Moscow was impossible. I was only there for about 2 hours and it was a hot mess. No one spoke any English and I can’t read any of the signs, tickets, directions, etc. As a guy I met in our hostel so accurately put it – It’s like being illiterate.
As I mentioned in my last post, a slight disaster upon arrival meant that we spent our first night in Russia attempting to navigate through the city to get tickets to St. Petersburg. It was incredibly hard.
In the airport, there was enough English for us to easily find our way to express train which took us to Moscow city center. From there we needed to get on the Metro to head to the main train terminal.
Even though the metro station was only a block away from where our express train dropped us off, there were no clues of where to go. The word Metro is the same in Russian as it is in English, but approaching people for directions was fruitless. I tried saying “Metro?” with a confused look but for the most part I was waved away or given a sad head shake.
Finally a cab driver pointed down the street and after some further searching we found the metro. I’ve ridden a lot of metros in my life, and I assumed it would be self-explanitory.
Surprise – it was not.
Luckily, we knew which station we needed to get too and we were confident it didn’t involve a line change. After standing by the map for a few minutes, pointing at our stop and looking hopefully at other riders, we were pointed in the right direction.
Then we arrived at the stop with the train station where we were greeted by an absolute mob. It looked like an evacuation scene from a movie. We were jammed packed so closely I couldn’t even bend down to tie my shoe. We inched slowly out of the station for about 15 minutes before we reached daylight. Then the real challenge began.
We had no idea where to go or what to do to buy tickets.
We resumed our normal, wander around repeating “St. Petersburg?” routine but after a while were ready to give up. We had been traveling since 6 am the day before. We hadn’t eaten a meal since then. We were tired, hungry, etc. Maybe it was time to just find a hostel and try again the next day.
Then a man a little older than myself tapped me on the shoulder.
“Excuse me miss. You were trying to go to St. Petersburg?”
I know where you think this is going. Don’t worry. It’s not.
Not only did this guy (Who we shall call Nicest Guy in the World – NGITW) walk us to the ticket booth, he also helped us purchase our ticket by translating with the ticket counter lady. He walked us through all the options for class and times and then translated all the information printed on our ticket to us.
Then NGITW walked us to the train departure area and explained where to look to find out the exact terminal where our train would be. Then he bid us goodbye, and gave us his email address in case we had any problems. I was so happy for his help – it was confusing enough that I am confident we wouldn’t have figured it out on our own. Check out this sign:
One of those is a train to St. Petersburg – care to guess which?
While we were waiting to buy our tickets, he told us that when he was in India, a few years earlier, he had had a similar situation where he needed to buy train tickets and could figure out what to do. Someone had helped him then and now he wanted to help us. I guess the lesson here is that we should all help confused tourists in our home countries and hopefully someone will help us when we are lost.
Beautiful, I know.
The good news is St. Petersburg was a totally different story. The metro is easy to use (really all I need is some color coding and signs saying were the line ends…nothing more!) and I have a map which I can read and determine where the train stations, metros and roads are. It’s pretty perfect. Plus the city is beautiful. Both Shannon and I are already reluctant to leave and return to Moscow tomorrow.