Sunday, 18 September 2011

Russia: The arrival

I don't even know where to start. I've been in Russia since Sunday, so 6 days, and it feels like I've been here months. I suppose the trip over would be a logical point from which to begin this post, but Russia is anything but logical and chaotic at the best of times. Nevertheless, I shall remain logical and split it into separate parts.

I had maybe 50 minutes sleep Sunday morning, and got up at 4am to leave at 5. My plane was delayed an hour, so I watched repeated images of planes plowing through the towers in New York on the news whilst waiting for my flight. We did eventually go, and the flight passed unremarkably. I watched Kung Fu Panda twice whilst everyone else was watching some kind of documentary, being the mature adult that I am. Arriving at Moscow, first impressions were based on the speed at which I got through security; about an hour faster than in Petersburg, and the utterly lovely Moscow RLUS rep who met me with her friend, who was equally lovely. There had been torrential rain for the past few days and it was no exception when I arrived- we got on a bus to the station and sat in heavy rush hour traffic, chatting away and watching the tops of buildings disappear into the oppressive grey sky.  Vic had decided a cheeseburger was very necessary so we dragged my massive cases through the lakes that were forming in the roads filled with aggressive drivers who held little regard for traffic lights.
We sat in McDonalds for quite a long time, Adrian being entertaining in the most endearing way possible. My shoes had actually dried by the time we left, heading straight back into the monsoon and down into the metro.

This was my first experience of the Moscow metro, and even in my horrendously sleep deprived state, it was easy to appreciate it. People talk about how ornate the stations are, and there were a few mosaics of Lenin to be found in the ceilings, but being a frequenter of the London underground system, I was more appreciative of the wide turnstiles and platforms.
Kupe (kupay) class
My train to Yaroslavl left at 9.15pm. Back out into the monsoon and running up the platform to wagon 10 whilst pulling out my passport and ticket, I regretted the sleep I had lost in favour of washing my hair. Turns out that I had a particularly nice cabin, essentially second class but practically first all things considered, so despite being soaked through the journey was comfortable. An elderly man sat opposite, quietly taking in the ridiculous soggy and flustered foreigner who had invaded his previously calm space. Abba was playing, as it always seems to be in Russia, and there was, much to my surprise, a flat screen tv. Another lady and a younger guy joined us, and the three eventually made up their beds and went to sleep.

The train was headed for Cherepovets, and would arrive at 4am, whereas Yaroslavl was the first stop in 4 hours time, so I couldn't really sleep. Bizarrely, it seemed entirely normal that I was lounging in a Russian sleeper train, in the middle of the night, on my own, surrounded by Russians. In fact even when I was met at the other end and bundled into a taxi driven by a man who was coughing up the contents of his tobacco stained lungs in my face, to my flat, I was totally calm. The Russian wasn't really an issue, I understood everything, which is a marked improvement on last year. It did of course  help that I knew what I was going into, and my friend had already been there for a week, so I had English speaking back up, but I have been very lucky with my hozyaika (landlady).

Firdaus is not Russian, as far as we can tell. She may have been born here, but her roots we think are Turkish. This makes her very laid back on top of the fact that she is just completely amazingly cool and lovely anyway. She has a cat called Rizhik, which is essentially 'Ginger', who she described to me as a 'hooligan', which he proved today by marking my suitcase. Bloody cats. But she wandered in to Hannah's room with him on her neck the other day and said 'Look! He's on my neck!!' and wandered out again. She is lols. The flat is not typically Russian, which is a good thing. The hallway is BIG, the furniture is new, the kitchen is fitted and everything matches. There isn't a rug on the wall in sight, and there's no corner for icons since she's muslim, though doesn't seem to be practising. Russian flats are a mismatch of everything, and the bathrooms are often a strange sight. Whilst I do find it endearing in a way, I like my comfort, so this place is perfect. I'll add pictures when the internet is feeling more cooperative.

I got out of the taxi and Firdaus came towards me, wearing a leopard print dressing gown with open arms and grabbed me with a loud 'HELLO!'. I instantly knew I'd hit the jackpot. I was fed mashed potato and sausage and tomato, and quickly got in that I don't like fish, which has saved me from a fishy dinner fate a few times already. Hannah had waited up but since it was 2am we only talked briefly before she went to bed and I collapsed in an exhausted heap into mine, not to wake again until almost 3pm.

Bit of a miracle I actually made it, but extremely glad to have survived to this point.

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