Jun 23, 2013
|We arrived at the station in plenty of time and settled into our routine - find the departure board, identify the train number and wait. Within ten minutes, the platform number was added and we went out to take our place. The train duly arrived, we got on and waited for departure. It's easy when you know what's happening.
The only item of interest that occurred during the trip was when we went to the dining car for dinner. We didn't have business class tickets this time so had to rub shoulders with the masses in getting food. When we got to the dining car there was only one other customer there and he was busy chatting up the waitresses.
We browsed the menu (basically the same as on the previous two trains) and then started to order. Again, they had no English and, obviously, we had no Russian. At this stage the only other customer offered to translate for us. Turns out he was from Nizhny Novgorod (our next destination) so we had a good chat with him about where to go etc. He could not believe that we would spend our holidays on a train going across Russia. He was returning from a business trip and thought we were mad. "Why would you spend days looking at trees, more trees and still more trees with only the occasional dacha to break the monotony" he said. There are times when I think he is correct but that is why we broke the journey up into stages and not do it in one go. Anyway, we've nearly reached Moscow so part one of the trip (the trans Mongolian) is nearly complete.
Otherwise we got to NN without incident. We got a taxi to the hotel and left our bags there as we were too early to check in (it was only 10.00 am). The room was ready but if you check in before midday, they charge you an additional half days tariff. Needless to say, we went for a wander around the old town instead.
Initial impressions of the area around the old town were good but the rest of the city is run down and unkempt. Weeds everywhere, holes and cracks in the pavement, buildings not maintained etc. Also, I don't know what it is with us on this trip, but every second hotel we stay at seems to be in the middle of a building site. Here we were staying at the Ibis and taxis couldn't pull up out front because of the building works, leaving you to haul your bags across dug up, muddy pavements. Have a look at the photos!
Yesterday (Saturday) we went to reception and asked if someone could book our onward train tickets for us. They looked at us strangely and said "it's Saturday, everything is closed". Apparently most services (except restaurants and hotels thankfully!) operate 9-5, Monday to Friday. They said we had two options, do it ourselves by going back to the train station or wait until Monday. Given we were planning to leave on Monday, we thought it best to do it ourselves.
Katherine has become a dab hand at translating English into Cyrillic so, phrase book in hand, she proceeded to write out "two tickets to Moscow on train #153 on 24/6" in Cyrillic. We then headed off to the Metro which conveniently connects to the train station. Once there we found ..... signs in English! We headed to the Ticket Office.
Inside were masses of windows with long queues at most. There was one window at the end with no one waiting so I pushed the written instruction under the glass. Expecting to be directed to a serving window I was pleasantly surprised when, instead of being directed to another window, the attendant wrote an amount on the paper and handed it back. I gave her our passports and the money and next minute I had the tickets. All up it took about ten minutes. The longest part of the exercise was waiting for the subway to arrive.
In the end, we were able to buy the tickets without speaking a word, either English or Russian, to anyone. We took the time to write out what we wanted and went from there. All it took was patience and time. Both of which we have plenty of! But don't get me wrong, language continues to be a challenge. For example, today we had to try four restaurants for lunch before we found one where either they had a menu in English or someone could speak English to assist us in interpreting the menu. The Russian phrase book can be of very limited help sometimes when trying to interpret menus!
The other noteworthy aspect about our stay here has been the weather. It reminds me of Melbourne. One minute, it's 31c and sunny. Thirty minutes later, it's 20c and hailing. Every day has been the same. We've had periods of warm sunshine, followed by periods of rain (and sometimes hail), and then cool (even cold) blustery conditions. In any order.
Other than that we just moseyed around the old town. Managed to catch the Wallabies versus the Lions on the tablet over lunch on the Saturday (only a six hour time difference). Not robbed but we should have won. What price a decent place kicker! It's no wonder Halfpenny was first name penciled in for the Lions. Let's see what next week brings.
Otherwise, it's on to Moscow tomorrow.
As always, have fun and take care.
Brian & Katherine