Thursday, 21 May 2009

Tickets, tickets, tickets

It is with a mixture of sadness and joy that I report that I have only 3 more weeks in Moscow before I return to the UK for good and can begin to write my Year Abroad Project on the fate of Classical Music in Russia since 1990. I decided that it was time for some more travelling and decided that another visit to Vladimir and Suzdal was needed and a first trip to Petersburg should be taken. Now Vladimir is only threeish hours away and can be got to by Electritchka so that was no real problem apart from finding a hotel/hostel. Petersburg however is further away and can only be got to by plane or train.
After asking a few friends if they wanted to come we decided to sort out our tickets and pick the dates etc. After deciding to go for the weekend as good little students we informed the visa department that we would be out of Moscow gave them the dates and set off to Leningradsky train station.
After queuing for ages and having one cow push in front we were then told to move to another window that had just opened. Before hand I had half volunteered, half been chosen to talk to the Bab behind the window, I didn’t mind as it usually isn’t too hard to buy a ticket that and the babs are behind glass windows so can not actually punch me.

Conversation then went as follows:
Me: Good day Can I have three platskarta tickets to Petersburg on the X of May
Bab- Nelza (no)
Me- Why?
Bab- there aren’t any
Me- um ok how much is 2nd class
Bab- 800 r
Me wow that’s cheap
Bab- no that’s platskarta,
Me- *looks a bit confused as to why she has just told me this when she has just said that I can’t buy them* erm….ok…
Bab- 2nd class is 2400r
Me- WHAT?! I’ll come back.

After this Sam, Simon and I had a mini discussion about whether we could all afford this or whether we should try to ask about the weekend after. We then also realised that we had told the visa department that we were leaving Moscow and thus we had to go somewhere or else we’d get in trouble. This problem was resorted by deciding to go to Vladimir instead and would find out about the next weekend. So we queued again and decided that the first bab might have been talking about the super posh express train so would ask again about the first weekend. After what felt like another hour we finally got to the front to be once again told that there were no platskarta tickets at all and that we would have to in fact pay 2400 roubles each way. At this we gave up and decide to go for pizza instead as technically it should be easier to order a pizza than buy a train ticket. Over the pizza we discussed our options and what we would do in Vladimir etc.
After Simon and I had escaped the Ded at Izmailovsky Park we decided to then try our luck at buying tickets, Sam had other plans for the next weekend so it was just us two. We returned to the train station half hoping we would be successful in about 5 mins and could then just go and spend the next few hours in the pub, we thought wrong.
First of all we waited for 30 minutes in the wrong queue, and were patronisingly told by a bab that she couldn’t sell us as we were not part of the Russian army then pointed at a tiny sign in high style Russian telling us this. However we knew this was not true as a bab, who was not a member of the army had pushed in front and bought tickets only a few minutes before. After half trying not to cry and half resisting the urge not to swear at her in Russian we tried another queue.
This time we had more luck and were even helped by a lovely man who was behind us in the queue.
Me- good day I would like two platskarta tickets to Petersburg for the 29th May
Bab- I’m on a technical break *slams a cover over the tiny window and turns the microphone off*
We then saw a sign saying that her break would be over in ten minutes. She proceeded to sit there half ignoring, half glaring at us while we decided to wait and time her. I resisted the urge to bang on the window when her ten minutes was up as she had a face that could curdle milk, that and I didn’t want to annoy her before trying to buy tickets.

Bab- *opening her window and turning the microphone on* What?
Me- Two platskarta tickets to Petersburg for 29th of May please
Bab- nyet
Me- *having slight feeling of déjà vu* why?
Bab- no tickets
Me- ok what about the 30th?
Bab- nope
Me- the um 20, the 20 *ironically having Czech moment and not being able to remember the Russian for 8* 20 osm May?
Bab- what?
Man behind- dvadcat vosmoi Maya (May 28th)
Me- yes, what he said
Bab- nope
Me- fine, what about 2nd class (but using the wrong word)
Bab- What? Kupai? (2nd class)
Me- yes, how much?
Bab- 2800 r
Me- *realising did not have the correct money* erm I’ll come back
Simon and I then decided that there was no way we were going to get there platskarta and decided to just buy the tickets. So after finding a bankomat that didn’t either charge us or reject our cards we returned to the same bab, who I hoped would remember us and might save me speaking so much Russian:
Me- *smiling* hello, 2 tickets to Petersburg please X of May in the evening
Bab- *not smiling* platskarta net (there are no tickets for plastskarta)
Me- yes we know, can we have second class please.
Bab- documents and money
Not really knowing or caring by now how much they cost Simon and I threw our passports throw the tiny gap below the window along with 6000 r that we hoped would cover the tickets and then waited to see what would happen. After about 5-10 minutes of the bab sighing annoyed at having to look at our English passport and work out how to write our names in Cyrillic she gave us our tickets, passports and change- it turned out that the tickets were in fact 2317 r and not 2800 r as she had told us. We then beat a hasty retreat to the pub and decided that we would buy the return ones later when we had the strength as we had spent an hour and a half talking to miserable Russian babs and managed to buy two tickets. I really never thought I would say this but I miss First Great Western! Their trains and service may be crappy but when I want to go somewhere I get a ticket within about 5 minutes and usually end up at the destination I want.

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