**so this SHOULDA published, but didn’t 🙁 It’s now outta the flow of posts**
St Petersburg train station – after four nights in St Petersburg, we’d planned to head to Moscow by train. Something we thought would be relatively simple and a well worn path.
Stress to another level that til now I’d not come across despite “worrying” about it before departure. There were countless windows and machines. The machines appeared to what a card, so we went for a line. None of the lines seemed to move with any regularity. The only details on windows where listed time ranges – countless time ranges. No destinations were listed at any window.
After Rory stood patiently at one line and I tried a disjointed line. Two ruski grannies ended up getting in front of me after speaking to me in Russian so I abandoned hope in my line. I then lined up at what could be guessed as information. One person out I noticed young staff with red vests as thought my chances with them and the machines were with the young uns. I inserted my credit card, taking a risk about twenty minutes ago seemed perplexing and risky. Then I asked young man with smart phone to help. Despite selecting the English option, the city names reverted to cryllic (autocorrect suggested cryptic and I’d be inclined to agree). Young dude tapped with reckless abandoned what I would have picked as st Petersburg and Moscow between 13-14:00hrs. There were a number of trains listed and we knew This is advance but I couldn’t buy them on the machine. With the help of his google translate app he made me understand that it was too close to the departure time. I could go to a window. Any window. So I returned to Rory who seemed to have not a care in the world, other than the wifi signal diminishing with each millimetre closer to a ticket counter that seemed at least as far away at 14:00 after which I wasn’t sure there’s be trains.
Feeling the angst rising, I sent Rory to a counter that seemed to not issue ticked but progress. He returned with a slip of paper with 29A on it, which was a ticket counter. It was closed. It was in a corner amongst a handful of other windows and one shortish line. Doing my best Russian I butted in line; knowing trains were plentiful soon and sparse then onwards. There was a skinny girl with paperwork and her BF and there was some disdain when I didn’t speak Russian when she spoke to me! Middle aged rainbow pants was also pretty adamant we weren’t getting in front of her but when she got to the window two men just took over and not appearing in her aid. Damn, that sucks.
And then, on gods will, 29A opened, served severe skinny gal and then we were on! There appeared to be no english but she wrote on paper OAY, though the o looked more like an o with a line through it. After some confusion I established she’d written a D! Day! Today! Much pointing on the spot.
Passports were proffered and keyed into the system. At some stage she keyed a price Into the calculator. I joked to Rory she could put $150 per person and I’d likely have just rolled with it (I think it was that in total). The ticket outlined the train number, which matched some of my pre mission notes (for the safety of hotel wifi), so I was pretty sure it was a four hour train as hoped. At 13:20. It was 13:10. Much hurried walking to what Rory thought was the platform which appeared not to be listed on our ticket. Rory run to the display boards whilst I waited alongside a train on what could have been 6 (6 featured somewhere on our tickets so…) Rory ran back saying it was platform four. We passed through some rather lacklustre security (ie my phone in my pocket was never removed), so a train that looked… Old. Behind it we could see a far swankier train and started to wonder if that was it?! So we wen to exit the secure platform before realising, we coul work out how one got to swanky train – there were ticket gates but not for us to pass through. We returned to the guards at the exit of the platform we’d just been and they said, no, that povo looking train is in fact the one you want. And no, of course we couldn’t pass back through, back to the security cabin, which thankfully have more X-ray machines than passengers. A quick sprint to the first conductor and proffering of our passports and we entered. Then, which carriage. Again, convinced of all things “6” we thought we had a few to pass through but after bustling through two carriages I got Rory to ask the conducteess, who directed us back just a few cabins. Sometimes asking is worth the effort! We made it, there were mere minutes and the train pushed off.
But then came the comedy of food delivery. A lady with a box unloaded six sandwiches into the shelves above our heads. The dapper older fellow then started talking to her. Whilst he was somewhat attractive, she was none too impressed with his sentiments. Later, a shorter, better dressed blonde lady (possibly conductress from act 1), returned with the complete “in flight” announcement. By this stage our six berth cabin had reached occupancy with a more than average sized 30yo woman who appeared to speak English! Winning! Seems dapper old fella does too. He continued a detailed Q&A of the food situation. Blondey seemed a little more warm to his plight. Curvy gal then explained that for the four hour journey we have a sandwich and a snack pack. With great enthusiasm she unpacked her snack pack, item by item: yoghurt, juice box, cake, mini water and chocolate. Yes, I exclaimed out loud celebration for chocolate. So much so when dapper fellow got his two snickers bars (paid for, I assume but yet to see the money change hands), he offered me one. I think my mimed interest in his chatter being about sandwich swapping (he doesn’t like chicken or wheat) for chocolate. Ha! He thought I wanted to steal his chocolate. I mean, I’m on hell’s express entry list due to my pushing in antics, no need to further add to my ticket of sins.
Curvy gal entertained Rory with photos of her two weeks in St Petersburg as she’s from Moscow. She had Korean food. Pft. Not to discount her otherwise friendly and generous neighbour, but us semi Strathfield reared kids aren’t wowed by Korean. Quite the opposite.
I’m now not entirely sure it’s a four hour train with the elaborate feed laid out – this could be the long train to Vladivostok for all I know. Thankfully, the train has phone chargers to this record shall remain… If not on the web at least locked away in an iPhone4 for future prosperity of crazy stuff Aussie kids do in st Petersburg – the only foreigners in a train station, without a clue!