Tram TalesJune 15, 2017 in Russia
Well, it was a dreich day in Moscow this morning (Thursday). You know, sometimes this place reminds me of Glasgow - heavy showers, grey skies, road works everywhere and waiting on public transport that doesn't turn up! I waited 45 minutes on a tram with a supposedly 4 minute service. A queue of elderly Muscovites gave the driver what for, shaking their brollies at her, but Big Bertha the tram driver was having none of it. Two young lads ducked under the tram's turnstile in the melee, and laughed as they thought had skipped their fare. But Big Bertha had clocked them, and shouted to the effect, 'come oan you pair, get aff ma tram!' Just looking round the tram, I had to conclude that the Muscovites really are a dour lot - not much of the craic here!
One poor old soul had either forgotten her ticket, or didn't have one, and explained she was only going one stop. But Big Bertha was having none of it, and slammed on the brakes - she was going nowhere. Eventually a kindly fellow passenger let the old dear use his pass, and we were off.
The traffic in Moscow is constantly heavy, with many roads gridlocked. Vehicles constantly block junctions and, at their peril, some strayed into our tram track, until BB scared them off with the constant shrill ringing of her bell. At one point our tram came to a complete standstill in the traffic for a good 20 minutes, and folk were desperate to get off and walk. 'Yer gaun nowhere' decreed Big Bertha, 'this is a limited stop - ye cannae get aff afore the Bolshoi!' (I'm paraphrasing here, but you get the gist).
(I've just realised I'm starting to sound like Kris with a K and his tales of the No. 9 bus to Paisley. Sorry, K, but this was a number 3 tram, so sufficient artistic differences!).
In the late morning, I decided to pay a visit to one of Moscow's many art galleries. I chose the New Tretyakov Gallery housing the best of 20th Century Soviet art. Behind this, the Museum Park is the final resting place for many Soviet statues torn from their pedestals after the Soviet Union's collapse.
While I enjoyed the gallery, getting there was a bit of a nightmare, even with Google Maps. Due to even more road works, it was hard to work out which of the various underpasses took me where I wanted to go. Three times I must have passed the same odd-looking woman with bizarre black painted eyebrows and crooked lipstick, trying to sell me a dancing, threadbare rabbit smoking a cigar (the rabbit that is). 'No, thank you, madam, I know I have passed your way several times but I already have one at home.'
Then back to the hotel to collect my bags and head off to Kazansky station. Moscow has nine main line stations, all huge and in grand palatial-like buildings. I hoped I had found the right one. Yes! I checked into my berth on the 16.38 train. It was clean and comfortable and I was pleased I was only sharing my 4 berth cabin with one old, non English-speaking Russian man. Our compartment had comfy seats, and our berths above were made up with fresh linen and towels. We had a table, a safe, slippers and toothbrush / toothpaste, power points and even a TV. Shortly after our prompt departure, our Stewardess brought us our complementary meal - an airline type affair, consisting of a hot pork dish with rice, a roll, crackers and jam, and a bottle of water. She returned with tea in a glass in a fabulous silver Russian tea holder as we departed the metropolis and headed East. With only 5531 miles to Vladivostok, the first real part of my Trans Siberian Railway adventure had finally begun!Read more