Disneyland at night, and they are prepping it for a big rock concert in a day or so. The entire Red Square and Kremlin is nothing like I was expecting. It is not only huge, it is a beautiful, almost magical place!!! Who would have thought?
My rather challenging experience has reinforced by belief, to always expect the unexpected. And something good, even great can happen when you least expect it. I can’t wait to tell you more about The Kremlin and Red Square.