And so my epic journey to Australia begins. Much like every other holiday I’ve taken – with chaotic detours and narrow escapes from mental breakdowns.
Okay, I tell a lie. It wasn’t that bad. To be honest there was only two problems. The first was my discovery that the Russian dictionary I’d downloaded was actually a translator that required internet access, making it worthless and meaning I had no chance to learn even basic Russian during the flight as planned.
The flights themselves were fine – the 6.45 flight time not withstanding. And my backback, sadly reduced to actual luggage due to the sheer weight of it, got to each of the 3 destinations without a hitch – there’s a first time for everything.
No, my one other issue came after arriving in Moscow. Beforehand I’d been looking up the various ways to get into the city, and thought I had a pretty good handle on how to go about it. There was no way I was paying 60 pounds plus for a taxi, but found an alternative. The Aeroexpress – which also offered a taxi transfer from the train station. Sorted.
That was the plan…right up until I got to the airport’s Aeroexpress terminal and discovered if you didn’t speak Russian, ordering a taxi was next to impossible. And the people working at the desk were the least helpful people I’ve ever met. I accepted it was a lost cause, and got on the Aeroexpress with the intention of traversing the subway using the Vodkatrain’s directions. Plan B go.
No – the train station another surprise. Up till this point everything had been bilingual – but the machines for the subway were all in cyrrilic. And so were the maps. The Vodkatrains directions were in English – no cyrillic available at all. I couldn’t even guess the right station.
Okay…lets just walk outside and get a taxi. I have cyrillic directions.
No taxis – least none that I can find, and its raining.
I huddle up in the shelter of the station shivering, trying to figure out what to do. All 3 of my plans have fallen through, my phone has chosen this very moment to cease working, so I can’t even call the hostel to ask for directions, and it’s late. My trip is off to a great start…
Thankfully, I was saved by an angel of mercy. A woman with tolerable English noticed my struggles with my phone and map and came to my aid. She wasn’t sure what subway I needed to take, but did manage to ask a guard where to find a taxi. She escorted me over to help translate, and when they quoted a pretty high price (1000 rubles), she walked off and found me another taxi that would take me for half that. God bless that wonderful woman.
On that note – the one thing I’ve noticed about people in Russia is how friendly people are if they’re not being paid for it. Every ticket office, train conductor and taxi driver has been utterly miserable to me, and shopkeepers definitely give the impression they’re making fun of you behind your back, but the random people on the street couldn’t be more helpful.
With her aid, I made it to the hostel for the evening, and managed to meet up with a handful of other Vodkatrain passengers. It’s too dark and I’m too exhausted, so Moscow will wait for the next day.