Trans-Siberian Part 4: The train to Moscow
I somehow knew there was going to be a problem - it was all going without a hitch so far.
I spent a couple of hours in the VIP lounge at Kiev railway station, wandered down with about an hour to go to see what platform my train was appearing on - nothing. I hung around waiting and waiting and realised that the board hadn't changed for ages and ages, and I only had 15 minutes left. I walked up to the information window. "Do you speak English?" I optimistically asked. The lady behind the counter shook her head and said "No" (in English) and gave me a look that said all sorts of things but one of them was definitely "come back when you can speak Ukrainian". I thought maybe I'm panicking too much, I'll go and check the boards again, but after 10 more minutes I was getting very worried as my train was about to leave.
I went back to the information window and held my ticket up to the glass. "Which platform?" This time, she went off to get her colleague who could speak English. They looked at the ticket for ages and then her colleague shouted "PLATFORM ONE!!" I ran out onto the platform and saw my train about to leave. Thank god for that, I thought …
Showed my ticket to the provonitza and looked long and hard at it. "Wagon 4!" I just realised my ticket didn't have a wagon number, unlike all the others - and she was taking a guess. I ended up 100 yards down the platform but wasn't allowed on. About 10 railways staff, security guards and Ukrainian customs officials all came over. Something was clearly wrong - the ticket HAD to have a wagon number, and they didn't want to let me on the train. I kept saying that I'd bought the ticket, I need to get on - I was seriously expecting them to send me packing. In the end - bearing in mind the train is now 10 minutes late - I've been told by one of the guards to leave my bags on the platform (!) and the provonitza has starting running back into the station, I've followed her, and after about 5 minutes of jabbering with the other woman at the ticket desk, we've run out again. I've still no idea what's happening. I've gone back to the platform, they've looked at all my other tickets (from London onwards) and my passport over and over, and in the end they suddenly decided to let me onto the train. I hadn't done anything wrong, but I'd preordered the tickets from Deutsche Bahn using an English agent (the one recommended by Seat 61) and this one ticket had no Wagon number, just a Bettplatz number. (All my tickets from London to Moscow are in German, another language I can barely manage). There's a hint if you're reading this, check your tickets and if they have any numbers missing, sort it out before you go!
I was put into a compartment that clearly wasn't the one I was meant to be in and found myself sharing with an Ukrainian version of the skinhead from the Persil advert. (You know the one …)
Unlike the guys I met the previous day, he clearly wasn't interested in making conversation with me - probably a bit pissed off that he didn't have the cabin to himself. The train started moving - it was about 10pm by now so I settled in. The provonitza then came in and even though we'd already established that we can't speak each other's languages, she persisted in having whole and angry conversations with me. Not a few words either - long, long sentences. Eventually she picked up my passport and read the front - saw the word Ireland (as part of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and asked if I was Irish! I just said yes and she seemed a little bit more relaxed with me after that.
I managed to get some sleep and was woken up with a thump on the door about 5am - one hour earlier than needed - to warn me about Russian passport control and customs, so that was helpful too. We'd already entered Russia about an hour into the journey but the passport and customs people travel on the train. Luckily I got the paperwork I was expecting (I was dreading not getting a migration card and not being let out of the country 6 days later). Just as the train was pulling in to the station Mr Persil turned round to me and suddenly found some English, as if it was pre-programmed into him, looking me straight in the eyes and saying loudly "RUSSIA IS A VERY BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY!" Yes I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it a lot, but next time I go to Moscow, I don't think I'll catch a train from Kiev.
|Next:||Trans-Siberian Part 5: The Ostankino Tower|
|Previous:||Trans-Siberian Part 3: Kiev|
Last updated 01 June 2013 12:54
I think I'm meant to do an "About" here but I think you'd be more interested in seeing a random seagull.